The story of Boyz II Men starts with a group of school friends getting together in 1985 and calling themselves Unique Attraction.
Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris and Marc Nelson would practice their harmonies in the bathroom of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts because of the solid acoustics in there.
One day Michael McCary walked in on them and began singing along, later recruited by the group as their bass vocalist.
Massive fans of the R’n’B group New Edition, who released a song named ‘Boys to Men’ on their 1988 album ‘Heartbreak’, Unique Attraction decided to officially rename themselves Boyz II Men.
In 1989, while New Edition was performing in Philadelphia, Boyz II Men snuck backstage to perform for member Michael Bivins.
The boys sang an a capella version of New Edition’s ‘Can You Stand the Rain’. Bivins was so impressed that he gave them his number, eventually coming on to manage the group — sans founding member Marc Nelson — and sign them to Mowtown Records.
Bivins raps about this early encounter on the Boyz II Men’s debut track ‘Mowtownphilly’, which shot to No 3 in America: “Now check this out, one day back in Philly/ Four guys wanted to sing they came up to me, I said/ ‘What’s your name? Ya know what I’m sayin’’ / Then I said, ‘Alright fellas/ Well let me see what you can do’/ And then Wan said, ‘Yo Mike, check this out/ See if this one moves you’.”
In 1992, Boyz II Men unwittingly released one of the most successful singles of all time.
‘End of the Road’ didn’t even appear on any of their albums initially, having been written for the soundtrack of Eddie Murphy’s film ‘Boomerang’.
But the song topped the charts around the globe, going to No 1 in America, the UK and beyond.
It also spent a record-breaking 13 weeks at No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
‘End of the Road’s’ record was broken by Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ later that year, which spent 14 weeks on top of the chart, but it didn’t take long for the group to reclaim the title — first, they matched Houston’s historic 14-week run with their 1994 single ‘I’ll Make Love to You’, and then smashed their own record with their 1995 Mariah Carey duet ‘One Sweet Day’, which spent 16 weeks at No 1.
Due to its success, ‘End of the Road’ appeared on a reissue of their album ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ as a bonus track.
STUDIO ALBUMS GALORE
Bivins and Boyz II Men went their separate ways after the release of the compilation album ‘East Coast Family, Vol 1’ (1992).
Later in their career, Boyz II Men reckoned with criticism that they were too reliant on Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds writing their hits; Babyface was behind ‘End of the Road’, ‘I’ll Make Love to You’ and many others. The group tried their hand at being primary writers in the early 2000s but continued to work with Babyface.
Founding member McCary left the band due to multiple sclerosis in 2003 and the band’s final record as a quartet was ‘Full Circle’.
Boyz II Men has released a total of 12 studio albums. Their latest, ‘Under the Streetlight’, came out in 2017.
Boyz II Men almost didn’t record one of their career bests, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’, and said they were “somewhat forced” into doing it. “The funny part is that we felt like it sounded too much like ‘End of the Road’ ... We didn’t want to do it ... We didn’t understand how much of an impact the song was going to have ... That’s youth,” said Stockman.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see Boyz II Men live in Dubai at Coca-Cola Arena on December 19 start from Dh199.