Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
Vocalz Getupradio’s got next. He’s here to talk about one of his favorite groups, the incomparable Boyz II Men. Time to see if we’re on the same page or reading different books. Let’s go.
Name the three best Boyz II Men albums
3. The Remedy
As us New Orleans Folks say, I will give you a lil Lagniappe (Something Extra):
4. Christmas Interpretations – Vocally is their best record and some of the best written songs in the holiday genre.
These albums really embody not only what R&B is, but how groups impact R&B. Music about love, relationships, the ups and downs, but always being expressed in a classy way. A stark contrast on the themes of today. Not only were they a great vessel for other writers, but co-writing and creating beautiful harmonies to accentuate their own talent and showcase the songs.
It goes without saying just how monumental II is – it’s the perfect mix of quality performances, crossover appeal and industry-sweeping impact. THIS is a blueprint for a classic album. Incredibly, Cooleyhighharmony and Evolution aren’t too far off from II’s greatness. Cooleyhighharmony was a star-making debut, showcasing a “doo-wop hip-hop” sound that finally began moving us away from the well-worn New Jack Swing era. Even though Evolution often seems to be overlooked by modern fans, I see it as the Return of the Jedi of B2M’s OG trilogy – a sometimes underappreciated release that, despite a couple of minor flaws, is a ton of fun and a fitting way to cap off an unprecedented run.
And what’s their weakest album?
I really wanted to like this album. As you can tell by the song selection and from interviews they wanted to do music they liked outside of the Boyz II Men box, but the album was not cohesive. It appeared to be all over the place from song to song and even within songs, very schizophrenic.
“Not cohesive” is an understatement. I know there are several fans of this album over on the Soul In Stereo Cypher, and yeah, it’s not a TOTAL disaster of a project (I can name five albums this year alone that are way worse). However, its biggest sin is its erratic nature. One minute we’re revisiting the doo-wop, the next it’s ear splitting pop tracks. It’s like someone poured an entire season of American Idol into a blender and gave us this schizophrenic smoothie. That sloppiness does a huge disservice to the handful of really good songs here.
What’s the first Boyz II Men song that made you a fan?
Vocalz: “Please Don’t Go”
The BET Live from Aruba was the first time I heard of them, prior to the album. They were performing “Please Don’t Go”; the harmony was fantastic and they were like the everyman, regular guys who could sing like crazy, and performed with no background tracks and no auto tune. Groups always caught my attention and at the time I believe the industry and the public were hungry for traditional group who were talented across the board, could appeal to all age groups, and demographics, a la the days of Motown.
Edd: “Let It Snow”
I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard for today’s music fans to know the struggle of being a slave of radio playlists, but that was life in the 90s. We couldn’t cherry-pick our playlists from Da Innanetz – if we didn’t purchase the music ourselves, we were slaves to whatever radio and video formats shoveled in our ears. That meant from 91-93, you heard tracks like “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” and “End of the Road” on and endless loop. The R&B reviewer of 2020 will rave about how great these tracks were. The middle school music fan of 1993 was SICCUD. I recognized from day one how talented Boyz II Men were but I was also almost instantly tired of ’em.
But then came the holiday harmonies of “Let it Snow.” That was the first time I remember saying “MAN these guys can sing! I mean REALLY sing!” It was my turning point, the moment they went from an overplayed R&B group to true standouts.
Name Boyz II Men’s best single
Vocalz: “End of the Road”
Boyz II Men’s best single is “End of the Road.” That song was the explosion that catapulted them to the upper echelon of artists with the runaway success internationally. They had already topped the US charts, but that song had them all over international charts. They soon had worldwide tours, MTV concert documentaries, and began a six-year run of success that has never, and will never be matched by any other singing group.
Edd: “End of the Road”
Gotta agree with the homie here. While it’s not my FAVORITE single – that would be “Water Runs Dry” – End of the Road was a record-breaking platinum smash, the group’s biggest crossover hit at the time and a signature song that still lives on countless sad-man playlists today.
Which album cut should have been a single?
This is the one of the toughest questions ever. They have so many gems sprinkled on their discography that with a little push could have been really good singles, like “50 Candles,” “Yesterday,” and “To the Limit.”
I would go with “Yesterday.” It is acapella and the original song was a monster hit. This version would be the continuation of that song and have a world wide appeal. Being on the II album would have also catapulted that song as it would be sung at graduations, reunions, etc.
Edd: “Can You Stand the Rain”
“To the Limit!” Good choice! I’ll go with their amazing cover of “Can You Stand the Rain,” for reasons we’ll get into later.
Well, since you brought it up: Is Boyz II Men’s “Can You Stand the Rain” cover better than New Edition’s classic original?
