In 1989, three years before grunge, music was running out of steam. Metal had already donned its leather jacket and water-skis, and was quickly accelerating towards its eventual, absurd end in 1992’s “November Rain.” Madonna – now a shadow of her former self – was trotting out tired, almost-entirely-unnoticed-by-everyone fare like “Like a Prayer,” and, worst of all, society was left to the mercy of the Fine Young Cannibals. In our darkest hour, we needed a hero.
We got two.
Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, known to us mere mortals as Milli Vanilli, broke through the tedium of songs like Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (judging from the opening sigh, it’s even bored with itself!), Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” and Debbie Gibson’s awkward commercial for Sears Portraits/Yearbook Photos: “Lost in your Eyes.” Milli Vanilli brought something we’d never heard before: Awesome.
You could easily forget Dylan. Forget Springsteen. Forget Falco. But who can forget where they were when they first heard “Girl You Know it’s True?” For my part, it was the bus on the way to my fifth grade classroom. Those electronic drums! The disembodied, fuzzy voice in the background! The keyboards! Nothing had sounded like this before… and let’s not forget that rapping. You know, we often look at Vanilla Ice as being the Brian Wilson of white rappers…a distant genius figure that inspires numerous copycats, but none who can ever really scale those heights. But I think it’s fair to say that even Vanilla could never hold a candle to Rob and Fab. Of course, that kind of talent draws haters like a magnet, and Vanilla eventually decided – like Prince – to keep all the awesome locked safely in his vault.
And so it went for Milli Vanilli. After winning Best New Artist at the 1990 Grammy Awards, they found themselves accused of lip-syncing their way through performances. Evidently, people had never heard of “saving it for eternity” (in the form of records and cassingles). If they had gone out there every night and just poured it on, we’d never have had any of their excellent follow-up albums. (Oh, wait, we didn’t get those because people are jackals) But people want what they want, and, so, when “Girl” skipped one evening while they were performing… well, that was it. Their detractors poured it on. They were forced to give back their awards. Unable to defend their work because of a language barrier, Milli Vanilli were victims of the greatest miscarriage of justice since the Warren Commission.
Much like Mozart, Rob was taken from us far too early. And now, years after that tantalizing first album, Fab continues to carry the torch for all those geniuses who still labor in unsung obscurity. And, of course, for you girl…
Take it all in here: