From Beyonce To The Tragic Manipulation Of Milli Vanilli

by Bill Brenner on January 23, 2013

Revelations that Beyonce Knowles lip-synched “The Star Spangled Banner” at the inauguration this week remind me of how shallow people can be. Shallow in their expectations of others. Shallow in their need to rip others apart instead of putting themselves back together.

Mood music:


I’ve always found it silly how people explode when a performer is caught lip-synching. We have this idealistic picture of how musicians should carry on when they perform in front of an audience. They’re expected to hit every note while running around the stage. We forget they are entertainers, often going on stage night after night, enduring travel schedules that are not for the faint of heart. They get sick on the road and their vocal chords are rubbed raw.

I’ve seen singers perform live and wished that they HAD lip-synched. Motley Crue’s Vince Neil comes to mind. I care more about whether they perform on their albums. If musicians need some onstage help to reproduce sounds they made in the recording studio, I have no problem with that.

But to me there’s a bigger issue in all this.

When a performer is caught lip-synching or using recorded background tracks, we pounce on them because it’s always easier to tear someone else down than to deal with our own imperfections. It’s easier still because since they are stars and the rest of us are not, we’ll never stare them in the face. It’s easier to verbally decimate someone when they’re not in front of you. We do it to athletes, too.

I remember hating  Milli Vanilli and taking great joy in their downfall. To me the outrage was justified because they didn’t even sing on the album that won them a Grammy.

In hindsight, I feel badly for Milli Vanilli. Those poor bastards were manipulated by the entertainment machine. The whole package was created by Frank Farian, who felt his hand-picked vocalists for the album lacked a marketable image. So he brought in  Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, two younger model/dancers he found in a dance club. The duo fell for the intoxication of stardom as many of us would have. They received a huge advance and continued to be manipulated by Farian. They sold themselves into slavery and he was their master.

When the truth came out, the duo was ruined. Pilatus eventually died of an overdose.

Of course, the case of Milli Vanilli was a bigger deal than most of the lip-synching controversies we hear about these days. People bought their albums thinking Pilatus and Morvan sang on them. We can forgive on-stage trickery. But when it comes to the recorded work, not so much.

It was a much different scenario from the one Beyonce is currently getting tarred and feathered over. But there is one important, common element: We’re eagerly ripping splinters from the eyes of people we don’t know while conveniently ignoring the big chunks of wood in our own eyes. We judge people without having the whole story. And we often do it out of jealousy because they have the mansions and we don’t.

Beyonce has proven time and again that she can sing. Her music is not my cup of tea, but I respect what she’s accomplished.

Should she be dragged through the mud for lip-synching at a presidential inauguration — one of the most choreographed events on the planet?

I prefer not to.










{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eli February 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Anyway, it’s v difficult to sing while
performing choreographed dance moves…

Greg February 5, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I got two words for you Bill: Ashlee Simpson. 🙂

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