Singer Loses Suit Over Paula Abdul Album : Music: Plaintiff said she was uncredited co-lead vocalist on parts of 1988 hit. But jury sides with Virgin Records.


Pop star Paula Abdul is the only person singing lead vocals on her 10-million-selling debut album “Forever Your Girl,” a Los Angeles jury concluded Thursday.

The ruling closes the book on a two-year music industry spectacle that erupted after background singer Yvette Marine filed a multimillion-dollar “false and deceptive packaging” lawsuit against Virgin Records, Abdul’s record company, claiming she was an uncredited co-lead vocalist on at least two songs of the smash 1988 album.

Despite media comparisons of the case to the Milli Vanilli lip-sync fiasco, Marine never contended that Abdul’s voice was absent from the recording. In her April, 1991, suit, she alleged that Virgin--without authorization--electronically combined lead “guide” vocal tracks sung by Marine with Abdul’s vocal tracks in the final mix, misrepresenting the composite to the public as one voice.


The jury did not buy the argument. After deliberating only three hours, it unanimously rejected Marine’s claim to credit and copyright compensation.

Abdul wept with joy after the verdict was read.

“I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Abdul, who attended the trial daily with family and friends and was called as a witness to testify. “I worked hard to get where I am in this business, and I’m proud that Virgin Records fought the case.”

Marine was clearly disappointed.

“I have to say I am relieved it’s finally over,” said Marine, who now works as a staff songwriter for Walt Disney Music. “Of course I’m disappointed that the jury didn’t think that my contributions were more than just a background, but I brought this case to trial and spoke up for a lot of singers like myself. . . . “

The allegations against Abdul sparked enormous media attention, primarily because the case caught fire shortly after Milli Vanilli front men Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan admitted they never sang a note on their 10-million-selling “Girl You Know It’s True” album.

That revelation not only cost the duo a Grammy but also triggered dozens of consumer class-action claims against their record company and prompted several legislators to propose laws aimed at exposing pantomimists in concert.

R & B singer Martha Wash had already taken on Sony, RCA and A & M Records with “false advertising” suits, claiming that each company hired models to lip-sync to unauthorized recordings of her voice in separate videos by Black Box, Seduction and C+C Music Factory. Wash, who was represented by the same attorney as Marine, settled out of court and received substantial payments.


But Marine’s claim involved more subtle issues. The unprecedented case pressured the industry to expose complex technological wizardry employed by many of the nation’s biggest pop stars to secure perfect-sounding vocals on their hit recordings.

For years, recording artists, from Michael Jackson to the Beatles, have regularly used separate recordings of their own voices or unison vocal tracks by background singers to doctor the accuracy and strength of their performances on some of their biggest hits.

While many insiders initially dismissed Marine’s lawsuit as a publicity stunt, record companies feared that a victory for Marine might open the floodgate to dozens of potential copycat suits.

During the vitriolic four-week trial, attorneys for both sides called a plethora of witnesses, including record executives, sound specialists and studio producers.

The Abdul flap surfaced in March, 1991, after Marine was allegedly misquoted in a Globe tabloid article stating that Abdul did not sing at all.

Marine testified that Virgin hired her for several days’ work to lay down background and lead “guide” vocal tracks for Abdul on several songs. While it is common for an established artist to rehearse with a studio “guide” track during the initial stages of recording, the track is usually discarded once the singer memorizes the song.


However, Marine alleged that Virgin--without authorization--combined her lead guide track with Abdul’s vocal track in the song’s final mix.

Virgin said that Marine was hired specifically to sing background vocals and was paid and credited accordingly.