Paco Rabanne 1 Million - cologne review
We're magpies, aren't we? We seem permanently drawn to shiny little trinkets like those brainy black-and-white birds. And to mis-quote and adapt H.L. Mencken, P.T. Barnum and apparently Rupert Murdoch too, 'Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the general public'. The immense popularity of Paco Rabanne 1 Million arguably seems to bear all this out - but we'll talk about the vulgar, blingy gold packaging a little later.
Let's focus first on the fine fragrance itself. Paco Rabanne 1 Million benefits from having a limited range of well-defined notes, to our noses at least.
In fact, it really isn't too bad a fragrance at all.
First, the top note is a very pleasant pink bubblegum flavour. The kind of smell that reminds you of a teenage smooch behind the bike-sheds or the sweet breath of those disgruntled teenage girls they get to wash your hair in high-end hairdressing salons... ahh, happy days... But enough of our sexually repressed boyhood fantasies... It's a very pleasant sugary smell, and it actually lasts for quite a while.
After that's calmed down, the bubblegum (we suppose it's really a fruit and mint combo, in reality) gives way to another two straightforward scents: rose and leather. It's like sticking your face in your mother's handbag (not sure where these boyhood images are coming from... where's Sigmund Freud when you need him?). It's another pleasant smell, and a lot more sophisticated (yet simple) than the bubblegum top notes.
Paco Rabanne tells us there is cinnamon in there, too - it's a favourite of ours, but we couldn't detect any.
There is a theme developing here: is Paco Rabanne 1 Million slightly girly? Bubblegum and roses, handbags and hairdressers: very nice, and those smells would work on a guy, but it's not exactly locker-room, sweaty jock-strap masculine, is it? Well, in fairness, the leather notes probably save the day here and inject just enough masculinity and mild sophistication into the fragrance to elevate it above your standard, pedestrian floral cologne.
Paco Rabanne 1 Million Intense
And this is where Paco Rabanne 1 Million Intense comes in. Now, normally, the cynic in us thinks: 'So they've re-issued the same fragrance and tacked on the suffix "Intense", eh? They think they can fool us by selling the same old stuff to us all over again, do they?' Yes, but newsflash everyone: Paco Rabanne have actually improved the original.
They tell us it has top notes of pepper and middle notes of cinnamon: and we concur. The bubblegum is still there, but is stifled more or less at birth, giving way to roses again, but the pepper and spices are strong (for a top note, the pepper really lingers), and they balance the floral sweetness very nicely indeed.
We have to hand it to them: they really struck gold on the second attempt (see what we did there?).
The Promotional Videos
Speaking of striking gold... let's talk about the advertising campaigns.
Starting with the video for 1 Million, there is plenty of good and bad here. We'd hazard that Paco Rabanne are going for some sort of James Bond-esque sophisticated angle here: we've got the casino imagery (dice, roulette), we've got the guy in a jacket that all the ladies love, we've got the organised-crime-style bag of cash, we've got the classic car (a glorious, black E-Type Jaguar, not an Aston Martin admittedly), we've got whisky (?) on the rocks (ok, not a dry martini), hell - we've even got implicit sexism.
There's even a good in-joke for cologne-aficionados: to judge from the conclusion of the video, it looks like Paco Rabanne 1 Million really is the proverbial 'panty-dropper' fragrance that so many socially-awkward men seem to fantasize about... Check it out.
But then there is the bad: girls may love Mat Gordon, but he's so scrawny - where's the muscle? Combine that with his enormously camp, effeminate dancing (he himself described his own moves during his audition as making him feel 'like a nerd'), and suddenly the whole spectacle becomes very off-putting. The poor guy looks like he's suffering a series of electric shocks, or acting like a novice fakir walking on hot coals: more spasms than badass dance-floor moves. And what's with the snatched, male 'handbra' bit? Eww, as they say. It's just strange. To crown it all, wearing 1 Million gives him magic powers to manipulate a car's ignition system, fireworks and even a girl's slip. It's fantasies of omnipotence all over again - like those Hugo fragrance adverts with Jared Leto (more about that here).
The track is Chemical Brothers' 'Do It Again', which is ironic really because that is almost what Paco Rabanne do in the 1 Million Intense advertising campaign. Again, we've got ice cubes falling into glasses, nicely contrasting with a scorching burst of flame in the fireplace, but it's exactly the same idea of the sophisticated, omnipotent James Bond-type, with much more emphasis on sex this time (hooray).
We get the beautiful Dree Hemingway also doing a bit of finger-snapping, but we know it's really Mat the man who's doing the disrobing with those slender magic fingers of his. One clever bit, though, and that's the blatant James Bond reference to Shirley Eaton's death-by-gold-paint during the seduction scene from Goldfinger, echoed when Dree Hemingway emerges from behind the screen, coloured in gold from top to shapely bottom for her coupling with lucky Mat.
So in short, some of the usual men's fragrance advertising campaign classic tropes are there: James Bond, cool cars, gambling, good-looking guy, sexual promise, money. It's just that they let a few weird bits creep in - like Mat's dance moves - that mar things somewhat. They should just stick to letting him put the moves on Dree...
Styling of the Flask
A final word on the cologne's flask itself. Well, yes, we get it: '1 Million', makes you think of 'millionaires', cash, money, moolah, wongah, dosh, dough, bread - hence the way the flask looks vaguely like a small block of gold bullion, upended on its side. But the gold styling is just so tacky, blingy and vulgar.
Actually, forget gold bars, and let's be honest: what the flask really looks like is C-3PO's erect penis.
Yes, that's right: just scroll up, take another look at the pictures we've provided here, use the warped, sick part of your imagination a bit, and yes, that's what you get when C-3PO sees a particularly foxy Dell PowerEdge T320 5U Tower Server: android wood. 'Wait! Oh my, look at the E5-2420 Intel Xeon processor on her!' Wacko Paco is meant to have all these beliefs in the paranormal and cosmology and crashing space stations, so he may well have got some sort of extra-terrestrial inspiration for the flask styling: who can say?
Anyway, enough of the frivolity: the flask is nasty (and awkward to use, incidentally), but these fragrances, particularly Intense, are really not at all bad. We're going to be tacky and vulgar ourselves and say: go and buy it!
1 Million: a reasonable, rosy and leathery 7 out of 10.
1 Million Intense: a peppery, spicy 8.5 out of 10.