Vocalz: It is not better than the original.
They are similar but so different. Boyz II Men’s version is overall vocally and technically superior, but Jam and Lewis’ music with Johnny and Ralph’s voices give New Edition the edge, plus it is the one we all knew and loved before it was redone. It takes a herculean effort to dethrone a great original.
Edd: By far the hardest question here. New Edition’s original is just such an undisputed classic that it feels like sacrilege to even ask this question. No matter how good covers may be, they will always feel like pretenders to the throne. Vocally speaking, Vocalz is correct, I think B2M’s cover is much stronger. But is it BETTER overall? Man, I don’t know, this one is too close to call.
The year is 1995. Boyz II Men are at the top of their game. Which of the four members could you see being a breakout solo star?
Vocalz: Shawn Stockman
I saw Shawn as the breakout star due to not only his writing credits on their stuff, but he has a gift for being able to set up a song. Having the depth to pull someone into a song, usually before the song picks up steam. Also, he was very versatile within Boyz II Men’s structure. Hearing “1-4- All-4- 1” by The East Coast family, “Hey Lover” with LL Cool J, and “Visions of a Sunset” really made him stand out as someone who could make his way as a solo artist.
Edd: Wanya Morris
When it comes to diversity of talent I have to agree, Shawn was ahead of the pack. But it takes more than good sangin’ to make a star. if I’m looking for the artist who possesses that intangible X-factor that all stars have, I’m going with Wanya. Not only did he have distinct vocals and a couple of memorable solo features, he was also the only member who had a (slight) bit of that 90s bad boy edge – remember the Brandy/Adina Howard dating fiasco? I’m not saying he’d be Sisqo Version 1 by any means but Wanya had a great mix of talent and persona. It would have served him well.
In many ways, Boyz II Men’s legacy seems to lag behind Jodeci’s in 2020. Why is that?
Vocalz: Jodeci with Diddy and Bad Boy styling team, were more visually appealing on that they’re the cool kids in school look, while Boyz II Men had the nice, nerdy guy, who never got the girl vibe. Also, K-Ci as a vocalist was so aggressive which was very exciting to the female audiences. Think of “Freek’n You” vs. “I’ll Make Love to You” as the perfect illustration. Where it may have hurt them in urban markets, this helped them tremendously in the pop and international markets.
Edd: Because revisionist history kinda sucks. Vocalz is absolutely right about urban audiences embracing Jodeci’s bad boy persona over B2M’s more clean-cut image and pop appeal but don’t be mistaken – I NEVER EVER remember B2M being labeled as “lame” in their day. They occupied two different lanes and that was perfectly OK in an era when we didn’t nitpick everything to death. I miss those days. But over time, I think Jodeci’s legacy has stood stronger because of the way R&B evolved. Their hip-hop laden sound not only revolutionized R&B in that era but also opened doors for producers in their mold (Timbaland and Missy Elliott specifically) to dominate the next decade. Boyz II Men’s legacy doesn’t trail Jodeci’s because people thought they were lame, it’s just that Jodeci’s impact proved to me more influential over time. Simply put, B2M had a bigger run, but Jodeci’s sound opened more doors.
Is Boyz II Men the greatest male group of the 1990s?
Vocalz: From their debut in 1991, it is not even close. Boyz II Men have not only had the MEGA success that no group since the Motown Era can even begin to rival. Chart topping songs, amazing collaborations, and not to mention immense longevity. They have a residency in Las Vegas at the Mirage, and tour extensively. Still today they continue to be the go to for important moments, i.e., Kobe Bryant Memorial, Broadway remakes on TV. A star on the walk of fame, and soon induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will have them cemented as the greatest group ever, no question. Harmony wise they are like a fine wine, getting better, smoother, while adding a subtle complexity that appeals to vocal aficionados while not alienating the casual music lover.
Edd: Well, let’s look at the competition, shall we? We just discussed Jodeci and there’s no doubt that they should be in the conversation. Still, they didn’t move units like B2M. Tony Toni Tone and Mint Condition had stellar material in that era but lack the string of megahits. Later groups like 112, Dru Hill and Jagged Edge set the tone for the next decade but weren’t major factors until late in the game. Nah, when it comes to overall consistency and widespread appeal across the entire decade, nobody’s touching Boyz II Men. A diamond-selling album (and another that’s almost diamond), seven or so No. 1 hits, an array of classic songs – including one that families will be singing every Christmas for generations, come on playa. Boyz II Men isn’t just the best male R&B group of the 90s, they’re one of the best PERIOD.
OK, who do you side with? Did Vocalz spit more facts or did Edd nail it? Let us know below.