Lady Gaga Fame


Lady Gaga Fame is finally here, after a year of being touted as all manner of subversive craziness: the smell of semen with a dash of Gaga's blood; the elixir of poison flowers; juice the color of the blackest heart. The only thing that's vaguely true is the dingy pond-scum grey color of the perfume fluid, because alas it turns out that Fame smells like a Forever 21 fitting room at the end of a sweaty Saturday: desperation, thwarted aspiration and the rank clash of perspiration and Impulse body sprays. It reeks of mirror-triggered self-hatred, glazed with a mucilage of rancid movie popcorn butter. And grape juice.
If only the perfume were as cool and disturbing as the ad.
But even if Fame might smell tolerable on the right person, what about the fact that it doesn't live up to the promises of its radical subversiveness? At its dingy grey heart it's a fruity floral, so there's no disruption to the drugstore status quo. Gaga has pronounced Fame a “mating call”, saying she wanted it to smell “slutty”. Would that it were. There's no come hither here, no insinuation. Just a sticky floor at the multiplex (sticky from spilled soda pop, I hasten to add). But will that stop her Little Monsters from buying it? Is Gaga cynically targeting her suburban followers with this cliched teenage perfume, or is she unwittingly revealing her deep-down quotidian real self?
Fame is available from Sephora.com starting at $19 for .34 oz
Treat yourself to the divine decadence of the late performance artist Leigh Bowery, the inspiration for Lady Gaga's outrageous looks:

49 comments:

  1. I wish Leigh Bowery'd lived to make a celebrity perfume...

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  2. I saw Fame in Sephora and did not try it - the bottle looks so cheap in person. I was going to say I wondered if the concept of "slut" was relevant anymore, but then realized that it's invaded the business world, leading to products like this. ~~nozknoz

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    1. It's a sad indictment of our times when even our sluts aren't what they used to be.

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  3. Actually in slight disagreement on the leigh bowery thing: I think the person she is mainly ripping off is Orlan (see www. orlan.net/works/photo). The rubber nuns, the horns built in to the flesh are all from Orlan's back catalogue. I think what is clear is that at some point in her artistic genesis Gaga did some sort of intellectualised course on performance, and encountered Orlan and Bowery (and others like Stelarc), and has now ripped them off wholesale. I liked her when she first came out, but then she was sort of a parody of someone famous. Now she takes the parody seriously, she just looks like an idiot. As for telling victimised people to bleat out that they were "born this way", that's just like saying 'You can't victimise me, my genes are doing it already.' Progressive, it is not. Reductive? Absolutely.

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    1. Seems to me like she is doing all she can to distract away from and camouflage her gigantic schnoz.

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    2. Above anonymous, I think you are right; after all, her whole aesthetic is very confused about what constitutes beauty and what constitutes monstrosity- and uses them as interchangeable terms: there definitely seems to be some sort of complex about her looks (perhaps the size of her nose,as you have suggested) underlying her stylistic bravado.
      Even the whole calling of her fans 'little monsters', an act which I find both patronising and nauseating, seems less about being endeared by them than making them part of whatever her complex is.

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    3. "the whole calling of her fans 'little monsters'...seems less about being endeared by them than making them part of whatever her complex is."

      Nice observation, probably true. But really, any pop star/fan relationship is a cult of sorts, a negotiation entered into willingly by both sides. Nauseating or not, the Little Monsters self-identify as such, so everyone seems to be onboard the same complex caboose here.

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    4. "I think the person she is mainly ripping off is Orlan"

      I'd thought of Orlan too, but Gaga seems to ultimately be celebrating her flawed human self (even with all of her theatrical disguises). I can't stop thinking of Orlan's "reincarnation" plastic surgery performance pieces, through which she obliterated her individuality while pursuing arbitrary cultural ideals. An amazing statement, but different to Gaga's direction.

      One can certainly pick out the inconsistencies in Gaga's approach (and I'm keen for people to recognize the challenging and subversive artists who influence her), but I still think it's fabulous that a mainstream pop star is familiarizing teenagers with these underground influences. Even if it's her clever stylist cooking it all up behind the scenes, it still ends up inspiring her fans to be open to the fantastic, disturbing and transformative in art.

