Twenty: My Tribute to Boyz II Men

It’s been awhile since I’ve graced your presence with my nonsense. I’ve started five different blogs only to stop midway through it because of interruption. I got three-quarters of the way through this one when I “took a break” only to be reminded by my sister-in-law that I haven’t written in awhile. She says she checks every couple of days hoping to see something  fascinating (OK, maybe that’s my adjective but whatever) only to be disappointed to see my June post about Dr. Seuss. So here I go…my attempt to finish a blog entry! And lucky you it’s based on my love for four (now three) dudes that bring harmonies and love to my life!

Twenty years ago Boyz II Men replaced Bobby Brown as my favorite music artist and my life has never been the same.

I know that sounds funny but it’s true. If I had to list the three most so-called “pop culture” influences of my life I would have to list Boyz II Men, Star Wars and the TV show Friends” (watching a Season 1 episode the other night I realized I still have Ross Geller’s haircut) and in possibly that order.

I’m a sensitive dude, the girl in the relationship, my mother’s daughter and I have to think the music of Boyz II Men kind of led me that way, or maybe it was vice versa.

In actuality, I never understood why more guys didn’t enjoy their music. It taught me a lot about dealing with the female species. As they mentioned in an MTV interview almost two decades ago, if dudes were having problems conveying their message to their lady they could actually write down the Boyz II Men lyrics and come out looking like a champ. I may have been guilty once or twice of that.

In early October Lis and I attended a Boyz II Men concert (yes, they still have those) and it was during the “pre-funk” when the DJ was playing all these 90s R&B hits that I realized I really love this music. I also realized that I missed it. They don’t make good love songs anymore, unless you go country (again – guilty!). I love that soulful R&B love jam. And I have my Mom to thank me for that. Check that, I have my Mom solely to thank for that as non of my friends (minus my brothers) have had interest in “black” music. I lived in Seattle in the mid-90s when Grunge took over the region. While everyone was hailing Nirvana I was busy watching Boyz II Men break Billboard records.

Mom grew up listening to Motown so it was only fitting that my favorite group would end up signing with the same label that some of her favorites (Smokey Robinson, Jackson 5, Four Tops, Temptations, Supremes, etc) made famous.

Boyz II Men have always been a part of who I am and who I’ve become and now with the release of their newest album, aptly titled “Twenty”, I decided I would take a look back at the group whose music, for the most part, has become the soundtrack to my life.

It was the summer of 1991 when I first heard the hip-hop, doo-wop of “Motownphilly”. The song was catchy and I quickly wore down my “CooleyHighHarmony” tape listening to songs like “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye (To Yesterday)”, “Motownhilly” and “Uhh Ahh”.

When “End of the Road” was released in 1993 on the Boomerang Soundtrack (my first CD along with Kriss Kross’s “Totally Krossed Out”) it immediately skyrocketed to not only the top of the Billboard charts but my own and it’s stayed there off and on for 18 years.

When a friend of mine who has a Facebook group called “Dan Paquette’s Music Obscession” asked us to name our top 100 songs of all-time Boyz II Men took up my top three spots, topped by the aforementioned “End of the Road”. By the way, if you’re a music fan then join the group by clicking DPMO and liking the page. We have a lot of fun ranking everything music and if you’re a Beatles fan (Bblah! Blah! Blah!) then you’ll especially like it.

Boyz II Men’s second album, fittingly titled “II”, was released right before I started my senior year of high school and my first experience with the word “girlfriend”. Having this girlfriend made me pay more attention to the lyrics and I started understanding what the Boyz were singing about – that four-letter word called Love?

When I was dumped in 1995 “On Bended Knee” was the song that eased me through my first heartbreak.

Boyz II Men’s third album featured “A Song for Mama” that I bought for my Mom for Mother’s Day. She cried and what I wrote above actually works for Mom’s too! It also featured “4 Seasons of Lonliness” which introduced me to lip sync choreography. This opened the door to our three lip sync victories in the last three years. How do you like us now?

Boyz II Men’s fourth album “Nathan Michael Shawn Wayna” did much like the single from that album “Pass You By” and passed us by without much hoopla.

While others tended to move on I stuck with my Boyz from Philly and gobbled up album No. 5 “Full Circle”. Like it’s predecessor it wasn’t a success but it featured “The Color of Love” which was about the time I met Lis. I was going through some stuff (we’ll leave it at that) and needed a friend. Lis was there and a Boyz II Men song was back to becoming a soundtrack of my life.

