In defense of lipsynch

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 17, 2009 07:03pm | Post a Comment
Whilst pricing vinyl recently, Amoeba's Chris Matthews unearthed a copy of one of Milli Vanilli's albums that looked normal enough from the outside but when opened up proved to be a sort of scrapbook/time capsule created by a one time fan. Apparently, when confronted with the shocking admission from the two-heavily accented Euros that the smooth, American accented vocals on record were not theirs, said fan responded by cutting out articles about what was scandalous to their pre-teen audience but a non-issue to any adult smarter than a parakeet.

1989 - A Time of Lies
Rewind back to 1989. It was a time of shadows and deception. A Massachussets-born, Ivy League blue blood masquerading as a Texan succeeded a bad Hollywood actor as president. America's youth shaved the Batman emblem in the back of their heads in anticipation of Michael Keaton playing Bruce Wayne, who secretly fights crime by night as Batman. The music world was rocked when, at a Connecticut performance, the recording of "Girl You Know It's True" began to skip. See, CDs had been billed as indestructible, so why was it skipping? And even the most naive fan had to accept what had been obvious and scarcely worth pointing out, that this particular dance-pop duo may've been chosen for their looks in an unholy scheme to... make... money!


In 1990, a nation was stunned to learn that that the ruggedly handsome, sideburned Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 was twice the age of the character her played on TV. Still reeling, only a month later the owner of Milli Vanilli, Frank Farian, admitted that, in addition to not writing their own material, the guys in the videos didn't even sing.

The Duped Grammys Cry for Blood!
The ensuing backlash was meant to protest the deception perpetrated by Farian. In fact, it merely supported Farian's logic. People only wanted to enjoy Milli Vanilli's music if the singers were pretty and not for the music, which is why he put models in his videos instead of the actual vocalists, Brad Howell, John Davis, Ray Horton and Gina Mohammed. Reinforcing this notion, fans didn't rush out to buy the album by The Real Milli Vanilli. Had it actually been about music, no one would've cared who was in the videos. When the Grammys took back their award, they were in essence admitting that they were awarding the image and not the music. After all, everyone lipsynchs in videos, just usually to their own vocals... which in pop are usually singing lyrics that someone else wrote... and no one cares.

Demands for Authenticity in Film vs. Music
Of course, in reality the entertainment industry is built on fantasy and image-making. Why does Marilyn Monroe have fans? Her real name was Norma Mortenson, her appearance was the work of plastic surgeons, peroxide and make-up artists-- and the photo capturing her surprise when her skirt was blown upward? Staged! Of course, flat-buttocked actresses like Denise Richards and Angelina Jolie routinely use butt doubles and audiences are happy. Nearly everyone accepts stunt doubles, body doubles, stand-ins, airbrush and CGI too. Yet people seem more capable of accepting unreality in film rather than with music. Cartoons aren't actually speaking but are in fact voiced by real-life people. Music's always been held, unfairly, to a different standard even when actors just play musicians. The Monkees and The Partridge Family were ridiculed for not playing their instruments whilst no one cared that William Shatner wasn't actually flying a spaceship. It seems silly to demand authenticity in music but it happens and that's why rap is so artistically stunted today.

John 8:7
To paraphrase Jesus Christ, "Who of you has never worn contacts, painted your nails, worn extensions, worn black to look thinner, gotten plastic surgery, put on make-up or used fake tan? Let him cast the first stone!" I, for one, don't really care who appears in the video, but I don't mind looking at pretty people. So, in further celebration of lipsynching!


God I hate C + C Music Factory. That song still gives me the willies. I will never watch a Dreamworks cartoon because I'm deathly afraid that the animals will at some point bust out with, "everybody dance now!" The fact that the woman on the left sang the song but the woman on the right appeared in the video does nothing to change my assessment of its qualities. And, maybe because the idiots at The Grammys hadn't awarded THEM best no act, there was no media-driven scandal, just a shrug of indifference when the truth was revealed.

Similarly, no one much cared that the androgynous Ya Kid K was replaced by model Felly Kilingi by Technotronic in "Pump Up the Jam." What was more bizarre was that both women were Zairian, as if the listener would somehow subconciously pick up on something being off if they weren't from the same country. In fact, when the truth came out, no one cared.

So Nolan Thomas was really a Turkish guy named Marko Kalfa. And he appeared in this video even though he didn't sing the song. I wonder if his little brother is wearing a wig or if Kalfa's a natural blonde. Anyone who would change anything about this video is a Philistine.


In Den Harrow's case, the fact that the guy on the left sang and the guy on the right was in the video seems laughable. I guess the guy on the right's a bit prettier, but when I found out that neither was really named Den Harrow it was about as world-rocking as finding out George Michael was gay. The video and song are awesome, and that's what's important.

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