Madonna turns 60 today – Happy Birthday, HRH Madonna! To celebrate, I thought I would resurrect my much-loved ‘Scent a Celebrity Series’, in which I ‘scent’ (pick fragrances for) some of my favourite celebrities. So let’s jump right back in with none other than the Queen of Pop!
Madonna; no other name is more instantly recognisable and no person is more likely to divide opinion. Arguably the most famous woman on the planet and factually the best selling female recording artist of all time, Madonna is a force that is hard to define; singer, dancer, performer, entertainer, provocateur, feminist, business woman, calculating she-devil – love her or hate her, whatever moniker you throw at her will most likely apply. She has done what many other icons fail to do – achieve longevity and on her 60th birthday, we celebrate her phenomenal four decades in music.
The fascinating thing about Madonna is that her ratio of talent to fame is perhaps slightly off balance. She’s not the greatest singer or dancer in the world, or even the best looking, but she has that je ne sais quoi that makes a person a star – the x factor, as they call it. Some say that she’s just a good business woman and I’m sure she is but that does not make for such longevity. By pushing people’s buttons and having something to say (and saying it well) Madonna has ensured that she is more than a just a star, she’s that rare commodity: an icon.
“People say that I’m so controversial, but I think the most controversial thing I’ve done is to stick around.”
Madonna is well-known to be a lover of perfume and is reported to be a loyal wearer of Fracas and practically anything containing tuberose, including her very own (and rather good) fragrance ‘Truth or Dare’ which launched a few years back. A diva needs her diva-scents, it’s true, and in honour of the Queen of Pop and her love for perfume I present to you some of my favourite Madonna albums, each with their very own olfactory accompaniment that captures the spirit of the music and all that is ‘Madonna’.
True Blue // Petit Fracas
True Blue was the album that turned Madonna into a star, taking her from being “that woman that writhed around on the floor in a wedding dress” to being, well ‘Madonna’. As well as being her true breakthrough album, True Blue is also the pinnacle of 80s pop; toothachingly cheesy, fun-loving and fancy free, but it is ultimately an album about love. That’s right, True Blue is a very smooshy album that pretty much consists of Madonna fawning over her love for then husband Sean Penn. It’s an optimistic, youthful and undamaged album that celebrates all that is good and great about life and love.
Seeing as Madonna is a tuberose fan and a devoted wearer of the queen of the genre, Fracas, it seems fitting that True Blue, the youthful bubble gum incarnation of Madonna, should suit the carefree fun of Piguet’s rather delicious, Petit Fracas. Petit Fracas is about as much fun as a riot in a sweet shop but at the same time it manages to respect the spirit of the original by breaking the rules. It’s the perfect thing to accompany an album of bubblegum pop that is far too cleverly produced to be saccharine. “True blue baby, I love you…”
Spritz and Listen: Just looking at True Blue’s track listing is like a window into some of the best pop songs ever; there’s Papa Don’t Preach, Open Your Heart, Live to Tell, True Blue and even La Isla Bonita! Listen to them all and spritz away.
Like a Prayer // Avignon
Fun fact: the first pressings of the Like a Prayer LPs were scented with patchouli oil!
If True Blue is the pop-representation of Madonna’s happy relationship with Sean Penn then Like a Prayer is the divorce. Focusing on themes such as domestic and parental abuse, love and loss, and then juxtaposing them with female empowerment and tales of lust, Like a Prayer is a tour de force that put Madonna on the map as a serious artist and proved to the world that she can be one heck of a songwriter.
Considering the strong spiritual themes of the album, specifically Catholicism and Madonna’s relationship with the church (from which she has been excommunicated a number of times), not to mention its more mature sound, it is hard not to pick something really obvious, such as an all-out incense fragrance. The thing is sometimes the obvious choice is the right choice and that’s why when listening to Like a Prayer you have but no choice to spritz on Comme des Garçons photorealistic church incense Avignon. Trust me, when you pop this album on with an accompanying spritz of Avignon, you may just want to kiss Jesus and dance in front of a field of burning crosses, you know, as one does.
Spritz and Listen: Whilst musing over your Avignon listen to; Like a Prayer (obviously), Express Yourself, Till Death Do Us Part, Promise to Try, Oh Father and Cherish.
Erotica // Tubéreuse Criminelle
Erotica is the album everybody accused Madonna of making long before she made it. It’s Madonna saying: “OK, you think all I’m about is sex, deal with this bitches.” But Erotica isn’t an all-out sex-fest, yes there are whips and chains but there’s also romance, sadness and longing too, all of which are laid over heavy bass lines, synths and gritty piano riffs. Dark, brooding, edgy and long before it’s time, Erotica is Madonna’s most under-appreciated album, and most certainly her rawest. I’d say it’s one of my favourites too and I think it’s part of many things Madonna has done to empower women sexually.