After the fifth album the Boyz lost “Bass” Michael McCary because of illness and then some disagreements and I was left with only three of the four Boyz. Luckily my man, Shawn Stockman, was still in the group and the three continued to make music doing three cover albums, the second being covers of Motown favorites.

Fast forward a few years to the concert that Lis and I attended in early October. I knew that Boyz II Men were still my favorite but hearing them perform, singing to their songs and listening to the soundtrack of my life I realized that the now trio meant more to me than just some group that plays music that I like to listen to.

They are a part of who I am and who I’ve slowly become. The concert was a blast and it was made better because I was there listening to these love songs with the love of my life, my wife What’s-Her-Face. 😉 I even caught her swaying to some of the songs. Score!

OK, so I’ve gotten a little cheesy so let me get to the countdown of my top 20 Boyz II Men songs of all-time. By the way, you’ll quickly realize why I wrote in the Sports section and not in the A&E section of the newspaper.

No. 20 – Vibin’ (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: No. 52

It’s a laidback tune that mentions “In a dark room with a blue light…” which at the time reminded me of the “Movie Pit” that we had at my parent’s house downstairs. A dark room with a blue “Movie Pit” light sign.

No. 19 – I Will Get There (Prince of Egypt Sountrack) – 1998

Billboard Hot 100: No. 32 (According to Wikipedia the Boyz’s last Top 40 hit).

Not much to say about this track. Just an inspirational song about not letting things bring you down and continuing to fight.

No. 18 – Thank You (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: No. 21, March 1995

My favorite Boyz II Men video because it’s fun and traces the Boyz back to their roots to where they were back in 1994. It was mostly a capella and supposedly was the first “fast” a capella song ever. All the background music was done by their harmonies.

No. 17 – In the Still of the Night (I’ll Remember) – (Cooleyhighharmoney – Reissue) – 1992

Billboard Hot 100: No. 3, January 1993

The Boyz performed this song on the miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream Original Soundtrack. The song also reminds of me of my prom in 1995 when they sing, “I remember that night in May when the stars were right up above…”. Still, loved when the Boyz sang a capella.

No. 16 – Human II (Don’t Turn Your Back On Me) (Evolution) – 1997

Billboard Hot 100: Nope!

The sequel to Human by Human League, both songs were written by and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I like Human II because first, there is a killer a capella harmony type thing midway through the song and secondly it talks about making mistakes but I’m only human, I’m only a man. In 1997 I was making a lot of mistakes but heck, I was only a … boy.

No. 15 – Uhh Ahh (CooleyHighHarmoney) – 1991

Billboard Hot 100: No. 16, March 1992

I just realized that I probably lost most of you readers. Oh well! On one of my DVDs I have where the Boyz are explaining their videos they talk about how they were 19-20 year old dudes in bath robes trying to do a music video with models walking around and touching them. They tease Nate (dude with glasses) about a part of the video where he looks a little…how do you say? Uncomfortable? Anyway, one of those sensous love-making tunes the Boyz made popular.

No. 14 –  Can You Stand the Rain (Evolution) – 1997

Billboard Hot 100: Nope!

Just another a capella version of an older song. Supposedly this is the song the Boyz sang to Michael Bivins when they caught up with him backstage and caught the break that brought them success. Bivins was part of New Edition. New Edition sang “Can You Stand the Rain”. New Edition also sang “Boys 2 Men”. Yep, you guessed it. Where the Boyz got their name from.

No. 13 – It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday (CooleyHighHarmony) – 1991

Billboard Hot 100: No. 2, December 1991

Another remade song done a capella though this song fared better than its original. It’s often thought of as a good funeral song, though it plays well as a break-up tune as well. The original was featured in the movie Cooley High. Yes, where Boyz II Men got their album name. On the below video Boyz II Men and Jimmy Kimmel say goodbye to Oprah.

No. 12 – A Song for Mama (Evolution) – 1997

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, November 1997

A Song for Mama was Boyz II Men’s seventh No. 1 hit making Boyz II Men the only group in history to have seven platinum hits in the US. Let me repeat that, the ONLY group in history. Thanks! Oh…if you want to tell your mom how much you love her, play her this song. She’ll have tears! Promise!

No. 11 – Please Don’t Go (CooleyHighHarmony) – 1991

Billboard Hot 100: No. 49, May 1992

She’s left you. You’re upset. You finally realize that you needed her and don’t really want her to go. What should I do? Oh, let me listen to this tune! Answers!

