Milli Vanilli

Milli Vanilli

Profile:
Pop vocal group, formed in Germany in 1988. The 'face' of the band was composed of models Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who producer Frank Farian had chosen because he felt the real singers (Brad Howell and John Davis) were unmarketable. The duo only appeared on the album cover, and lip-synched to pre-recorded studio singers in music videos and in concert.

In 1990, they were awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, but later became the only act in history to have their Grammy stripped from them, when it was revealed that they had not been involved in the creation of their breakthrough album, "Girl You Know It's True". In 1993, Pilatus and Morvan released a new (unsuccessful) album as Rob & Fab, in an attempt to prove to the world that they did indeed possess vocal and writing talent.

On his side, Frank Farian went on to produce The Real Milli Vanilli. In 1998, Rob Pilatus was found dead in a hotel near Frankfurt.
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Milli Vanilli Discography

Albums

Milli Vanilli All Or Nothing (The First Album) (Album) Hansa Argentina 1988 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True (Album) Arista Canada 1989 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli All Or Nothing - The U.S. Remix Album (Album, MiniAlbum) Hansa Germany 1989 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli The Remix Album (Album, Comp) Arista US 1990 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

Milli Vanilli Baby Don't Forget My Number (Single, Maxi) Hansa Spain 1988 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True (Maxi, Single) Hansa Italy 1988 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Blame It On The Rain (Single, Maxi) Hansa US 1988 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Girl I'm Gonna Miss You (Single, Maxi) Arista UK 1988 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli All Or Nothing (The U.S. Mega Mix) (Maxi, Single) Hansa Europe 1989 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Megamix (Single) Arista US 1989 Sell This Version
5 56 203 Milli Vanilli Milli Vanilli(7") AMIGA 5 56 203 German Democratic Republic (GDR) 1989 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Keep On Running (Single, Maxi) Hansa Germany 1990 Sell This Version
AFS-9955 Milli Vanilli Baby Don't Forget My Number / Girl You Know It's True(7", Single, RE) Arista AFS-9955 US 1990 Sell This Version
ASTR.LL028 Milly Vanilly* Can't You Feel My Love / All Or Nothing(12") Astrid Record ASTR.LL028 Unknown Sell This Version

Compilations

Milli Vanilli 2 x 2 (Comp) Cooltempo UK 1989 Sell This Version
291 038 Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True(CD, Comp) Ariola Express 291 038 Germany 1992 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Greatest Hits (Comp) MCI, Sony BMG Music Entertainment Europe 2006 Sell This Version
Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True: The Best Of Milli Vanilli (Comp) Sony Music Europe 2013 Sell This Version
GRCD-279 Milli Vanilli Discomania(CD, Comp) Grand Records GRCD-279 Russia Unknown Sell This Version

Videos

Milli Vanilli In Motion BMG Video US 1989 Sell This Version

Miscellaneous

ASCD-9930 Milli Vanilli Maximum Milli Vanilli - The Hits That Shook The World(CD, Smplr, Promo) Arista ASCD-9930 US 1989 Sell This Version

Reviews Show All 5 Reviews

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BigDRob

BigDRob

September 19, 2015
I could not understand why the real singers didn't just come out and just say that they sung the record - put out some new material and at least try to reap the benefits. People obviously liked the music.

Worst case scenario - let's say these guys look like Jabba the Hut. Neaten yourselves up - make a presentation (separate from the producer who concocted this mess) and say you desired to stay behind the scenes, but felt you needed a visual presence with Rob and Fab and make an honest apology. I just think it would have put some positivity on the situation.
airwolffliesagain

airwolffliesagain

September 22, 2013
Regardless of what happened, what critics say/said, for me, Frank Farian (Boney M) and Milli Vanilli are unique. Excellent group, songs and beats. They kick any new would-be pop dance hip hop rap music singers (Timberlake, Bieber, Perry, argh ... ) behind anytime, anywhere! I am so happy and proud to have a lot of their works in my collection. Fantastic in every aspect!
Crijevo

Crijevo

November 25, 2011
edited over 4 years ago
Encise's is a great introduction to the story. If we all, for a moment, turn our heads and ignore the fact Rob & Fab were lip-synching, and look into the music that's been offered in their heyday, there's pretty much a surprising mixture of styles that would have left many doubters mouth open back then. While it WAS image alone, as marketably exploited as it could possibly get, the album "All Or Nothing" wasn't just a hodge-podge of bittersweet pop brainwash for the Bravo generation of 1988. It does contain a number of guilty pleasures - being a confusing hybrid of underground hip-hop/house and of course - pop clichés. Very probably, the most annoying aspect in the Rob & Fab story at that point was the name they chose to represent - "Milli Vanilli" (betraying a very remote but still charming debt to a certain "Scritti Politti" by comparison), being easily memorable, catchy and like today's "Lady Gaga", annoyingly cut into the minds of countless listeners, whether they like it or not.

