Watch carefully during Milli Vanilli’s performance at the Feb. 21, 1990, Grammys – where the duo won the award for Best New Artist – and you might catch a subtle hint that a scandal was brewing. When the camera cuts to the audience, it zooms in on Ozzy Osbourne. He’s rolling his eyes in disgust.
Twenty years later, Milli Vanilli’s victory remains a bizarre moment in pop culture history, even for the surviving member of the group. ”It was like an out-of-body experience, accepting a Grammy in front of all those people I knew from the Billboard charts,” says Fab Morvan, 43. (Rob Pilatus was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in a Frankfurt hotel room in 1998.) ”But knowing everything that we knew – the story behind the story – we were also conflicted. There was a lot of confusion inside the heads of those two young guys up at the podium.”
Milli Vanilli’s Grammy would, of course, be revoked 10 months later, after it was revealed that those two young guys at the podium hadn’t sung a note on their platinum-selling 1989 album, Girl You Know It’s True. It was the first great lip-synching controversy of the modern age, although hardly the last (see: Britney Spears at the VMAs, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz on SNL, or Yang Peiyi and Lin Miaoke at the 2008 Olympics). And it made Milli Vanilli an international punchline, even if the joke wasn’t always funny. ”I don’t think anyone ever had a faster rise,” says Morvan, who lives in Amsterdam and is still singing (that’s his own voice on his single ”Anytime”) and dancing (in a project called smfm, about to start touring in Europe). ”Nobody had a faster fall.”