Erotica is a very cold album and feels almost like Madonna has gone for a “sex-by-numbers” approach. Madonna herself sounds aloof and detached throughout the album’s 75 minutes and it is this distant, austere quality that sums up the overall feel of Erotica thus making only one perfume choice appropriate – Serge Lutens’ vampiric floral Tubéreuse Criminelle (with Madonna, all roads lead back to tuberose). This is the only perfume that perfectly encapsulates everything that is Erotica. Both are ice cold, carnal, gritty and dare-I-say, more than a tad vengeful, but most importantly they are both ultimately awash with soul, depth and scars.
Tubéreuse Criminelle is a confrontational, unforgettable tuberose that is half carnal white flower and half ice cold menthol. It makes one think about their own preconceived notions as to what a white flower can be, just as Erotica challenges one to reprogram the way they think about sex.
Spritz and Listen: Whilst wearing your Tubéreuse Criminelle listen to Deeper & Deeper, Secret Garden and Where Life Begins.
Ray of Light // Beyond Paradise
Ray of Light is often considered as Madonna’s magnum opus and when listening to it it’s hard to disagree. Heck, the name for this blog is even nicked from one of the songs, so I have to be fully on board the Ray of Light love train! The album sees Madonna the provocateur reborn as earth mother in command of the elements. It has a distinctly hedonistic vibe whilst simultaneously touching upon everything from childbirth to Japanese courtesans, gothic witches and steampunks.
The album is incredibly varied sonically; guitar-laden rock sits quite happily next to dark trance and spiritual chanting, making it quite tricky to pick a perfume that compliments it. However, one recurrent theme throughout Ray of Light’s entirety is water and the ocean, and the cleansing power that both hold. Despite its tropical moniker Estée Lauder’s Beyond Paradise is a perfect fit for a vibrant, multi-coloured and cultured (verging past the culturally appropriative) album that emphasises the restorative properties of H2O. The misty, aqueous, and abstract floral, which smells like a pure bloom forged from the multi-faceted light of a prism, captures the essence of Ray of Light; the joy, the sadness, the light and the dark.
Spritz and Listen: Whilst wearing your Beyond Paradise listen to; Drowned World/Subsitute for Love, Swim, Skin, The Power of Goodbye, To Have and Not to Hold, Candy Perfume Girl and Mer Girl. Basically all of it.
Confessions on a Dance Floor // Gucci Rush
After Madonna’s folktronica album American Life crashed and burned (it was vastly under appreciated FYI) everyone thought that the Queen of Pop would hang up her crown and bow out gracefully, but they must have forgotten who they were dealing with. It’s true, Madonna did hang up her crown, but she only did so temporarily and in order to put on a pair of sparkly pink dancing shoes and matching leotard. You see, it’s rather difficult to lose oneself in the music on the dance floor with a crown, it just gets in the way.
Confessions on a Dance Floor was Madonna’s way of saying “Pfft, I’m not done yet, watch this…” and “this” was a non-stop onslaught of pure, brain thumping pop music so camp it made even me look butch. In addition to being contemporary and fabulous, Confessions on a Dance Floor is also wonderfully retro because it looks back to the disco era, sampling ABBA (ABBA!!), The Jackson Five and Donna Summer. It’s the gayest thing on Earth which of course, makes it bloody brilliant.
The olfactory representation of Confessions on a Dance Floor is Gucci’s Rush – an essay in poppers, hairspray, plastic flowers and creamy lactones. No other fragrance is as high-energy, future-disco, camp, glitzy, ridiculous (I’m running out of OTT adjectives here), completely over the top and fabulous. Gucci Rush gives just about as much of a shit about it’s detractors as Madonna does about hers, it says; “here I am, watch me explode”, and us bystanders can only stand back and watch in awe.
Spritz and Listen: Spritz on a metric ton of Rush and listen to the entire thing from start to finish. No stopping. No exceptions.
Rebel Heart // Truth or Dare
That brings us up to today and Madonna’s latest musical offering: Rebel Heart. We are currently being teased with the prospect of a new album this year, but until then this eclectic and somewhat chaotic mixture of pop sees an almost-sixty year old Madonna redefining what it is to age appropriately. In Madonna’s eyes, to age appropriately is to entirely run out of fucks to give and simply not care how you should age – to do it on your own terms and not feel as if you shouldn’t do what you’ve always done, just because you’ve lived more years. For that approach, we say ‘respect’.
Rebel Heart is a fun album with a carefree feel and tender moments, but also the fearlessness to talk pointedly about sex in your late fifties. In a way, I think it’s a very pure Madonna album because it balances listen/dance-ability with themes of empowerment and liberation. It’s also one of her patchiest offerings, but hey, one cannot always hit the mark spot on. To scent the album I’m going to pick a pure Madonna scent – the one she made herself: Truth or Dare. Inspired by her mother’s fragrance, Truth or Dare is a gorgeous, creamy tuberose-gardenia blend with a very modern base of marshmallows and woods. Just like Rebel Heart it’s carefree, modern and oh so Madonna, it almost hurts.
Spritz and Listen: Sprtiz on Truth or Dare and listen to Bitch…I’m Madonna on repeat. Nothing could sum up our Queen better.
Join the Discussion
What’s your favourite Madonna album and how would you scent it? Let me know in the comments box below!
Images are my own.