Of course, if Frank Farian wasn't a bastard he actually was, single-handedly constructing and directing the whole thing and then throwing his two frontmen executives to the lions - presenting it in a little bit different way could have meant the word "entertainment" would prevail and any marks of fraud would be less disturbing in terms of "music performers". Because it could have been an interesting showcase of models' mime and good pop tune to dance to when you were just 13. At the time, I was equally shocked regarding the "scandal", but more like naively thinking - "can this really be possible"? From a distance point of view, Rob & Fab were very obviously victims of a ruthless two-faced manager/producer and then along came the good old music industry, being a ruthless mechanism in itself, willing to chew Milli Vanilli to bits and spit it out on the other end, minced meat without a single option of recovery from such a publicly orchestrated scandal.

As it's already documented so far, the "original" Milli Vanilli story didn't end happily - while Rob Pilatus very probably didn't build a strong cocaine dependency mainly due to the infamous lip-synching career, the pressure of media mockery did help causing him suffer a mental breakdown resulting in suicide. While "All Or Nothing" is far from original and authentic work (a certain majority of songs from the album are basically covers or paraphrasing other people's work - most notably "Money", which in a weird sense echoes Pink Floyd's song, although nothing to do with it stylistically, except maybe for the opening cash register sample, or a massive use of Eric B & Rakim's drum sample on several pieces ("Girl You Know It's True", "Baby Don't Forget My Number" and "All or Nothing") - plus 'Ma Baker' and 'Hush'), the debut album does contain some enjoyable guilty pleasures - for one, take "Can't You Feel My Love", which runs from cheesy funk to a clumsy but entertaining "heavy-metal" riff down the middle of the song.

In all, a sad story to learn from - if you ever get approached by someone with a prepared recording contract.
Encise

Encise

June 13, 2002
PART 1: THE STORY

In the summer of 1990, the American music industry performed a bizarre ritual. At a press conference, it was announced that the winners of that
year's 'Best New Artist' award, Milli Vanilli, had had their prize revoked for misrepresenting their contributions to their own music; it had been
discovered (though there was never much of a secret about it) that the group's putative members, Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, had not performed
any of the vocals on their album. (The vocals were actually performed by Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howe.) Vanilli quickly became a running
joke in mass culture. Rob and Fab appeared in a self-mocking chewing-gum commercial, lip-synching the Care-Free jingle. A class-action suit was filed,
and eventually purchasers of Girl You Know It's True were given the opportunity to mail off for a rebate for fraud damages. And in 1991, Rob Pilatus
attempted suicide by jumping out of his Beverly Hill Hotel suite. Milli Vanilli today are little more than a fading joke and a trivia question
. Although they'd sold ten million albums and scored five Top Five singles (including three Number Ones), their hit songs have been erased from the
oldies playlists of radio stations across the nation.

But if Milli Vanilli's songs have been expunged from the collective memory, their disgrace remains a critical episode in the narrative contemporary popular
music tells to explain itself. That 1990 press conference came in the midst of crisis in the shared assumptions about authenticity in popular music. A New
Jersey congressman was proposing a law banning unannounced lip-synching at concerts. The cross-over of hip-hop represented by Milli-Vanilli's pop-rap
fusion was introducing Top 40 audiences to remixing and sampling strategies that called into question assumptions about songs's originality. Synthesizers,
originally exploited for their plastic, unnatural sound in the early 80s, had become the sonic norm, as familiar as amplified guitar strings. And sophisticated
recording techniques had emerged which could filter and modify any voice into a radio-ready instrument.

Pop music-making in the 1990s has more to do with filmmaking than jamming in a garage: every song is a collection of tracks laid down by assorted musicians,
edited together by producers, and fronted by charismatic performers. But while most viewers recognize the complex division of labor in moviemaking--nobody
gets upset that actors don't do their own stunts--pop music hangs on to the folk-era image of the individual artist communicating directly to her or his listeners.
Milli Vanilli became martyrs to this myth of authenticity. They were the recording industry's sacrifice meant to prove the integrity of the rest of their product--as if
the music marketed under the names U2 or Janet Jackson WEREN'T every bit as constructed and mediated, just because the voices on the records matched
the faces in the videos.

