Friday (Nov. 19) is the 20th anniversary of Milli Vanilli giving back the best new artist Grammy they won in 1990 because, well, they didn’t earn it.
]]>Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus were sold as the singers in Milli Vanilli, but as they started to break big in the United States in 1989, allegations surfaced that they weren’t the ones who actually sang on their debut album. That didn’t stop Grammy voters from giving them the best new artist award in 1990, but in November 1990 Milli Vanilli mastermind Frank Farian admitted that other singers had provided the vocals for “Girl You Know It’s True,” “Blame It on the Rain” and other Milli Vanilli hits. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Fab and Rob giving back their Grammy, we thought we’d look at some other great moments involving lip-syncing, backing tracks and Auto-Tuning. Ashlee Simpson on “Saturday Night Live”: Simpson performed her single “Pieces of Me” without a hitch in an October 2004 appearance on “SNL.” But when she came back later in the show to do “Autobiography,” a prerecorded track of “Pieces to Me” started playing instead. She did a weird little jig and then left the stage, blaming first her band and then acid reflux for the backing track’s presence. She was roundly booed at the Orange Bowl a couple months later, and “pulling an Ashlee Simpson” has become shorthand for when a performer is caught lip-synching. Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV: The 1991 Super Bowl was played only a couple of weeks after the start of Operation Desert Storm, and Houston’s powerful rendition of the National Anthem was seen as a stirring moment of patriotism (it was later released as a single and reached the top 20). It also wasn’t live. A few days after the game, it was revealed that Houston was singing into a dead microphone, and that what fans in the stands and TV viewers heard was prerecorded. Britney Spears at the 2007 MTV VMAs: What was supposed to be Britney’s big comeback performance after a couple of scandal-plagued years turned out to be a disaster, as she looked out of step with her dancers and generally just a little out of it. The heavily produced vocal track made it pretty obvious that she wasn’t actually singing live, but she didn’t even do an especially good job with her lip-sync. Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”: Hepburn may have been a wonderful actress, but she apparently wasn’t much of a singer. Her songs in the 1964 film were actually sung by Marni Nixon, who a few years earlier had dubbed Natalie Wood’s singing voice in “West Side Story.” “The X-Factor”: A scandal broke in the U.K. earlier this year when Simon Cowell‘s music competition “The X Factor” admitted to Auto-Tuning the vocals of several auditioners (a couple of which were rather obvious) — leading some fans to wonder if the show was trying to influence voting by sweetening some vocals but not others. The show soon pledged not to do it ever again. Nirvana on “Top of the Pops”: This is probably our favorite. As “Nevermind” was exploding in 1991, Nirvana appeared on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” They were asked to use a backing track for their instruments, which led to Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic hamming it up mercilessly. As for what Cobain did to the song’s vocals, well, see for yourself. Any others you’d add to this list?