A Little Fraud Never Hurt Anypony: “Filli Vanilli” review

Did you know that Barbra Streisand has stage freight? Yeah, Barbra Streisand! One of the (allegedly) greatest performers of our time has a condition that makes it difficult for her to perform without breaking down into a pile of tears.

So why does she even bother? Why does she ever go on stage if she’s afraid of it.

This isn’t like a kid who’s afraid of heights approaching a cliff edge to save a friend who’s about to fall off. No one will die if she doesn’t sing… I don’t know… Send in the Clowns or something. Apparently she sings that, I don’t know. I’m not really a fan.

So why do it? Perhaps she just loves singing that much, and the joy overshadows the fear. Perhaps she actually hates performing but loves having performed, and she loves bringing joy to millions. Or, perhaps she’s just a masochist.

And I understand. I get stage freight. I also get general-social-interaction fright. But if I ever get the chance to perform on stage, I do it! And I end up having so much fun that it doesn’t matter anymore. Of course when I start I’m very nervous and frightened, but I push past that, and after a minute or two, the fear fades into the background. This is why I love Karaoke. It also helps that I don’t ever remember anyone calling me a ponce for singing.

But you know, I’m pretty sure that stage freight sorta goes hand in hand with social anxiety. Which is why it should surprise no one that the most socially anxious pegasus in Ponyville, is scared of the stage.

Of course I’m talking about Fluttershy. You knew I was talking about Fluttershy.

Yes, Fluttershy has a severe case of debilitating stage freight, but she loves to sing, just not in front of other ponies. However she does love to sing in front of the animals, which she does one fateful morning. Not knowing that, just outside her field of vision, they stood.

It’s like they never heard her sing before, and she has sung before! Though, admittingly, she never had a complete solo number, that couldn’t be written off as part of a possible fantasy sequence, in the presence of her friends; just Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo, who apparently didn’t trigger her stage freight for some baffling reason.

So because of Fluttershy’s beautiful singing talent, Rarity insists that Fluttershy join the Ponytones, the a cappella quartet that Rarity is a part of and we’ve never heard about before now.

You’d think it’s existence would’ve come up at some stage, especially considering Fluttershy’s such a big fan. But I guess that’s only because they never impacted on the plot until now. Because tomorrow, they’re performing at the big fundraiser Fluttershy organized for the Ponyville Pet Centre. Which is apparently a thing!

So, will Fluttershy join? No, of course not, her anxieties won’t let her. So Rarity decides to let it go, and they head off to help set up the fundraiser, where the Ponytones practice with a bopping musical number.

So we know they can sing, and sing well. But the next day, they can’t, since Big Mac (of all ponies) wore out his voice the night before. That’s right, Big Mac, the pony who has a running gag based on him rarely speaking on-screen, wore out his voice. I can’t tell if this is funny or irritating.

Nonetheless, they have a show to do that night, and without a deep bass to harmonize with, they’re fucked. So, I guess they can just find another pony in town with a similar vocal range and they’re all set! Right? Well, no, apparently they’re screwed because Big Mac is the only pony whose balls have dropped.

You’d think a professional a cappella quartet would have some kind of contingency plan. Understudies, that kind of thing.

Well, maybe I don’t get the music industry. Then again, if I went to see the Stones, and Keith Richards was sick so they brought on Bob Stevebob, whom I’ve never heard of, I’d probably be a bit pissed.

This is probably why most bands break up after one member dies. It’s hard to just up and replace them. Then again, several former Stones have died, and that band’s still going.

I don’t know! Regardless, they need Big Mac. So off to see Zecora, to give some kind of herbal remedy. Not the local doctor’s office. Oh no, go to Zecora.

Anyway, the zebra explains that she can heal Big Mac’s throat, but it’ll take at least a few days.

Wow, a few days!? That’s incredible! That’s almost the same amount of time it would take to likely heal on its own! You’re useless Zecora! Get him some Halls or Buckley’s, it’ll probably work faster!

Anyway, no one brings this up. Instead, they just lament the fact that they need a deep bass singing voice, and they don’t have one. How are they gonna find a replacement!?

Okay, there has to be at least one other bass in that town!

Well, funnily enough, Zecora knows of one. She met it back in season one. It came out of Fluttershy!

That’s right, Flutterguy, as Spike so eloquently dubbed her. Fluttershy’s voice was altered when the gang was affected by the Poison Joke. But there’s no guarantee that it’ll affect her the same way twice… is there?

Oh, apparently there is. Seems odd. I guess Poison Joke isn’t very creative when it comes to comedy. Which makes sense, it’s a fucking plant.

So the plan is simple: Fluttershy will take the Poison Joke, and replace Big Mac on stage!

Oh right, her stage freight.

So Rarity suggests a con. Fluttershy will do the singing, but Big Mac will take her place on stage and lip sync.

Oh, this’ll end well.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of Milli Vanilli, a band whose public performers were not the actual people singing on the albums. Nor were they the people singing in the recordings played during the ‘live’ concerts.

The band was (ostensibly) composed of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two European musicians who were competent singers in their own right. But once they signed the contracts, and were paid a large advance, which they quickly spent, they were informed of the fine details. Specifically, that they would not be singing, and would merely lip sync at the concerts. The actual band would remain completely anonymous.