The sacrifice worked. Paula Abdul faced down a lawsuit from a former backup singer claiming Abdul's voice was barely audible on several of the tracks from
her hit Forever Your Girl, and established her artistic credibility by singing ballads on the follow-up Spellbound. Rapper Biz Markie was successfully sued for
unliscensed sampling, and now every hip-hop appropriation is contractually accounted for. Gangsta rap and grunge rock emerged as mass genres which laid
special claims to authentic expression, and nobody smirked. Sure, the rules had changed somewhat: the hard-rockin' earnestness of Bruce Springsteen's
comeback records in 1991 sounded painfully out of touch; in place of those plodding electric guitars, aging rockers discovered that they could shed the
burden of their years and regain intimacy with their audiences by going acoustic - or at least 'Unplugged', which quickly developed to mean anything except
electric guitars. Soon, post-Vanilli diva Mariah Carey was performing live on MTV just to prove her
multi-octave range was an honest freak of nature, and not just a studio trick.

In explaining the pleasures of mass culture, the aesthetic criteria that go along with the rubric of 'authenticity'--designations like 'talent' and 'quality'--are
pretty useless standards of judgement--after-the-fact rationalizations, often, for more inexplicable attractions. Why do I love Milli Vanilli's Girl, You Know It's
True? I can go on all day long about its neo-soul songcraft, its soaring synth-strings, its hip hop beat and clever samples. But do I think it's great because the people
involved were 'talented'? Who the hell cares? It's not like I'm inviting them to dinner. Plenty of the greatest music ever made has been created by hacks,
slackers, and no-names, who for whatever reasons stumbled into a little bit of genius. I should point out that just because Rob and Fab didn't have much to
do with the creation of Milli Vanilli's music, it's not like nobody else did. The genius behind the Milli Vanilli sound, if you want to know, is producer Frank Farian,
also responsible for disco pioneers Boney M. There was probably some specific mastermind behind the image and marketing of Milli Vanilli, as well,
whose name is lost to history because of the biases of what gets to count as 'art' and what as 'packaging'.
In any case, dividing up the responsibility for the bundle of sound and images known as Milli Vanilli may be a significant
historical task, but it does little to make sense of the pleasures of the text. We can explain Farian's contribution to the bundle of sound and image known as 'Milli
Vanilli' in terms of valorized technical skills. But how much credit should we give Rob and Fab for their wonderful, slightly off-base charisma? For their enormous
pecs? For their great hair? These may be 'superficial' attributes, but they have AS much to do with aesthetic effect as rhythm tracks. To classify some qualities
as 'talents' and others as 'superficial' may work for judging friends, but they have nothing to do with the play of images that makes up the art of mass culture.

None of this is to say that this art need be seen as in any way 'compromised' by its commodity status.

The disgracing of Milli Vanilli didn't return popular music to a golden age of direct communication between artist and fan. I'm not sure I'd want such a relationship,
if it ever existed-- most rock stars become a lot less interesting when you learn what they're 'really' like. But in demarcating the '90s' boundary line between 'art'
and 'image', what THIS DISGRACING may have inadvertently helped usher in is the era of the Supermodel. Cindy, Naomi, Linda and their cohort can't be
unmasked as talentless frauds, don't need to sing, dance, or act to be stars. They've given up any claim to creating anything other than images of themselves.
Does this mean they produce nothing that can be of any value to their millions of fans?

Those who embraced the harsh 'trial by media' sentencing imposed on the fronters of Milli Vanilli have in effect, conceded that they bought into the music for the
image and should be ashamed of themselves for confirmation of the fact that the public buy into a concept/image created by the record company, rather than
the music.

PART 2: THE MUSIC

Tracks to look out for (for those who are unpersuaded by populist view and like hip hop/ soul with a twist of turntablism and house sensibilites):

Girl You Know Its True (NY Subway Remix)
The extended version of Milli Vanillis first European hit was a clubbers delight and scratched and dropped in samples from Bobby Brown and Eric B & Rakim,
amongst others. This hard-to-find track is similar to an ULTIMIX remix - whereby the original is re-edited and fused with additional beats and samples to
create a sound collage of tough hip hop beats and shimmering percussive rhythms.

Baby Dont Forget My Number (NY Subway Remix)
This club mix starts with an elongated Public Enemy 'Fight The Power' sample -with PE rapper 'Flavour Flav' being sampled screaming 'Dont Believe The
Hype!" From herein, the track samples the Jungle Brothers (Ill House You) and many others to again, create an integration of club sounds, beats and
samples.

All or Nothing (12" Club Mix)
The 'Paid In Full' beat sampled from Eric B and Rakim and appearing on many Milli Vanilli singles doesnt make an appearance untill 8 minutes into this
classic club hit. The single was released at the same time as producer Frank Farian 'coming out' about MVs lip synching and therefor suffered from a
poorly constructed video borrowing heavily from MVs previous clips. The track however, was another club hip hop stomper mixing in concepts from the
above two tracks.

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