Milli Vanilli: Overview articles

First, the facts. The entry in Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1996 (Record Research):

Milli Vanilli

Europop act formed in Germany by producer Frank Farian (creator of Boney M and Far Corporation). Milli Vanilli is Turkish for positive energy. Originally thought to be Rob Pilatus (from Germany) and Fabrice Morvan (from France). Duo was stripped of its 1989 Best New Artist Grammy Award when it was revealed that they didn't sing on their debut album. Actual vocalists are Charles Shaw, John Davis and Brad Howe.

Next, an opinion. The entry in MusicHound Rock - The Essential Album Guide (1999, Visible Ink):

Milli Vanilli

Formed 1988, in Munich, Germany.

Rob Pilatus (died April 2, 1998, in Frankfurt, Germany), vocals; Fabrice Morvan, vocals.

Milli Vanilli almost went down in pop history as one of the most successful - albeit artistically insignificant - groups of the video era. Instead, the duo became perhaps the biggest punchline in pop before tragedy superseded the jokes. Milli Vanilli, of course, first turned the music world on its ear with its 1989 debut Album, Girl You Know It's True. Though critically reviled, winning both worst band and worst album honors in the 1989 Rolling Stone Critics' Poll, and likened to Alvin and the Chipmunks by Time magazine, Milli Vanilli appeared to be having the last laugh, as Girl You Know It's True spawned five Top 5 hits, sold more than seven million copies, and even earned the group a Best New Artist Grammy. The giggling suddenly stopped when it was revealed that Pilatus and Morvan hadn't sung a single note on the hit record - that Milli Vanilli was really Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howe. The group's mastermind, Frank Farian - the German producer known for his work with Boney M - had apparently wanted an attractive look to go with his lightweight dance-pop, and so he hired former breakdancers Pilatus (from Munich) and Morvan (from Paris) to become the faces of Milli Vanilli. The dreadlocked, bare-chested men appeared on the album cover, in videos, and on stage (lip-synching, of course) and were described by the New York Times as "exotically sexy." The group also conducted interviews as Milli Vanilli, with Pilatus telling one writer: "Musically, we are more talented than any Bob Dylan. We are more talented than Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger ... I'm the new Elvis." Following the revelations that they weren't quite ready to build their own Gracelands, Pilatus and Morvan were stripped of their Grammy, while their record company was ordered to give partial refunds to anybody who bought Milli Vanilli recordings or attended concerts believing that the duo was actually singing. Ironically, after Pilatus and Morvan sang a capella at a press conference, a voice coach said they sounded better than the men who actually were recorded. The duo tried to continue on as Rob and Fab but went nowhere, quickly. In 1991 a despondent Pilatus attempted suicide; five years later, he was charged on eight counts of allegedly attacking and threatening two people in separate incidents. Under court order, he later entered a drug treatment facility. In 1998, a year after Morvan told VH1 that he and Pilatus were deceived into fronting Milli Vanilli, Pilatus was found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room after consuming alcohol and pills.

What to avoid: Girl You Know It's True   woof! [on a scale of 1 to 5 bones] (Arista, 1989, prod. Frank Farian) is worth having only to remind you what all the fuss was about. All featherweight lyrics, flat vocals, and standard-issue hip-hop rhythms, the album features the consecutive #1's "Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," and "Blame It On The Rain." But still...

The rest:
Quick Moves: The Remix Album   1-1/2 bones (Arista, 1990)
Rob and Fab   woof! (Taj, 1993)

Klaatu, Spinal Tap, the Monkees

-Josh Freedom du Lac

Next, a similar opinion. The entry in All Music Guide To Rock (1995, Miller Freeman Books):

Milli Vanilli

Group, Dance-Pop

The most notorious group of the '80s, bar none. Eurodisco producer Frank Farian (who created Boney M and Far Corporation) recruited two handsome, talentless dweebs to lip-sync to his pre-fab dance-pop ditties, such as "Girl You Know It's True" and "Blame It On The Rain." The group was an instant smash, selling millions of albums and winning a Best New Group Grammy. Farian later spilled the beans that the group didn't even sing on their records, creating an uproar that made them the enemies of scorned fans and critics; their Grammy was quickly revoked and the group ceased its existence. -John Floyd

Girl You Know It's True / 1989 / Arista / Four diamonds [out of five]
If you want to know what the defrocked duo didn't sing, pick up this infamous album, which includes the #1 singles "Blame It On The Rain," "Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," and the #2 title track. -John Floyd

Quick Moves: The Remix Album / Arista / Two diamonds
The value of Milli Vanilli product increased ten-fold when it turned out that they didn't even sing their songs. That posed an interesting problem for this project: how do you remix something that doesn't exist? -Ron Wynn

And a more blunt opinion. The entry in Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992, Random House):

Milli Vanilli

Two stars [out of five]   Girl You Know It's True (Arista, 1989)
One star   The Remix Album (Arista, 1990)

Perhaps the only duo in pop music history that's best known for what it didn't sing. Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan of Milli Vanilli made headlines in 1990 when it was revealed that the two never sang a note. According to producer Frank Farian, Pilatus and Morvan were hired only for their looks, which he felt would add street-level credibility to the music. Apparently, the street he had in mind was Sesame St., since only a listener with the approximate intelligence of Big Bird could have fallen for such a contrived attempt at rap and funk. -J.D Considine