The story of R&B duo Milli Vanilli is one of the most scandalous in the music industry. The fallout behind their lip-synching facade resulted in them being the laughingstock of the entertainment industry for over three decades.
Former Milli Vanilli singer Fabrice ‘Fab’ Morvan is now revealing the details behind the failed group.
In Paramount+’s upcoming documentary Milli Vanilli, Morvan is joined by individuals who had a part in building and undoing the pop duo’s public persona. The documentary, directed by Luke Korem, allows the singer to give his side of the story.
In 1988, acclaimed record producer Frank Farian signed two young singers from Munich, Germany. Morvan and the late Rob Pilatus were struggling dancers with star power that Farian wanted to capitalize on. They were catapulted onto an instant ride to fame with his production and push behind the group. Milli Vanilli’s debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, sold millions of copies and earned them the Grammy Award for best new artist in 1990.
While most would be on a high from the achievement, the giant spotlight on the group caused their success to come to a screeching halt. In November 1990, Farian revealed that the men were never the singers on the popular records. He claimed he fired Morvan and Pilatus and was no longer associated with them. Removing himself from the situation left the singers in the line of fire to get blamed for deceiving the media and their millions of fans.
Morvan and Pilatus have played the scapegoats for years over the scandal. Blavity’s Shadow and Act asked the singer to describe his feelings when he realized it was not his voice on the tracks.
As a newcomer to the music industry, Morvan expressed chalking up a lot of things to inexperience.
“We got this contract and signed it without an attorney or a manager,” he said. “We got this money, and it was time to go into the studio. When we got there, the vocals were already there.”
Morvan stated that Farian and his team manipulated and lied to him and Pilatus about reasons they weren’t on the track.
Their mindset was to redo the record and pay back the money already invested in them. However, the track quickly grew popular, and they got wrapped up in the fame.
“The love we got from the fans became very seductive, but we always wanted to sing,” he continued. “When we had the power to push for us singing, they refused us.”
The gatekeepers’ arrogance, merged with greed, caused the group to continue their deception. Although they were at the height of their success, the public grew weary of their lack of authenticity. On recordings and during performances, the duo would have no trace of the heavy accents that were present in their interviews and in-person engagements. Their image became a joke and left them a laughingstock.
Milli Vanilli’s performance after their Grammy win was the last stop on their fame ride. Morvan recalled the feeling he had, knowing everything was about to crumble.
“It was a lot of emotions we were going through because we pushed this,” he explained. We made this happen in the end.”
He expressed he and his partner were again growing tired of the “manipulation” and were pivoting into something different. Their efforts were halted by Farian, leaving them discarded because they were “no longer any use to him.”
He mentioned their label, Arista Records, and founding president Clive Davis were all in on the musical rouse.
Without the machine pushing them to greatness, Morvan and Pilatus had to deal with the backlash alone. In an unprecedented turn, the Recording Academy revoked the group’s Grammy. During their highly anticipated press conference addressing the truth, they stated they felt like they “made a pact with the devil.”
As the documentary’s director, Korem aimed to “expose the truth and not exploit the truth.”
“I wanted to create a film that made you feel the journey,” he said. The documentary would not be the typical tabloid story.
“I wanted to go behind the scenes of the pop music industry and show the set-up of it all,” he continued. “There hasn’t been a documentary that has really done that.”
After explaining the well-connected machine that runs the music industry behind the scenes, Korem said the same machine dropped the ball on taking responsibility in the lip-synching scandal.
He added, “There was a time when Clive Davis, the record labels, Frank Farian could have said, ‘Hey, it was all of us.’ They could have softened the blow because no one saw the intense hate that Rob and Fab were about to experience. They could have slowed it down and deflected that, but they chose not to. And even to this day, thirty years later they have still not owned up to it. And I think they should.”
Morvan acknowledged the lack of remorse from Farian and the other executives was one of the things that affected him the most throughout the ordeal.
“I forgave myself, I forgave him and I walked away so I could start my life,” he said.
However, he does not let that stop him from getting redemption through his passion — music. Morvan is working on new music and hopes the documentary allows people to understand he has been an artist through it all.
“Music is my friend, my brother, my father, my confidant,” he continued. “I believe that life gives you music. When I write and produce, the intent behind it is all love, and I want to give something special to the world. “
Milli Vanilli is now streaming on Paramount+.