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Series / Behind the Music

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Behind the Music (also known as VH1's Behind the Music) is a hour-long documentary style series by VH1 that first premiered in 1997. It chronicles the rise, fall and aftermath of various musical artists or groups from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and often interviews the subject of the episode themselves (if they're still alive) as well as friends, family members, producers, colleagues and even critics. The first episode chronicled the aftermath of the rise and fall of infamous musical duo Milli Vanillinote  and it remained one of the network's most popular and longest-running shows, ultimately ending in 2014.

See also MTV's Driven and BIOrhythm and TVOne's Unsung, three later shows that would closely follow this show's format.

This series includes the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Céline Dion is a very good sport regarding the ribbing/satire she received in the media. She loved Ana Gasteyer's portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live and even brought her on tour (and in a matching outfit!)
  • Amicable Exes: Although the show featured several aversions, plenty of former relations were of this, including Deborah Harry and her former long-term boyfriend Chris Stein (to the point that she's the godmother to his two daughters) and (in spite rumors to the contrary) Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston.
  • The Cameo: Fellow musicians and other celebrities sometimes appear the featured artist's episode, such as Lenny Kravitz appearing in Vanilla Ice's episode due to their friendship.
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  • Catchphrase: "But backstage, things were falling apart."
  • Content Warning: Even with several episodes featuring subjects that deserve such warnings, only two episodes actually included it: the Ted Nugent episode (likely due to his radical views, affinity for guns and discussion of his many sexual escapades) and Pantera episode (due to including the heavily edited video of Dimebag Darrell's murder).
  • Creative Differences: Discussed in-universe. Oftentimes, the reason for why plenty of bands break up.
  • Creator Backlash: Discussed in-universe where an artist has regret over a particular work regardless of its popularity. For instance, Ann and Nancy Wilson disliked the image they portrayed in the 80s although some of their most beloved hits came out at this time and Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers expressed dislike about "Weird Al" Yankovic's song parody of their song "Give it Away".note 
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  • Dysfunction Junction: Often during episodes featuring bands, the professional and personal strife among its members leads to either a breakup or a decline in their popularity/talent, if not both. Notable examples include The Go-Go's (involving drugs, debauchery and fighting/jealousy among its members), The Mamas & the Papas (involving in-band relationships that ended messily, depression and death) and Fleetwood Mac (all of the above).
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first two episodes (featuring Milli Vanilli and MC Hammer) are not narrated by Jim Forbes but were by James Jude.
    • Also, the earliest episodes did not feature the well-known instrumental theme song.
  • Forgiveness: Some episodes explore this theme:
    • The Leif Garrett episode contains a tearful reunion of him and his former best friend, Roland Winkler, who was left a paraplegic following a 1979 DUI crash he caused. Roland said that the crash actually saved his life and that he didn't hold any ill will towards him over it. The two men remained close until the latter's 2017 death.
    • Averted in the case of Vinnie Paul and Phil Anselmo. After the latter told a magazine that the former's brother, Dimebag Darrell, should be beaten severely and his subsequent murder later on that year, several friends of both men knew that it would be impossible for Vinnie to forgive Phil. True to form, the two men never spoke again before Vinnie's 2019 demise. Subverted in the case of Darrell's longtime girlfriend, Rita Haney; at the end of the original episode, she said she would never forgive him, but the Remastered episode's ending had her discuss an encounter she and Phil had years later where he earnestly apologized to her and she forgave him.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Discussed In-Universe during the Milli Vanilli episode where Rob and Fab were both shocked and touched to learn that they were household names throughout the world, particularly in Africa (and showcased several beautiful photographs of the men posing in nature and with fans).
  • Happily Adopted: The backstory of Shania Twain has her being this by her stepfather, who loved her as his own.
  • Happily Married: Quite a few subjects were and remained as such, including Celine Dion and her husband/manager René Angélil until his 2016 death from cancer and Gloria Estefan and her husband/manager Emilio.
  • He's Back!: Plenty of artists have experienced a career resurgence due to a successful new album and/or song and gaining a new generation of fans. Two fine examples are of Meat Loaf and Cher.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Another reoccurring theme of the series. One notable lampshading was in Vanilla Ice's episode where his manager stated that after his severe backlash that he went from selling out arenas to not being able to get into Knott's Berry Farm, which was free.
  • Invisible Advertising: Discussed in-universe: after the Milli Vanilli fallout, Rob and Fab attempted a comeback by making an album where they sung themselves. Unfortunately, given their new, smaller record company having no money to promote it, it only sold 2,000 copies.
  • Life-Saving Encouragement: Discussed in the Billy Idol episode. At one point while Idol was still in the grips of his drug addiction, he and a friend were watching the former's young son play in his backyard when the friend casually mentioned, "You know, I'm pretty sure that he won't forgive you if you died [due to his drug use]." That set the wheels in motion to his ultimate sobriety.
  • Lighter and Softer: The episode featuring "Weird Al" Yankovic was far more light-hearted than the majority of the other episodes, due to his life being relatively drama-free.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Outright admitted in the Vanilla Ice episode where he admitted that as he became more successful, he sold out and licensed his name and image to plenty of mediums, which included his own fashion doll, an obscure board game and the popular "Ninja Rap" song from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze soundtrack. That said, unlike his contemporaries (namely MC Hammer), he has remained well-off. invoked
  • Necktie Headband: Mentioned in the Bobby Brown episode where on one of New Edition's album cover, while the gentleman were to wear formal attire (button down shirts, pants, ties, etc.), Bobby instead wore his around his forehead, either as a sign of independence or defiance, which angered the rest of the group. Him wearing it like so made it into the final project.
  • Nothing but Hits: Obviously, the artist or group's songs will be heard in the background throughout the episode.
  • Oh, Crap!: Averted and played straight in the TLC episode. Whereas T-Boz and Chilli were horrified about Left Eye burning down her ex-boyfriend's house, she admitted that she never had a "What did I do?" moment during the aftermath, even though she did admit that she only intended to burn his bathtub instead of his palatial mansion.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: Lampshaded in The Bangles episode where one of the girls spoke about how the band made sure that they stood out from rival band The Go-Go's. invoked
  • Rags to Riches: How many artists end up as they gain fortune and fame, though the inversion also usually happens as well.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The infamous encounter between Vanilla Ice and Suge Knight. While in the episode Ice admits that the royalties situation was handled smoothly, he told news program 20/20 a few years earlier (and many people believe the story to be) that Knight had held him over a balcony by his ankles, threatening to drop him if he didn't sign over royalties for "Ice Ice Baby" to him.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • A few episodes, instead of featuring a musical act, would instead feature a year (1984, 1999, 2000, etc.), an event (Woodstock, The Day The Music Died) or something else (one episode—that only aired once—featured stalkers).
    • Some episode were extended to an hour and a half, such as Madonna's and Cher's.
  • Stepford Smiler: Discussed during Donny and Marie Osmond's episode, where the former was seen to be this in their 70s heyday in spite of the pressures of fame and life that he was going through.
  • Survivor's Guilt: In the Selena episode, her father openly wonders why her murderer—the president of her fan club—didn't kill him since he was more closely involved with Selena's business dealings while she performed.
  • Updated Re-release: Behind The Music Remastered was an updated version from the originally aired episode to include new happenings (who passed away, who made a comeback, who got married, etc.)
  • What Could Have Been: An in-universe example came in the Billy Idol episode where it was mentioned that he was supposed to have a significant part in The Doors (1991), but due to his near-fatal motorcycle crash, his role was greatly reduced to mostly a cameo.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The whole premise of the series, to see where is the artist now or what legacy have they left behind.


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