And it all begs the question: Why the fuck would anyone agree to that!? Well, funnily enough, Rob and Fab tried to get out of their contracts, but since that would involve giving back the money, which they already spent, they were kinda stuck.

The real singers? Well they were handsomely paid, and later paid-off once they realized they weren’t getting credit for their hard work, and that it was bullshit. I guess enough money and your artistic integrity goes wherever it needs to.

But once the truth was finally revealed, the public turned on them, and Rob and Fab quickly became media pariahs, even though it wasn’t their idea. And the man who orchestrated the whole thing, Frank Farian, more or less snuck under the radar. In fact, I’m pretty sure he remained in the industry for a few years after that without anyone crucifying him. Which surprises me, since Frank Farian was the one responsible. Frank Farian was the asshole. Frank Farian! Remember that name as the name of a fraudster!

Anyway, I bring all this up because Rarity’s more or less running the exact same scam. Only she didn’t con anyone into it. But still, I don’t think the public will be okay with this. But hopefully, they’ll never find out.

The first performance goes off without a hitch, and everyone loves it. They love it so much, that one particular audience member, a buff German pegasus, wants to hire them to perform at the cute-ceanera of his annoying daughter.

Which is great. Except that the party’s tomorrow, and Big Mac’s throat is still sore. I mean, it’s one thing to perform that scam once. But they can’t keep pushing their luck like that.

However, Fluttershy being Fluttershy, she doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, so they decide to go for it.

And this keeps happening over and over again, and we learn that the Ponytones have only one song, which they repeat over and over.

Write new music!!!

Anyway, it’s not long before Mac’s voice is all healed up, and now Fluttershy can retire from musical fraud. Woohoo!

Something’s wrong with you Fluttershy. You have issues.

Yes, apparently, Fluttershy wants to ‘perform’ one last time. And the others agree to it, even though there’s no need, and she’s actually been messing up the song recently. Improvising in ways that make it impossible for Big Mac to follow or predict. Thankfully, no one’s noticed yet. Well, that is until Fluttershy’s enthusiastic dancing knocks down the curtain, and everyone can see that it wasn’t Big Mac doing the singing.

Then, oddly, everypony’s okay with it. No one’s pissed. The only thing that happens is everyone cheers her on, and she runs out in tears.

This strikes me as incredibly odd. Why wasn’t anyone annoyed at the fraud!?

So the girls chase Fluttershy back to her home, and tell her how great a singer she is. Well, everyone except Pinkie who need to shut the fuck up! Permanently! She’s not allowed to talk again! Ever!!!

But despite all the pep talk, Fluttershy just cries and runs. Which confuses me. Maybe I just don’t understand full-blown stage freight, but one would think that praise and flowers would alleviate the fear, not exacerbate it! And once her friends so helpfully point that out, she decides to join the Ponytones for her first major performance, and a new song!

Finally! They need another song, it’ll make them less boring! Not only that, you can’t have an album with one song. You can’t even have a single with one song!

Actually, it’s not technically a new song. It’s the same song, with added lyrics from another song. Bit cheap.

Anyway, with Fluttershy finally performing in front of an audience, her arc is over right?

That doesn’t count as an audience!

Whatever, it’s a good first step.

And with that, the episode closes.

I guess the biggest problem with this episode is the music. Not that ‘Find the Music in You’ is a bad song, but it is the only song! And having it repeat over and over… well… it’s boring as hell! I honestly think they should have written one or two more songs, just to change things up just a little bit. Even a few sub-par songs would be better than the same song ad nauseam. After all, they’re Ponyville’s biggest musical act, yet all they ever do is sing the same song over and over again. I find this quite hard to believe, if I’m honest. And including one extra song that we already heard at the beginning of the episode during Fluttershy’s solo number? Well that doesn’t count! Even if you didn’t merge it with the first song!

I also must ask why they didn’t bring in Blu Mankuma to voice the Flutterguy role again. Instead they bring in someone else, whose voice is a touch higher. That doesn’t seem right!

Okay, it’s hardly noticeable, and there are only a few lines where she’s not singing. But still! It’s not like the man’s dead! Now of course they had someone else do the singing voice, a gospel singer named Marcus Mosley. I guess because that guy who ate ice cream with Michael Shanks in that one episode of Stargate SG-1 can’t sing.

It used to bug me that in animation, most characters had different speaking voice actors and singing voice actors. But acting ain’t easy, and neither is singing, and finding someone who’s good at both is likely next to impossible. So if you can’t find someone who’s good at both, the obvious solution is to find one great actor, and one great singer, and get the singer to emulate the actor. It’s not perfect, but it works, and you rarely notice.

Anyway, my final verdict: This was a really good episode, primarily because it gave Fluttershy a real arc. She actually managed to overcome her fears, and didn’t overcompensate or backslide in any way, at any point. In the end she developed and evolved to a reasonable degree. Which doesn’t really happen that often for her. And yeah, it could’ve used more musical variety. But regardless, I hope we get to see more of the Ponytones in the future. With more music, obviously. Because they were interesting enough in their own right. And I really wish we got to hear more from Toe-Tapper and Torch Song.

Seriously, who were those two?

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