Friday, August 24, 2007

When We Was Fab

A commenter on my Archies item drew an implicit comparison between that group and Milli Vanilli, the German studio group of the late 1980s that hired two dreadlocked pretty boys to be its stand-in. The whole Milli Vanilli phenomenon is fascinating to me, not least of which is that people forget just how popular that group was. They had three Number One singles and two other Top Five hits, in addition to their much-ballyhooed Grammy win as Best New Artist in 1990.

But as soon as Rob and Fab were revealed as put-on artists, the public turned on them as if they had signed with the Yankees. Part of this was their incredible obnoxiousness: Before their unmasking, one of those dudes told Time magazine "We make better music than Paul McCartney. We make better music than Bob Dylan." And I don't think the producer ever came out and sheepishly admitted, "Yeah, we shouldn't have lied, but we had found these great grooves and figured they wouldn't get a hearing if people thought they had come form a bunch of old guys in Germany." That would have gone a long way toward rehabilitating the whole project, but for better or worse, Rob and Fab remained the faces of Milli Vanilli.

And then there was their Achilles' heel: Their music was terrible. Just unconscionably bad, three Number One hits or no three Number One hits. Weak rhythms, almost no melody, English-as-a-second-language lyrics. Because of that, no one ever stepped forward and said, "They were a fraud, but I still enjoy listening to their music." As soon as people had an excuse to forget them, they did.

I can recall hearing "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" on my car radio and leaving it on all the way through, just because I was always convinced that it couldn't possibly be as mindbendingly awful as I remembered it, but it always was:

It's a tragedy for me to see the dream is over
And I never will forget the day we met
Girl I'm gonna miss you

There's a Milli Vanilli movie in the works now. I think I speak for legions of music fans when I say: I don't care.


Joe said...

Those songs weren't so terrible. They were product. A lightweight version of Soul II Soul, as I remember. Maybe not quite as good as Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," but better than Ace of Base. Nowhere near as good as "Sugar, Sugar," but better than "Yummy Yummy Yummy." (Well, maybe not. That had a pretty awesome drum part.)

T. Nawrocki said...

I heard "The Sign" the other day, and I thought it held up pretty well. That melody is just insane.

Milli Vanilli is better than Johnny Hates Jazz, I'll grant you that.

Joe said...

Also better than Gene Loves Jezebel.