On the fourth day of Xtina-mas, Xtina gave to me a reason to live in the form of a tragically discontinued powdery floral, even though it makes my nose want to die sometimes. Yes, 2010’s Royal Desire is everything I hoped for when I first set out on this journey, but as always, first a little context, shall we?
2010 was a helluva year to be alive, because it had everything to live for: high camp, melisma, things that are somehow gayer than Final Fantasy XV, whistle tones, sexxxy robots, a dangerous surplus of confidence combined with a total lack of editing, and oh f*ck it, I could go on forever so let’s cut to the chase: Christina Aguilera released Bionic, and it seems the only person really there for it was ME. Instead, Lady Gaga was getting all the attention, stuntqueening her way through the year in meat dresses, touring to promote The Fame Monster, and listening to everyone tell her how brilliant she is. It’s not that Gaga wasn’t great, but the problem with being positioned as the second coming of pop music is that it risks giving you a messianic complex, but more on that in 2011.
Christina Aguilera, meanwhile, is stuck in the tricky position of trying to get us to pay attention to her new electropop album when the Internet has long ago decided that she’s cribbing from Gaga’s sound and style, so what does Xtina do? She pimps her ass in an orgy of 90s music video homages, fetish attire, perfume commercials, and literal orgies:
She also issues death threats to the press:
On one hand, Bionic is great because it’s a return to and doubling down “Dirrty”-era Xtina: Christina Aguilera as a futuristic sex kitten kinkbot so nymphomaniacal she it makes Madonna’s most prurient phases seem modest. This is an album with a song called “Sex for Breakfast”, which isn’t even half an entendre, let alone a double. In this sense, Bionic is a gesamtkunstwerk of unfettered id by way of Susan Sontag’s observation that “Camp is art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is ‘too much.'”
At the same time, Bionic is also great because it shows just how savvy and forward-thinking Xtina still was. This is the album that teamed her with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. before Madonna tapped them for “Gimme All Your Luv”, and Sia before Sia became as big as that damn wig she wears these days. Xtina was also working with darlings of the music press like Ladytron and Peaches, and she even got Le Tigre to reform for one of her songs. Bionic isn’t just great camp; it also undeniably has its bonafides.
Oh, and it also has the greatest self-empowerment anthem of all time:
Good god, who told Xtina this was a good idea to include on her album? As the final track, no less? Seriously, please tell me, because I want to thank them. “Vanity” is so much “too much” that it’s just right, and I love it more than Christina loves herself, which is saying something.
My point is that it’s one thing for Lady Gaga to borrow from camp aesthetics and look like a drag queen, but it’s another level entirely to embody camp aesthetics and basically live as a drag queen, and that’s what Xtina is doing in 2010. Bionic is the future camp yin to what will be Burlesque‘s vintage camp yang (also released in 2010), but as I’ve said before, we’ll talk about Burlesque soon enough. In the mean time, let’s finally talk about Royal Desire, which is a distillation of Christina Aguilera’s camp genius into a bottle.
On some level, we assume celebrity fragrances are vanity projects and shameless cash grabs and that celebrities can’t possibly have good taste in perfume, so if a celebrity has their own scent, it surely must be their tackiest impulses in a bottle. It’s why I keep thinking Britney Spears fragrances should smell like frappucinos and Velveeta grits, and why everybody assumes my first ‘fume will smell like deep-fried gravy and a block of room temperature cheese. They’re wrong, because that will be my second. Anyways, even if it’s often not the case, we want to be right on some level. Thank goodness, then, for Royal Desire which is the “too much”, hamfistedly feminine fruity floral I had been expecting from the start of Xtina-mas. Let the PR generated blurb from Fragrantica sets the stage:
Christina Aguilera‘s new perfume is expected in the autumn of 2010. The name of this edition is Royal Desire, dedicated to women who feel like queens. If you enjoy luxurious things, seduction and finding yourself in the center of attention, this fragrance was created just for you.
Top notes: white marshmallow, blackberry and mandarin. Heart: honeysuckle, herbs, rose and lily. Base: sandalwood, musk and cedar.
I don’t even know if that even sounds good, and maybe my bottle is off, but the first time I tried Royal Desire on, all I got was watermelon Jolly Ranchers and quality hand soaps. I prayed for death as hard as I prayed for Christina to come out on top in 2010, but once again, my cries went unanswered, perhaps because my name’s not Margaret.
Either way, Royal Desire is as wonderfully garish as it sounds, even if it makes your soul want to leave your body and take your nose with it. It’s the kind of trial by nasal fire all young perfumistas go through when you foolishly give them an an allowance and a ride to Claire’s. And if you weren’t already convinced that this is the perfume for you, the grown adult who feels like a queen and has the taste of a 12-year-old, each bottle comes with a tchotchke, and one of them is a fan!
I barely needed one bottle, but look out bitches, now I need all three!
Anyways, when I went in for a second round to write today’s post, I asked myself “What Would Xtina Do?”, and as we all know from yesterday, that answer is spritz myself down like a motherf*cker, and honestly, it once again makes all the difference. The secret is to just throw down a tarp and let this juice get everywhere, which makes sense, because that’s also house rules at Xtina’s Not Myself Tonight orgy. Yes, the blackberry and honeysuckle notes feel so muddled they’re just sweetly sticky and gross, but I swear if you give Royal Desire the room to breath (a courtesy it will not give in return) and the time to dry down, it becomes a discount gem of a sweetened powdery floral (thanks, marshmallow, sandalwood, lily, and rose!), and I love it.
Sure, from the way I describe it, it’s no wonder Royal Desire has been discontinued, but it’s also such a pity, because Royal Desire is the perfect olfactory equivalent to Bionic: a tragically neglected, over-the-top, ideologically pure expression of everything you most expect from Christina Aguilera that’s perhaps better understood in hindsight, but still worthy of your appreciation.