Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Vanilli Wins the Grammy!

Milli Vanilli was a 1980s pop band consisting of singers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who took the European music world by storm. They quickly landed a record contract with Arista Records, who released their U.S. debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, in 1989. The album spawned five hit singles and propelled Morvan and Pilatus to stardom; in 1990, Milli Vanilli won the Grammy for Best New Artist. Morvan and Pilatus had it all: fame, fortune, adoring fans.

But then they went on tour.

All went well until a live performance recorded by MTV in Connecticut, when a technical glitch resulted in some odd-sounding repetitions in the vocals of the title track of the group’s album. Critics started to wonder if something strange was going on, and began to ask questions. Due to the group’s high profile, Milli Vanilli came under increasing pressure as suspicions began to arise that the group wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Finally, the real force behind the group – German singer-songwriter and music producer Frank Farian – confessed to reporters that Morvan and Pilatus didn’t sing on any of the tracks of the album that shot them to fame. Farian had started the project with several different singers, but they didn’t seem “marketable” enough to him. So he recruited Morvan and Pilatus, who were good-looking models and dancers, to front the group. They had been lip-synching in all of their concerts, and it worked fine until the Connecticut show, when the recording jammed. Four days later, Milli Vanilli’s Grammy was revoked, lawsuits were filed, the group’s reputation crashed, and all the rest of what you’d expect in such a circumstance.

Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

Like Milli Vanilli, Sarah Palin’s candidacy and current image is built entirely on marketing, media manipulation, performance and deceit. The American public has been subjected to a brilliant PR campaign that has painted Palin in a light favorable to the McCain campaign, while Palin herself has done little more than the political version of lip-synching: reading someone else’s speeches over and over again (lies and all). To ensure that the image is maintained, she is meticulously controlled by McCain, and reporters are not allowed to ask her questions. And as with the pop group, Sarah Palin is “winning the Grammy” – moving the electorate – based on what she appears to be, not what she is.

But like Milli Vanilli, Sarah Palin will also eventually have to “go on tour”.

She will have to face her critics. She will have to address her scandals. She will have to participate in debates. She will have to talk to reporters – and not just ones that treat her with “deference”. If she doesn’t, that too will, at some point, make even the most easily fooled Americans start to wonder what the deal is.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Sarah Palin has lied about her back-story; she is the equivalent of the singers Morvan and Pilatus here: a well-marketed symbol. The dishonesty is coming from the McCain campaign, which is playing the role of Frank Farian. They are riding high right now almost entirely on the basis of a very false impression that they have painted of Palin in the minds of the public, which simply doesn’t know all the facts about her.

Those facts will come out, despite McCain’s efforts. The truth nearly always does; even the Gibson interview is opening some eyes (despite him not being tough on her at all, Republican whining notwithstanding.)

When people have to decide if they like Palin on the basis of who she really is, rather than just listening to her lip-synch along to a fraudulent image that the GOP is peddling, I think we’ll have a very different election on our hands.

1 comment:

weav said...

I was reading your posts about the new ads Obama has up. The way I see it is two things, the ad describing change was actually good. Its not meant to attack but to define himself in a positive light. The "attack" ad was not very good at all, but it did underly a new understanding in my opinion. They didn't mention once thier "respect" or "honor" of him (a definate step in the right direction) and they didn't show a single picture of McCain smiling or otherwise looking good, (in fact they chose ones that made him look old and decrepid). Althought the anouncer didn't say anything particularly great and the text wasn't particularly memorable the imagery was a lot better than any previous "attack" ad.