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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.

The series was rebooted in 2021 and airs exclusively on Paramount+ under the MTV branding.

See also MTV's Driven and BIOrhythm and TV One'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.
  • Breakup Breakout: Plenty of times, one or several members of a recording group have had a successful career after either leaving the band or its disbandment altogether. invoked
    • Bobby Brown was the most successful, if not infamous, member of New Edition (although Johnny Gill and Bell Biv DeVoe had pretty successful careers themselves minus even a third of the controversy that he generated).
    • Of The Go-Go's, while Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey have tried their hands at individual careers, with the latter going on to have a respectable career as a songwriter for other artists, the breakout artist of the group was Belinda Carlisle.
  • 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.
    • Actors Gary Busey and Lou Diamond Phillips, who starred as Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, respectively, in two well-received films about their lives and untimely deaths, makes appearances in "The Day the Music Died".
    • Infamous Hollywood executive/producer Harvey Weinstein appeared briefly in Madonna's episode as he produced her Truth or Dare documentary. She had wished for him to edit out the part where she said during a game of "truth or dare" that she still had feelings for her former husband Sean, but Weinstein told her the only way that the line would be cut is if she killed him.
    • Talk show host Arsenio Hall makes an appearance in good friend's MC Hammer episode, even expressing sympathy towards him regarding his well-known financial crisis.
  • 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 right-wing political 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 
  • Cruel to Be Kind: In the Boy George episode, his brother, David, went on the news in the late 80s to admit his brother's drug addiction even after Boy publicly claiming himself in interviews to be clean. While he considered it a betrayal and became estranged from his younger brother for some time, it was only in an effort to save his life. Happily, by the time of the episode's airing, they had reunited, with Boy even proudly showing off pictures displayed in his home of his young nieces, David's children.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Later in his career, MC Hammer became a gangsta rapper, dropped the "M.C." from his name, and his songs were more lewd and sexually suggestive. By the time of the episode's airing though, he went back to his lighter and softer roots.
    • Vanilla Ice's 1994 album, Mind Blowin', was outright stated to be this, making references to drug use and violence, which was reflective of his own real-life mood at the time.
  • Darkest Hour: Several artists reach this point, usually in the midst of a career downturn or personal tragedy.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Plenty of people, namely any surviving band members and artists, tend to have earned this by the end of their episodes (such as Vanilla Ice, Boy George, M.C. Hammer, Madonna, etc.) Though unexpected life turns do happen and either undermine or completely ruin this...
  • Faint in Shock: Discussed plenty of times:
    • In the Ricky Nelson episode, after learning of her father's death, his daughter Tracy said she fainted in response.
    • Defied in Cher's case: when delivering her tearful eulogy of Sonny Bono at his funeral, she admitted to her sister that she had to lock her knees together to keep herself from fainting, which is not recommended, either (as doing so for too long will cause blood to rush to your head and make you more likely to collapse). She also said that she didn't know at the time that the funeral was being broadcast live on CNN; otherwise she would have fainted.
  • 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.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: In Madonna's episode, it was mentioned that even before she was famous whilst walking down the streets of New York City, she still stood out because of her looks and her unique sense of style.
  • 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.
  • Self-Deprecation: The "Weird Al" Yankovic episode parodies the show's penchant for mining entertainment out of personal drama. Among other things, Yankovic jokingly whines that he could only afford a medium jacuzzi because Polka Party! only went gold instead of platinum, and Mark Mothersbaugh's jealousy towards the Title Track of Dare to Be Stupid is played up as an Amadeus-style rivalry, complete with melodramatic Chiaroscuro lighting during his interview.
  • Sorrowful Stutter: Happens often in an episode, especially when talking about a deceased loved one or a traumatic event. Celine Dion displayed one when discussing her husband Rene's cancer battle, which sadly would take his life two decades after her episode aired.
  • Stage Mom: Discussed in Leif Garrett's episode. His mother admitted that she wasn't one, giving her son a relatively long leash, but she came to regret this, even mentioning how Brooke Shields' mother Teri was an infamous one (so much that two women were at one point estranged, albeit this was also for things her mother did allow to happen under her watch), but that they "didn't mess with her kid".
  • 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 says that he wishes her murderer Yolanda Saldívar—the former manager of her clothing boutique—had killed him instead of his daughter, since he was the one who had fired her.
  • That Syncing Feeling: You know exactly who. When they were in concert and the skip happened, they first tried to play along at first only to then run offstage. After being ordered to go back on, they continued. And while the fans and their friend, music presenter Downtown Julie Brown, didn't care and still enjoyed their music, the critics began to get suspicious and it marked the beginning of the end of their careers.
  • "Too Young to Die" Lamentation: The Andy Gibb episode featured an excerpt from his very last recording, "Arrow Through the Heart", that includes the phrase "I'm too young to die" twice in succession. He would die less than a year after recording the song, which wouldn't see a release until it was included in a 2010 compilation of songs by him and his older brothers, the Bee Gees.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Mark Knopfler helps Weird Al

Mark Knopfler's one condition for letting Weird Al parody his hit: Mark gets to play guitar.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / ParodyAssistance

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