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    5. Ah but what I would argue with both Orlan and a lot of the 'self-transformative' artist is that the intellectual explanation they proffer of their art is a post-facto rationalisation, when their art is actually initially the product of their own psychological complexes. So that Orlan's interpretation of what she does (as art) is really of no more value than anyone else's interpretation. I would say the same with Gaga's meat dress for example: the decision to wear it was a product of her complex, and her rationalisation of it being a statement regarding "don't ask, don't tell", was a post-facto rationalisation. At which point, what the actual art IS can be reduced to simply what the art looks like, and Gaga has repeatedly made herself look like Orlan (see the Alejandro, Born This Way and Judas videos), and more directly so than Leigh Bowery. However, if I was buying in to the art-theory behind each of these figures, I would probably agree with you on Gaga being more like Bowery.

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    6. 'But really, any pop star/fan relationship is a cult of sorts, a negotiation entered into willingly by both sides.'

      Are we back to talking about the Untitled Series by Chandler Burr here?

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    7. Anonymous above: by gum, I do believe we are!

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  4. It is a shame that it turned out so lame. I must say that I got a whiff by accident the other day at Macy’s. I was looking at the tester bottle as I sauntered past the Gaga shrine when out of the blue I was propelled to one side by a very agitated teenage Asian boy who proceeded with shaking hands and squeals of rapture to spay himself all over and in the process me and everything within a six foot radius. I was Gaga-ed to within an inch of my life. It was all I could do not to gag gag on the Fame fumes.

    Thanks for the great review and the clip of the Lee Bowery documentary. I have to find that.

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    1. That's a funny story about the rapturous fan boy! One of my fave goofy little pastimes is eavesdropping on people shopping for perfume, and you stumbled onto a doozy there. But maybe getting caught in the crossfire is more than you bargained for.

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    2. Oh, and you can watch the whole Charles Atlas doc on YouTube - it's broken up into chunks.

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  5. sounds like Lady Caca

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  6. Hi Katie, You AMAZING Fame AKA FAIL fragrance is so killer AWESOME! Lady Gaga aint no lady, and her FAIL perfume is so common. I was expecting more.

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    1. It's just that there was all that big talk about blood and bodily fluids and stuff. And then...this.

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  7. Yup, you got it right. In fact, you got more than I did! Grape soda and laundry musks. That was it. I'm sniffin' and I'm sleepin'....

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  8. I can't really comment as I've only briefly sniffed the bottle, but I have to say it did seem pretty standard in the celebrity fragrance department. Maybe Gaga confused slut with cheap...? Totally not the same thing...haha
    Anyways, I'm only commenting because it was strange to see you so UN-enthusiastic about a perfume...happily a rare occasion, and it seems really wrong to see it. Shame on Gaga for making a sad/apathetic Katie Puckrik!

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    1. "Maybe Gaga confused slut with cheap...?" I love it.

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  9. Had it not been for all the hype and creepily awesome ads, I think this would have just been a "meh" smell, and fragrance nerds wouldn't be making such a big stink out of it (pun definitely intended). Also, the "black fluid" doesn't seem to retain its color well--the tester I saw at Sephora was more of a dirty paintbrush water than the considerably inkier tester at Macy's. Maybe light makes its "darkness" disintegrate.

    Total non-sequitur: Katie, have you ever tried Chantecaille's Kalimantan? Frou-frou bottle aside, I think you'd like it.

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    1. Oh yes! How could I have neglected to mention the outstandingly creepy/awesome ad campaign? A++ on that.

      I suspect you're right that light exposure brings on the dirty paintbrush water.

      Kalimantan: I was just re-sniffing it the other day. It's my favorite of the Chantecaille perfumes, and I was thinking to review it.

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    2. Ha, what a coincidence! I'd love to see a review.

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  10. This has hit Australia and honestly .... I can see it on the discount shelves real soon.

    Its a lollypop fluff of a scent and the bottle just looks cheap! As for the "black scent" ..... why bother ! LOL

    I thought she would have this dark strong musky or oriental perfume but .... its for the teenies! LOL

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    1. At the very least, I'd say Fame is a collector's item. Something to look at, but not to wear. As long as it's kept in the box so the color doesn't get too dingy.

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  11. ok- that may be my favorite review EVER ! Good work on the review- a shame that it did not surprise...

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  12. I sprayed some on at the drugstore to text the colour effect, which was, yes, paintbrush-water-coloured. I then promptly forgot I had done so, until after I got home. My verdict: if I HAD to buy a drugstore perfume, this was pretty harmless. I probably couldn't say anything more insulting to LG...AnnieA

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    1. You're right, Annie - that's a comment that would cut her to the quick.

