Milli Vanilli: reaction to the first album

Review from April 8, 1989 Billboard magazine under "New And Noteworthy", sharing page space with The Outfield's "Voices Of Babylon", Jody Watley's "Larger Than Life", Goo Goo Dolls' "Jed", and Fairport Convention's "Red And Gold", among others:

MILLI VANILLI   Girl You Know It's True

PRODUCER: Frank Farian
Arista 8592

Given the runaway crossover success of the title track, this duo will probably have a long life on several charts, including pop, black, and rap. There's plenty here to further what "Girl" started, including "More Than You'll Ever Know", "Blame It On The Rain," and "Dreams To Remember."

Debuted on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart on March 25, 1989 and peaked at #1 on September 23, 1989. It would spend 78 weeks total on the Top Pop Albums chart, would hold the #1 position for eight nonconsecutive weeks, and would be certified 6x platinum.

For a sense of context, here are the top five positions of the Top Pop Albums chart the week that Milli Vanilli hit #1:

  1. GIRL YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE - Milli Vanilli
  2. HANGIN' TOUGH - New Kids on the Block
  3. FOREVER YOUR GIRL - Paula Abdul
  4. REPEAT OFFENDER - Richard Marx
  5. FULL MOON FEVER - Tom Petty

Full entry from "The Billboard Book Of Number One Albums" by Craig Rosen (Billboard Books, 1996):

German record producer Frank Farian began working on a project known as Milli Vanilli in April 1988. The name was borrowed from a Berlin disco that was popular in the '60s. By 1988, Farian was already an established hit-maker, having scored nine top 10 singles in England with the West Indies group Boney M.

To front Milli Vanilli, Farian recruited Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, a pair of dreadlocked video models and dancers. The album was recorded in three months at Far Studios in Frankfut, Germany. The resulting album, All or Nothing, was issued on a small label in Europe and soon garnered the attention of Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records.

"Clive Davis suggested three new songs for the album for the American release," recalls Farian. One of those tracks, "Blame It On The Rain," was penned by the hot songwriter Diane Warren, who had written such chart-toppers as Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," Chicago's "Look Away," and Bad English's "When I See You Smile."

With the release of the American version of the album, retitled Girl You Know It's True, Milli Vanilli began to experience success with the title track. The song, which was already a number three hit in the U.K., was released as the group's first American single and went on to reach number two on the Hot 100. The follow-up single, "Baby Don't Forget My Number," penned by Farian, Brad Howell, and Bernd Berwanger, was even more successful. On July 1, 1989, it became Milli Vanilli's first Number One hit.

In spite of the group's success, rumors began to circulate that Pilatus and Morvan, credited with "vocals" in the album's liner notes, did not really sing on the album. Despite the rumors, Milli Vanilli's success continued. A third single, "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," also became a hit, reaching the top spot on September 23, 1989. The third hit single was enough to drive Girl You Know It's True to Number One in its 27th week on the album chart.

Milli Vanilli's hot streak continued when "Blame It On The Rain" became the group's third consecutive Number One single on November 25, 1989. On February 21, 1990, Milli Vanilli was named best new artist at the 32nd Annual Grammy Awards by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. With all the success, however, the rumors that Pilatus and Morvan didn't sing just became louder.

Finally, on November 14, 1990, almost a year after Milli Vanilli had topped the album chart, Farian held a press conference to announce that it was true: Pilatus and Morvan did not sing on the album. "Rob and Fab were supposed to do a dance video and it developed from there," says Farian. However, the duo wanted to sing and actually thought that their vocals, which were in fact recorded in the course of the studio sessions, appeared on the album. "During the album recordings there was a funny situation in the studio. We were listening to the record and Rob started to claim that he expected his voice to be louder. As we all know by now, he never sang one tune."

Farian says he opted not to use Pilatus and Morvan's vocals because they simply were "not good enough." Instead, he turned to his friend, Howell, who co-wrote "Baby Don't Forget My Number," to handle the lead vocals.

In retrospect, Farian has mixed feelings about the Milli Vanilli experience. "Even though what happened is common procedure in the music business, I felt really bad," he says. However, he is proud of his work on the album. "Girl You Know It's True was an excellent production and deserved all the positive attention it received."

The duo were later forced to return their Grammy, but chart history cannot be undone - Girl You Know It's True remained one of the best-selling albums of 1989.

Milli Vanilli hit an odd milestone in bringing about the downfall of the vinyl LP. The first two paragraphs from a January 20, 1990 article from Billboard:

No Milli Vinyli: 2nd Helping of Top LPs Scarce

by Bruce Haring and Ed Christman

NEW YORK  For the first time, the No. 1 album on Billboard's Top Pop Albums chart is no longer available in vinyl, and retailers are reporting that other hit vinyl albums are becoming increasingly difficult to reorder.

The vinyl version of Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True" was deleted by Arista in November, a move the company says was prompted by high returns in the configuration.

A full article from June 24, 1989 Billboard magazine, written around the time that their second single, "Baby Don't Forget My Number" was peaking on the charts:

Milli Vanilli's Aim Is 'True' On Album Debut

Hot Arista Act Hits The Dance And Pop Charts

by Jim Richliano

NEW YORK  Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, better known to international audiences as Milli Vanilli, are quickly emerging as Arista's hottest act of the year. The duo's Arista debut album, "Girl You Know It's True," has just been certified platinum and spawned the top three pop smash title cut. Their second single, "Baby Don't Forget My Number," has already cracked the top 10 and is nearing gold certification.

The trendy pair began performing in Germany two years ago after meeting at a Los Angeles dance club. A demo tape of their work fell into the hands of producer Frank Farian, who was known at the time for his work with Euro-sensation Boney M. Farian is credited with creating Milli Vanilli's sound in his studio. This sound initially caught on in Europe ("Girl" spent six weeks at No. 1 in Germany and went to No. 2 in the U.K.) before making it in the U.S.

Along with establishing a niche at pop radio, the duo has shown tremendous crossover potential, which has fueled its success. The 12-inch single of "Girl" went to No. 1 on Billboard's 12-inch Singles Sales chart and top three on Billboard's Club Play chart. This week, "Baby" is logged in at 13 on the sales chart and debuts in the Club Play chart's top 10.

According to Kirk Bonin, associate director of national R&B marketing for Arista, "Girl" has sold a reported 200,000 12-inch singles and "Baby" is currently at reported 59,000. Bonin says these numbers indicate that along with Taylor Dayne and Expose, Milli Vanilli has become one of Arista's most successful dance outfits of the '80s.

Milli Vanilli has just signed with a manager for the first time and is currently preparing for this summer's Club MTV tour; its next single, scheduled for a July release, will be "Blame It On The Rain."