Great Grammy Moments: Milli Vanilli

The 53rd Grammy Awards are upon us, and music’s biggest, most prestigious awards show will feature a number of killer performances, appearances and potential acceptance speeches from the likes of Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Cee Lo Green, Muse, Arcade Fire, B.o.B, Justin Bieber, Lady Antebellum, Jay-Z and scores of others. In order to appreciate what’s to come, every day the MTV Newsroom Blog will deliver a classic moment in the history of the Grammy Awards. Today’s installment: Milli Vanilli raise questions and ire.

Though recent history has proven this myth to be something of a fallacy, the Grammy for Best New Aritst was considered a curse for many years. Admittedly, there was a pretty good streak in there where the winner was never really heard from again, but the past few years have seen winners like Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones, all of whom have gone on to have remarkably huge careers (though plenty of artists — like Amy Winehouse, Evanescence and Shelby Lynne have burned out following their wins).

The prize was extra cursed in 1990 when Milli Vanilli rode the success of “Girl You Know It’s True” to a win over the likes of Neneh Cherry, Indigo Girls, Tone Loc and Soul II Soul. The win was a great coup for the group, who had seemingly come out of nowhere to take over the pop airwaves with their sweet throwback take on modern R&B and unique dance style. However, when a slip-up a few months later outed the group as lip-syncers who did not sing on their own album, the pair became the only artists in history of the Grammys to be stripped of their awards. Milli Vanilli are still listed as the official winners of the Best New Artist prize, but they were forced to give their little Victrolas back.

Considering the sort of tricks that musicians use to reinvent themselves in the studio, it seems a little bit strange that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences would get so would up about lip-syncing, but for some strange reason, it was cool to have outrage over Milli Vanilli in 1990, and people demanded retribution. Really, it only served as proof that no awards show can get it right every time, and it’s the near-misses and the debates that make them interesting in the first place.