May 20, 2011 in Features

Boyz II Men stays on top of its game

By The Spokesman-Review
If you go

Boyz II Men

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Northern Quest Casino, 100 N. Hayford Road

Tickets: Sold out

Boyz II Men’s origin is spelled out in the lyrics of the group’s 1991 debut single, “Motownphilly”:

“Back in school we used to dream about this everyday/Could it really happen? Or do dreams just fade away?/Then we started singing and they said it sounded smooth/So we started a group and here we are/Kickin’ it just for you.”

From the group’s humble beginnings in Philadelphia, being discovered by New Edition offshoot Bell Biv Devoe and becoming a trailblazer in “new jack swing” – a subgenre bridging rap and R&B – Boyz II Men has come a long way.

Two decades later, with 60 million records sold, the Grammy-winning R&B quartet shows no sign of reaching the end of the road, continuing to sell out shows like the one Saturday at Northern Quest Casino.

At this stage of the game, any plays on the group’s name have long since worn out their welcome, but there’s no denying Boyz II Men’s growth.

This isn’t merely some 1990s pop phenomenon. This is the best-selling R&B group of all time, with stats that put the group in the company of Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Mariah Carey.

Boyz II Men ranks fourth behind those three legends with a total of 50 weeks spent on top of Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart. And they’re the only artists, along with Presley and the Beatles, to replace themselves in the No. 1 spot.

Those are just a couple of reasons Billboard named Boyz II Men the most successful musical group of the ’90s.

The group has continued to send arenas full of fans swooning with signature multiple-lead harmonies and gentlemanly romance, even though it has been missing a voice for the better half of the last decade with the absence of Michael McCary. The “bass” of the band left because of health issues and other personal problems.

Even with three-fourths of the original lineup, Boyz II Men – now down to Shawn Stockman and the Morris brothers, Nathan and Wanya – managed to collect Grammy nominations in 2009 for its second set of studio covers, “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA.”

Last year there were rumors that the band would reunite with McCary for a 20th anniversary/reunion album, but Boyz II Men later issued a statement saying the negotiations were at a stalemate.

“What we were willing to offer him – which was more than fair for being gone for seven years – versus what he wanted was so far apart that we’ve decided to carry on without him … again,” reads a statement on the band’s website.

While Boyz II Men recently wrapped up what was billed as a 20th anniversary tour of its 2007 album of covers, “Love,” the group has been relatively guarded about its 20th anniversary album, promised to be released before the end of the year.

On BoyzIIMenTV, the trio’s YouTube Channel, Stockman said of the forthcoming album, “We think a lot of people are going to be surprised at the concept of the record.”

The group hasn’t revealed much beyond that, except that it will be another collaboration with super-producer Randy Jackson, of “American Idol” fame.

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