No. 10 – Water Runs Dry (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: No. 2, 1995

My second favorite Boyz II Men video. The water has run dry, they’re running through the desert and an orchestra plays on a sand dune. Trust me it’s much cooler than that. Plus it’s another one of those signature Babyface-written tunes about not breaking up with me! It will be the biggest mistake of our lives. Now let’s sway to the chorus!

No. 9 – 4 Seasons of Lonliness (Evolution) – 1997

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, September 1997

As mentioned above this was our first choreographed lip sync song. We nailed it and we still nail it! The first part of the song makes me smile thinking about how we had the dance moves down. I wish I had video on it. But again another sad break-up song. For goodness sake! Please come back! She doesn’t compare to you! I think about you all four seasons!

No. 8 – The Color of Love (Full Circle) – 2002

Billboard Hot 100: No. 51, June 2002

I talked about this song earlier. It makes me think of Lis and a time when we were just friends needing friends. Then we became close friends. Followed by friends with benefits and now she shows me a lot more than the color of her love, if you know what I mean. Geez it’s getting late!

No. 7 – One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey’s Daydream) – 1996

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, November 1995

One Sweet Day is the longest running number one single of all-time, remaining No. 1 for 16 straight weeks. Mariah was writing this song for her lost loved ones. The Boyz were writing it for their ex-manager Khalil Roundtree who was shot and killed in an elevator while they were on tour. The two came together and ended up writing the song I want played at my funeral. OK? Oh and I had Mike’s Nike Flights that he wore in this video.

No. 6 – Motownphilly (Cooleyhighharmony) – 1991

Billboard Hot 100: No. 3, January 1991

The Boyz’s first single featured them sporting their Alex Vanderpool gear and showed them in their hometown of Philadelphia along with the school they went to. Fun, summertime song that reminds me of when I lived in Hawaii and first heard the Boyz.

No. 5 – 50 Candles (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: Nah!

I’d sandwich acting out the song “50 Candles” right between Princess Leia’s gold bikini and Batgirl on my list of fantasies. Check that, putting them all together is my new fantasy. Anyway, just one of those sensual songs about lighting 50 candles and letting the candlelight guide you. Listen you’ll have goosebumps on the back of your neck too!

No. 4 – I Sit Away (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: Nope!

Written by one of my favorite artists Tony Rich, this song was one of those comfort songs that I listened to during a time in my late-teens/early 20’s that was feeling pretty depressed. If you could’ve seen in my head you’d have seen lonliness. If I could’ve shown you my mind you would have been depressed. If you could’ve known what I was afraid of you’d have been frightened. Funny, these are also the lyrics in the song. By the way, Tony Rich does a good job of writing depressing songs and it was neat to see how he progressed through his albums both spiritually and emotionally.

No. 3 – On Bended Knee (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, November 1994

As mentioned above, this song helped me through my first heartbreak. It’s silly looking back and thinking about it but it also brings back that fond memory of thinking you’re in love and you’ve found your soulmate at the ripe age of 17. Ha! It’s the ultimate break-up song. Seriously, how many of you have held your pillow so tight knowing that you don’t need to be lonely? Guilty! The only drawback about “On Bended Knee” was that it bumped “I’ll Make Love to You” off the top of the charts and away from breaking a tie with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. It did mean that Boyz II Men were one of only three musicians (some dude named Elvis and some dudes named the Beatles were the other) to replace their own song from No. 1. I think the Black Eyed Peas have since become the fourth group to do this.

No. 2 – I’ll Make Love to You (II) – 1994

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, August 1994

One of the top 10 romantic songs of all-time. Trust me when they play this song at the concert and pass out roses to the ladies you know your chances of scoring go up tenfold. Plus, the vocals are awesome. “I’ll Make Love to You” tied Whitney Houston for the most consecutive weeks at No. 1 (14 straight) and was bumped by their own song, “On Bended Knee”.

No. 1 – End of the Road (CooleyHighHarmony – Reissue) – 1992

Billboard Hot 100: No. 1, June 1992

My favorite song of all-time and yet it’s the one song I could never relate to. I’m sorry if you’re cheating on me, it’s not OK. I could never understand it. But the song ends with the Boyz singing the chorus a capella, my favorite part of any song EVER! Accolades? It’s Motown’s most successful single ever. It was No. 1 for 13 straight weeks breaking Elvis’s record of 11 for “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” and then later broken by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” The song is also listed at No. 43 on Billboard’s Top 100 of All-Time.

OK…Kevin out but not with out some 1998 pictures of us at the Motown Cafe!

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