Good Morning, Everyone.
This week, we’re going to be treated with music from Boyz II Men.
Boyz II Men is an American R&B vocal group best known for emotional ballads and a cappella harmonies. Currently the group is a trio, featuring baritone Nathan Morris alongside tenors Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman. In the 1990s, Boyz II Men found fame on Motown Records as a quartet, but original member and bass singer Michael McCary left the group in 2003 due to health issues.
In the 1990s, Boyz II Men gained international celebrity behind unprecedented success on the pop charts. The group’s first single to reach Number 1, 1992’s “End of the Road” reached the top of charts across the globe. “End of the Road” would set a new record for longevity, staying at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 13 weeks, breaking a decades-old record held by Elvis Presley. Boyz II Men would exceed even that record later in the decade with hits “I’ll Make Love to You” and “One Sweet Day” (with Mariah Carey), which each set new records for the longest period of time a single remained at number 1. As of 2012, “One Sweet Day” still holds the all-time record with 16 weeks at the top of the Hot 100. In short, Boyz II Men ranks at the top of the list three times – at the number one, three, and four spots – for the longest running Number 1 singles in Billboard history. Furthermore, when “On Bended Knee” took the number 1 spot away from “I’ll Make Love To You,” Boyz II Men became only the third artist ever (after The Beatles and Presley) to replace themselves at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Boyz II Men are among a select group of artists that have held at the number one spot for at least 50 weeks cumulatively, placing them just fourth on that list behind Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Mariah Carey. These achievements were enough to earn Boyz II Men recognition as Billboard Magazine′s fourth most successful musical group of the 1990s.
Boyz II Men continues to perform in concert to audiences around the world. Their most recent studio album, Twenty, was released in 2011.
The group, known originally as Unique Attraction, started by friends Nathan Morris and Marc Nelson at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with fellow schoolmates George Baldi, Jon Shoats. & Marguerite Walker in 1985. Wanya Morris who sang in the school’s choir along with the members of Unique Attraction joined the group b 1987 and became a permanent member since he was only a freshman. In 1988 Baldi, Shoats, and Walker all left the group due to graduation. They then recruited Shawn Stockman after seeing him perform a solo in the school’s choir. One day the Nate, Shawn, Wanya, and Marc were practicing their harmonies in a school bathroom & in walked Michael McCary who started singing along with the group eventually would become the group’s new bass singer. Now with a permanent lineup of members the group would rehearse in the high school’s bathrooms, due to the excellent acoustics, and on the corners of their schools and local hangouts. They found inspiration in New Edition’s harmonies and routines, and eventually renamed the group “Boyz II Men”, after one of New Edition’s songs. After performing at a Valentine’s Day party at school in 1989 they got their big break when they sneaked backstage at a concert in their hometown to sing for New Edition member Michael Bivins who along with fellow groupmates Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe just announced they were forming a New Edition spin-off trio Bell Biv DeVoe. After they sang New Edition’s Can You Stand The Rain for him, Bivins and everyone in attendance including other celebrities were impressed. He gave the group his number and told them to give him a call. Nate eventually called Bivins, and he agreed to manage and helped produce the group.
The delay before recording their own material and reported personality conflicts led founding member Marc Nelson to leave the group, making Boyz II Men into the quartet that would find international fame: Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman.
Boyz II Men’s first album, Cooleyhighharmony, was released on Motown in 1991 and was produced by Michael Bivins. Cooleyhighharmony’s drum-heavy new jack swing sound and multi-layered sampled backdrops were similar to that of Bell Biv DeVoe’s own work, but featured classic-soul styled vocals in place of BBD’s rapping and brassier singing. This style was dubbed “hip hop doo-wop” by the group and Bivins, who presented Boyz II Men and adolescent R&B group Another Bad Creation to the public as BBD’s protégés.
From the beginning, Boyz II Men featured all four members as leads, avoiding the usual R&B group arrangement of one or two lead singers and a team of background singers. The multiple-lead arrangement became a Boyz II Men trademark, and it became typical to hear Wanya Morris’ vibrato-heavy tenor, Shawn Stockman’s tenor voice, Nathan Morris’ baritone, and Michael McCary’s bass (often used in spoken-word sections of many Boyz II Men hits) trading bars in each song.
The album’s liner notes identified unique nicknames for each member of the group. These nicknames were devised in collaboration with Bivins in an attempt at marketing. Wanya was “Squirt”, Shawn was “Slim”, Michael was simply “Bass”, and Nathan assumed the name “Alex Vanderpool”, after a soap opera character who brandished a nerdy style.
Boyz II Men’s first single, the Dallas Austin-produced “Motownphilly” featured a rap cameo by Michael Bivins that gives the story of how he met Boyz II Men. The single’s release was accompanied with a music video that presented the group in hip hop style. (The video also included cameos from fellow Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts alumni Black Thought and Questlove of The Roots.) Cooleyhighharmony’s second single was an a capella cover of a classic Motown tune, G.C. Cameron’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” from the 1975 film Cooley High, while “Uhh Ahh” served as the third single.
Cooleyhighharmony achieved major success, eventually selling over nine million copies and winning the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 1992 Grammy Awards. Boyz II Men were also nominated for Best New Artist, alongside with British singer-songwriter Seal, fellow R&B group Color Me Badd, as well as dance group C+C Music Factory, but the Grammy was awarded to singer-songwriter Marc Cohn. “Motownphilly” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” were number 1 R&B hits and top five U.S. pop hits.
In 1992, Boyz II Men joined MC Hammer’s high-profile 2 Legit 2 Quit tour as an opening act. While traveling the country, their tour manager Khalil Roundtree was murdered in Chicago, and the group’s future performances of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” were dedicated to him. As a result of this unfortunate experience, the song would prove to help advance their success.