Last week I sat down to try Usher She and Sean John Unforgivable Woman. She went on one arm; Unforgivable Woman on the other. Within an hour I'd forgotten which was which and had to put them on again, but pretty soon I forgot all over again. It isn't that they smell exactly the same, but they feel the same, that is, it is pretty clear that they're reaching for the same audience.
So, a face-off. First, the facts. Usher She is designated for "a woman of mystery and confidence", and was created by perfumers Honorine Blanc and Richard Herpin. The notes: red currant, pink freesia, apple blossom, frangipani, apricot nectar, jasmine, passion rose, amber wood, musk, cashmere wood, vanilla orchid and incense. Sean John Unforgivable Woman is a "sensual, creamy floral" by perfumer David Apel, with notes of bergamot, orange, neroli, cassis, grapefruit, apple, cucumber, piña colada, orange flower, jasmine, violet, muguet, freesia, cyclamen, amber, tonka beans, coco de mer, vanilla tears, cedar, sandalwood, oak moss, patchouli, vetiver and iris.
Freshly applied: Usher She is juicy and fruity and sweet, with just a touch of tartness. It has a slightly creamy feel right from the outset. Unforgivable Woman is also fruity and juicy, but it is not nearly as sweet, and it has a nice warmth to it. I don't love either of these, but Sean John gets a slight edge.
After 5 minutes: They don't smell exactly alike, but they aren't worlds apart either. Both of them smell slightly fruity, and they're both taking on a warm, tropical feel. The Usher is a bit fruitier (and more apple-ish) and sweeter, and the Sean John is starting to take on a vague "sun warmed sand and coconut" vibe. These both smell like they are supposed to be sexy, but I'd say Unforgivable Woman is a bit closer to the mark.
After 30 minutes: The florals are more obvious on both sides, but they're vague and blurry. Both scents could have used "tropical floral accord" from the same vat and I'd be none the wiser. But the Usher She is still sweet and fruity, and the florals are stronger. Unforgivable Woman is darker, drier and woodier, and while I can now make out the piña colada business, it is subtle, and most of the other fruity stuff is gone. Unforgivable Woman could actually pass as a unisex scent at this point.
After an hour: Unforgivable Woman is now very soft. It is woody-musky and slightly earthy. I not going to race out and buy a bottle, but I like it. Usher She is still much as it was — sweet and fruity over a warm base — just not quite so strong. Perhaps because sweet and fruity over a warm base is so common on the women's fragrance counter, it feels less distinctive than the Unforgivable Woman.
After 2 hours: Nothing terribly interesting has happened on either side, so I won't bore you with the details. Both scents have faded a bit, the Sean John more so than the Usher.
Conclusions: Usher She and Unforgivable Woman are what I think of as "phase two" celebrity scents; they're going with the warm and sexy approach, as opposed to the pale, flirty fruity florals that might appeal to the 'tween set. Both of them are nice enough and perfectly wearable (neither sent me rushing for the liquid Tide), but of the two, Unforgivable Woman is the one I'd be more likely to wear. Since Usher She is the more conventionally feminine, it may have an easier time finding an audience though. Personally, I'll stick with Sarah Jessica Parket Covet as the best celebrity showing so far this year.
Usher She is an Eau de Parfum, and is available in 50 and 100 ml and in matching body products. Sean John Unforgivable Woman is a "Scent Spray" (I'm taking that to mean Eau de Toilette, but who knows), and is available in 75 and 125 ml. Body products are to be introduced at a later date.