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  13. Completely unrelated, but you should do a review video on Molinard's Habanita! Would love to hear your thoughts on it, and I remember from your collection vids that you have it.

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  14. Gee, I thought I was relatively sophisticated but had not heard of Orlan nor Bowery. From a very quick google search, Gaga does not seem to remind me of either, except that both use nudity or semi nudity) and very elaborate costumes (Bowery seemed willing to play with images of unchic dress and body shapes, a place which Gaga who always looks glamorous no matter how "bizzarre" is unwilling to go. Also Bowery did not seemed very happy to be literally colourful, whereas Gaga seems to believe black itself is a rebellious statement).
    Gaga seems to me be in a long line of performers known for their costumes and elaborate presentation as much as music. From Carmen Miranda to Liberace, to Elton John, to Funkadellic to Alice Cooper to Grace Jones to Madonna to the adult Michael Jackson to Gaga, with a whole lot in between. (The Beatles, once upon a time, were known as much for their outfits for their music). There will always be a place, or several places in the pop world for such folks.

    If GaGa brings avante garde performance artists' work into the mainstream by her costume choices, so be it. As long as there is a vital avante garde, there will be bridge artists who eventually bring that style to the masses.

    All of which brings to me what she could have done with the smell of her perfume. Madonna, after all brought a main streamed "lightened" version of Fracas out with her perfume. Lady Gaga did bring the colour change trick of Bodecea (which supposedly started out as blue on your skin, supposedly in honour of a celtic warrior princess). Lady Gaga could have made a more mainstream version of something from the niches.
    (My mind is blanking of the niche perfume which reportedly does smell like bodily fluids), or maybe just a nice leather scent.
    Instead the fame perfume reminded of another juice from my past, the imitation kool-aid,* served by a childhood summer camp. We campers called this sugary, grapish connoction "bug juice." That is what my sniff of Fame reminded me of. I was not fond of fake grape flavors as a child. I am not fond of fake grape smells as an adult.

    * Yes, I mean "imitation kool-aid." I don't think the camp budget ran to buying the actual kool-aid, mix, and we received a generic version of the stuff. It made me appreciate the taste of clear water.

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    1. One thing to add: the ultra coolness of Boudicca Wode Paint is that it sprays out bright blue on the skin, as if you've just vandalized your flesh, and then gradually the blue fades to invisibility, leaving only the spicy leather smell. Much more scientifically tricksy - indeed magical - than Fame's grey juice that sprays clear.

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  15. So, let's talk about that Brad Pitt Chanel No.5 advert.................

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  16. Great review as always, Katie. And to answer your question, it didn't work for me, either. But then fruity isn't really my thing in perfume. I have to agree that it does have that sticky sweet, garbage-y smell of the movie theater floor. And the two guys I was with when I tested it, who are both usually very game when it comes to smelling new perfumes, both screwed up their faces and said "yeah, that's bad."

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  17. Yes! Pretty much everypne is giving this one crap reviews. It's a shame. I think Lady Gaga gets less cool as she gets more famous, and this perfume is her nadir thus far.

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  18. LOL! yes yes yes! I I sprayed some of this "thing" at the Amsterdam airport months ago... And finally (???) it arrives to Brazil... OMG!!! I guess it was a misfire... And I can bet that Gaga achieved what she's always avoiding... The Ordinary!!!

    Katie, congrats!
    Wonderful review.

    Klèber.

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  19. Quite, Klèber. Just meditate on Fame ad and ponder what it might have been...

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  20. Katie - I love your take on this juice from Gaga. I ordered it ahead of time (totally bought into the hype and promise)..and then when I tried it I realized it was a clone of so many other heavy florals. I was wishing and hoping for something extraordinary or beautiful... it should have smelled like a perfume by Guerlain called 'La petit robe noir' which is sweet but also like incense-- http://www.sephora.com/la-petite-robe-noire-P375386 . On the other hand, maybe she was trying to send the public a message "fame is not what you think it's going to be... it's somewhat cloying and sometimes disappointing.."

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    1. Sharon, all the creative oomph here was thrown into the packaging and marketing, which are fun and strange and compelling. Unlike the perfume.

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  21. Update... sadly, Fame perfume has indeed shown up on the discount shelves at my local TJMaxx store... oh the horror.

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    1. "15 minutes of fame"...now concluded?

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