Earlier this year, the niche line Room 1015 released Power Ballad, "a fresh, spicy and leathery fragrance inspired by the 90's High School years." Power Ballad is unisex and its composition includes notes of bergamot, lime, spearmint, grapefruit, juniper, cumin, coriander, anise, poplar buds, vetiver, labdanum and cedar.
Power Ballad is accompanied by plenty of promotional description, some of it written (I think) in the voice of Room 1015's founder, a "rocker by trade" who goes by the moniker "Dr. Mike":
The 90's. . .Life is easy-breazy [sic], ripe for the taking, full of French kisses and chewing gum. Life is carefree with a close-knit clan in Doc Martens and old leather. Life is rebellious, pulsing to the sound of power ballads, love tapes, Glam rock and first drinking sprees. . . .Metal romance in a flash, nostalgia of a sentimental age in a whiplash. . . .I remember the first French kiss with notes of Gin and Tequila, The chewing gum stolen proudly from the mouth of a lover, like a trophy, An era with Grunge style as a symbol of rebellion: destroyed denim jeans, checked shirts, leather jacket, Doc Martens and bleached hair.
Nostalgia is indeed powerful. Even this Prix Eau Faux-worthy prose, with its erratic capitalization and weird mix of musical genres, didn't put me off: I wanted to relive the memories of my own late teen years, complete with late-night concerts and first love, through a fragrance. I really would love to inhale a perfume that evokes certain evenings spent at Manhattan rock clubs: mint chewing gum, my boyfriend's new leather jacket, cigarette smoke and a whiff of sweat mingled with hairspray.
Unfortunately, Power Ballad just didn't do much for me, either as a bottled memory or just as a niche fragrance. Once you take away the text and the images, you're basically left with a mix of citrus, spice and lightweight resins. It's androgynous but it's not very rebellious. It starts off with the bergamot (nice enough, but why does this story need citrus?) and a hint of the juniper (for the gin, apparently), and it feels upbeat.
Things soon get a little dirtier with the cumin note, and I had hopes here that Power Ballad would truly begin to "rock"...but the sweaty spice didn't last long. Power Ballad keeps going back to its "chorus" of lightweight resins and woods highlighted with citrus. The resin-wood accord is actually quite pleasant, even if it isn't distinctly "cedar" or "labdanum." It's smooth and it wears close to the skin. It just isn't particularly distinctive and, again, it doesn't evoke teen angst (teen spirit?) for me. In fact, you could easily wear it to your workplace. It's much more John Varvatos than CBGBs, if you know what I mean.
And then there's the packaging, in the style that I think of as "post-Byredo," belonging to the same generation as Vilhelm Parfumerie's bottle (with visuals similar to Vilhelm's, oddly enough). Once again, I'm getting cranky over the glut of new niche lines and fragrances that, while wearable and enjoyable enough, don't deliver on their promises and remind me vaguely of many other things I've smelled before. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
Quick poll: Name a power ballad. (My husband's instant response: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn.")