Musical Skeletons: Milli Vanilli

11 Oct

I’ve thought about starting this feature for a while. But I kept putting it off. And not necessarily because I’d be embarrassed. The thought of public humiliation grows less scary the older I get. But bringing light to my checkered past as a music fan might call my judgment into question. Then again, music blogging, and music journalism in general (and one might even go so far as to say journalism in general), is a joke to a lot of people right now. And taste is, by definition, a subjective thing. So I really have nothing to lose.

Every month or so … or just whenever I feel like it … I’m going to write about an awful band or artist I loved as a kid and post a video or two, to make clear how truly bad the music is. Now, I enjoyed good music as well. But I still talk about that stuff. And how can I make fun of it if it’s good?

My first choice is also the one that I’m probably the most ashamed of: Milli Vanilli.

I first discovered Milli Vanilli when they performed “Blame It on the Rain” on the short-lived sitcom “Sister Kate”, the specifics of which I had no recollection of until I researched the band online. In case you’re curious, the show is about a nun who watches over a group of misfit orphans (and Jason Priestly fits in there somewhere). Clearly an orphanage is the perfect setting for a pop concert, right? As the AV Club has pointed out, this was obviously a ratings grab … an unsuccessful ratings grab.

I don’t have a video of that TV performance, though I wish I could find one, both for this piece and for my own self-indulgent remembrance (which … sure … this piece is a part of), so this will have to do:

And, blatant gimmick though it was, it made my six-year-old self interested in their music. I pried open my piggy bank and spent my hard-earned allowance on a tape of Girl You Know It’s True. I’ve always been a bit of a miser–I would loan family members money and charge them interest, and it reached the point that I earned the nickname “Shylock”–so it was an important purchase for me. I listened to that album incessantly and sang along because I knew every word by heart. And I can’t recall now, but I’m sure I tried to mimick their dance moves, though I luckily never reached the point of

After being repeatedly subjected to the likes of “Girl You Know It’s True”, “Blame It on the Rain”, “Dreams to Remember”, et al, my family developed a near bloodlust for the band. Not even a cover of the classic Isley Brothers song “It’s Your Thing” could sway my mother, who is a huge fan of Motown, soul and funk (the reason is now clear to me: they butchered it). When the lip synching scandal broke in December of 1989, my older brother (who was allowed to watch MTV) was the first to tell me, in what I swear was a cheery, rather than a conciliatory, manner.

I was crushed. The band I had grown to love, whose music I had spent hours with was a sham. There was no way I was going to spend another penny on them. By the time they released The Real Milli Vanilli in the fall of 1990, they were but a distant memory.

I soon moved on to a series of equally shameful musical obsessions (with some genuinely good ones peppered in), as most children do. Stay tuned for the next time I reveal one of those …

2 Responses to “Musical Skeletons: Milli Vanilli”

  1. NicB October 11, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    When is the Ace of Base installment going to come out?

    • jessecab October 11, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

      Shhh … don’t spoil it for the others!

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