Pulse Eau de Parfum (Beyoncé for Coty)

Once again -- like a glutton for punishment -- I find myself at RiteAid, toying with the perfume testers while I wait for a prescription to be filled. On this visit, I find Beyoncé Pulse prominently displayed in its strange chrome bottle holster that begs the question, Is that thing upside-down or right-side-up? (You can have it both ways, apparently.)

"Beyoncé Pulse possesses an energy unlike any other. It moves through you, around you. Never fading as it surges, pulsates and electrifies," declares the official Pulse website. It had better. With 16 Grammys, 11 VMA's, 3 AMA's, 75 million record sales, and placements in the top three of pretty much everything (Greatest, Most Powerful, Most Influential, Most Beautiful), Beyoncé ought to rate something a little more deluxe than the usual caramel-drenched floral crap that Coty's been shilling as of late. (I wonder which rising star will finally put her Louboutin'd foot down and call an end to that carnival. Lord knows Sarah Jessica Parker tried.)

The website hastens to assure us that something completely unique and never-before-seen-in-perfumery is afoot. "Reflective of Beyoncé’s incredible energy and powerful femininity, the fresh notes in Beyoncé Pulse intermingle to create a unique citrus, floral gourmand, anchored by Beyoncé’s favorite flower, the orchid." That's a lot of, um, commas. Just as you're about to ask Miss Thing to be a little more specific about WHICH of the 25,000+ accepted species of Orchidaceae she prefers, you learn that it's the 'bluebird orchid'. But again: which one? Several orchid species bear that particular moniker. There's Pabstia jugosa X Zygopetalum gautieri, which resembles a bolder version of the lady's slipper; there's also the Zygonisia cynosure, whose delicate, iris-like beauty certainly is the cynosure of all eyes... much like Sasha Fierce herself. (POW! Up top!)

But if it's fragrance you're looking for, the orchid you want is the Neostylis 'Louis Sneary' Bluebird (Neofinetia falcata x Rhyncostylis coelestis). Visits to several specialty orchid websites and forums confirm that this tiny, starlike orchid (considered rare for its tinge of blue, a relatively uncommon hue for flowers) does indeed produce an odor, described by aficionados as "sweet", "delightful", "wonderfully fragrant". One forum contributor even went so far as to state, "(Its) fragrance killed me and almost made me dedicate my entire life to this Genera and its Hybrids."

All righty then!

Having never had the pleasure of being slain by an flower (though several lilies-of-the-valley have made the attempt), I am forced to fall back on trust. Does Pulse smell like orchids? I pick up one of the promotional sniff cards and peel back the flap.

Expecting ethylmaltol, I am taken aback by a huge, juicy orange note rising up off the paper. It's so appetizing, my salivary glands go all Pavlovian on me. There has to be some mistake-- where is the cotton candy, the caramel apples, the Cracker Jacks? I wrassle the Pulse bottle out of its stand-up corral and spritz my wrist generously. There again! Oranges, pure and true! Delicious! So no blue orchid, maybe, but curaçao, yes-- blue or otherwise. (I'm thinking perhaps Triple Sec, with both bitter and sweet orange essences.)

While this very nice first impression is still lingering in the ether, Pulse takes me by the hand and leads me into more predictable (read: boring) territory. This fragrance's heart is one of those middle-of-the-road floral blends where no single note sticks its head up too far above the others. Everything's harmonious, yet overall the sum smells sort of cheap, lacking in richness. Corners were definitely cut. (What do you expect? It's Coty.) I find myself thinking about Beyoncé's bank account and how this portion of Pulse cannot possibly be reflective of it. PayWizard, a joint venture of the Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program and the University of Amsterdam's WageIndicator project, estimates her income at USD $40 million annually. She could BUY the city of Grasse, but instead settles for floral meh. Oh, well-- it's her life.

Now, the drydown. I tense up somewhat when the first atoms of vanilla begin gathering; I fully expect them to take me straight to the carnival fairway and tip me into the cotton candy machine. But no-- things progress with a modicum of dignity, and I reach the gourmand goalpost with a sigh of relief. Pulse's closing stretch is, as promised, "irresistible... warm, opulent"-- all vanilla and santal and amber, nicely homogenized and stabilized. The musk we're supposed to find embedded there could have been way more growly and animalic (fierce!!) but I guess it might then have stood out too much from its surroundings.

Bottom line: not bad, considering its source. (Coty, I mean-- not Beyoncé. She's okay. She certainly deserves 'Coty Prestige' status more than Kimora Lee Simmons, so hope for a corporate coup d'etat.) Once I get past all my eye-rolling, I'm surprised, and pleasantly so. Yeah, I'd buy this if nothing else was available-- why not? Little Blue Ivy Carter might need braces someday.

Scent Elements: "Sparkling" pear blossom, "effervescent" blue curaçao accord, "frosted" bergamot, "enticing" bluebell orchid, "delicate" peony, "midnight blooming" jasmine, "Madagascar" vanilla, "seductive" musk, "sensual precious" woods. Sorry, I just got hip to the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks, and once these things get started...