One of pop music's most notorious strange-but-true tales has been memorialized in a gripping new documentary - and there's a new compilation to go with it, too.
The Best of Milli Vanilli (35th Anniversary) is released November 17 through Legacy Recordings, offering 14 tracks (and three remixes) from the infamous European duo, who shot to international acclaim with a slate of classic pop tunes and crashed back to earth when it turned out that neither member sang a note on the records. It's not the first time the duo have been immortalized on a CD compilation: there was a 2006 disc, Greatest Hits, released in Europe, and a budget compilation issued by Sony Music in Europe in 2013 and even in America two years later. But this is, for all intents and purposes, one of the more "official" audio retellings of that story.
And the timing is right: Paramount+ and MTV have just produced a documentary, Milli Vanilli, that hit the streaming channel in October. It tells the story of Rob Pilatus, Fabrice Morvan, producer Frank Farian and the unsung real vocalists on hits like "Girl You Know It's True," "Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," "Blame It on the Rain" and "All or Nothing" with stunning depth and context. When Milli Vanilli was exposed as a lip-sync act in 1990 - making history when their Grammy Award for Best New Artist was revoked - the blame was laid squarely at the feet of Pilatus and Morvan as a pair of clout-chasing wannabes. Time has since painted them with a more sympathetic brush, especially after Pilatus died in 1998 following addiction issues; Farian, notorious for fabricating similar acts like Boney M, is now seen as someone quick to manipulate two young men of color who didn't know the ins and outs of the msuic industry.
What Milli Vanilli offers instead is a shocking - at least by the standards of today's often hagiographical music docs - a third option. The nearly two-hour film suggests a combination of desperation, greed and obfuscation among everyone involved (including the brass at both European label Ariola and U.S. counterparts at Arista, who rode a wave of six million copies of the album of Girl You Know It's True). The result? A slow-motion trainwreck representing humanity's thirst for heroes and villains in a world where craven business and artistic expression are so often knotted together at the ankles.
With tracks mostly drawn from their debuts on both sides of the Atlantic (1988's All or Nothing and 1989's Stateside counterpart Girl You Know It's True), one track from sophomore album The Moment of Truth (released and credited to the actual vocalists as "The Real Milli Vanilli") and three rare single mixes, The Best of Milli Vanilli (35th Anniversary) paints a portrait of great pop music with a deeply complicated history. Pre-order it below and look for it in record stores November 17.
The Best of Milli Vanilli (35th Anniversary) (Arista/Legacy)
- Girl You Know It's True
- Baby Don't Forget My Number
- Blame It on the Rain
- I'm Gonna Miss You
- Keep On Running
- All or Nothing
- Can't You Feel My Love
- Dreams to Remember
- Ma Baker
- Is It Love
- More Than You'll Ever Know
- Take It As It Comes
- Girl I'm Gonna Miss You (U.S. Single Version)
- Girl You Know It's True (U.S. Single Version)
- Baby Don't Forget My Number (Radio Mix)
Tracks 1, 3 and 14 from Girl You Know It's True (Arista (U.S.), 1989
Tracks 2, 4 and 6-13 from All or Nothing (Hansa/BMG (Europe), 1988)
Track 5 from The Moment of Truth (Hansa/BMG (Europe), 1991)
Track 15 from Arista U.S. single AS1-9870, 1989
Track 16 from Arista U.S. single AS1-9781, 1988
Track 17 from Hansa European 12" 611 841, 1988