Hit Parade

Blame It on the Feign Edition

Deceitful as they were, Milli Vanill’s blend of rap and dance-pop topped the charts and made a lasting impression.

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Episode Notes

For a musical project that’s synonymous with deceit, Milli Vanilli sold an awful lot of records. They also have quite a legacy: a blend of pop, dance and rap that now seems commonplace but was still relatively novel in 1989. If you’ve danced to Europop that fronts like hip-hop, you’re living in a world Milli Vanilli helped create.

In this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy breaks down the history of Milli Vanilli mastermind Frank Farian’s musical career: from his days with Boney M, a hit-making, half-real, half-fake group that was a precursor to his later scheme; to his enlistment of European model–dancers Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan to be the faux-frontpeople of Milli Vanilli. From MTV News to Behind the Music, the Milli Vanilli story has been told and retold. But the Billboard chart feats achieved by Rob and Fab, and their accomplices, reveal just how addicted America was to their music—and maybe, how they won that Grammy.

Podcast production by Asha Saluja with help from Rosemary Belson.

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About the Show

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia, and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts, and shaped your memories forever.

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  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.

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