After months of media buzz, Lady Gaga Fame has finally been launched. You probably know by now how this celebrity perfume thing works. Some celebrities—like Sarah Jessica Parker—get down and dirty in the design process, vetting the concept, going through the mods, arguing for dirtier musk, losing argument for dirtier musk, announcing that next time things are going to be different. Then there are those under whose noses you presume a scent strip has passed, but who have not attended that endless cycle of developmental-phase meetings.
Lady Gaga appears to be of the assertive former type. Early reports had it that the singer wanted her perfume to be based on blood and semen. These notes, which might seem shockingly brave, are not new: Etat Libre d’Orange has already done both in Sécrétions Magnifiques. But as happened with Parker’s dirtier musk, these notes didn’t make the final cut. Instead, Fame, billed as “the first ever black eau de parfum,” contains “pulverized apricot, crushed heart of Tiger Orchidea, and tears of belladonna.”
I doubt that the Lady Gaga perfume, Fame, is going to have quite the notoriety of Lady Gaga the performer. Or maybe it will, because, unlike its alleged creator, it’s a wimp. The most controversial thing about Fame is likely to be the racy series of television commercials and print ads that have a nude and masked Gaga being climbed upon by tiny men. In case this is too provocative, there is also a scientific, French-language ad that purports to show the inner workings of Haus Laboratories, where the sizzling, hissing brew is concocted and which features the gears and levers of modern industry rather than the star.
But Fame is a cop-out. It’s a powdery floral, that’s too sweet and virtually base-less. It seems to be less about Gaga than it does about marketing research. It smells mostly of a creamy orchid with a touch of violet and apricot. The base claims a note of “black incense” that will surely disappoint anyone who has ever tried any of the Comme des Garcons incense fragrances. The incense is wispy and hidden by the sweet, creamy powder. It’s one of those very linear modern scents that come at you all at once (like Gaga herself) with no nuance or notational shading.
The singer can reach a higher top note than this fragrance can: Fame is all about its abstraction of a white bouquet with very pale hints of muddled fruit. It lasted through the night, having more stamina than I did. I tried in vain to find a controversial note but could not. I’m disappointed; if Gaga couldn’t have her bodily fluids, then at least she could have had a chypre. Fame turns out to be one of the duller new releases in a decade of dull. It is reminiscent of Alexander McQueen My Queen, another fruit/floral powdery cop-out. The bottle at least is interesting and seems descended from a mating of Alien and Arpège.
The local roll-out features a few rectangular columns printed with a picture of the bottle and strategically placed around the cosmetic department. I can attest that there is nothing provocative about them. There was a voice-over being piped throughout the store that urged you to try Fame immediately, but I didn’t notice anyone in particular being persuaded. In the distance, the gears and wheels of market research clattered away like the white noise that is this latest celebuscent. They go ho hum, ho hum, ho hum.
Lady Gaga Fame includes notes of saffron, honey, apricot nectar, jasmine sambac, tiger orchid, white peony, amaryllis, and black incense. Available from Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and other major retailers.