There was a time in my life when I absolutely hated Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road”. Not because it isn’t a good song – it is – but because I couldn’t go ANYWHERE in 1992 without hearing this song. Drunk white people were singing it on benders. Black dudes were blasting it from their drop top Huegots, women were singing it en masse at conventions and baptisms. It was so ubiquitous that it spent 13 weeks at the number one spot on the US Hot 100 charts, at the time a record that would be broken shortly after by Whitney Houston’s remake of “I Will Always Love You” only to be broken AGAIN by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey’s collaboration, “One Sweet Day”. And let’s not forget the juggernaut that was “I’ll Make Love To You”, which spent 14 weeks at the top spot on the pop charts with the assist from the video starring Duane Martin. Nautica jackets, linen, and satin pajamas. I imagine even Casey Kasem got tired of listening to that song.
On a side note, the 90s, clearly my favorite era for pretty much everything creative (with the 70s being a VERY close second) was a terrible time for video decisions. For instance, in the video for “I’ll Make Love To You”, the four members of Boyz II Men are literally in a bathroom together, singing, wearing satin pajamas. There’s never really a good time to sit around with your boys in a bathroom wearing various colors of satin pajamas. Singing. Just don’t do it. Cool video, though.
Back to the lecture at hand. By pretty much any measurable bar, Boyz II Men is one of the greatest boy bands of all time. They had two one albums (and one of the best Christmas albums know to mankind), multiple record-breaking singles, won tons of Grammys, and had more talent per capita than almost any other singing group in history since Nathan, Michael. Shawn, and Wanya could all actually sing with Shawn Stockman coming into his own as a songwriter as well. And yet, much like Otis, nobody really seems to give a shit about Boyz II Men anymore. This is puzzling.
Contrast that with a group like Jodeci, one of my favorite groups in the history of mankind. Bad perms, odd stage behavior, and crack problems aside, Jodeci can pretty much do no wrong. And when we think of landmark R&B groups from the 90s, Jodeci is usually one of the groups think of first along with 112. People still care about Jodeci and they stopped making music as a group in 1995 (the court would like to move that Jodeci’s 2015 album The Past, The Present, and The Future be stricken from the official record). Jodeci never even had a US charting #1 album OR single. They topped the R&B charts, but less times than Boyz II Men. To this day, nobody actually knows what Dalvin does or did, and that whole “drum” thing seems moot since DeVante produced everything and the drums were clearly programmed. Or maybe DeVante created the music then dropped the drums and had Dalvin come in and replay them live in the studio. But I doubt this seriously. But get your production credit, Dalvin.
Both even shot videos in the desert (Boyz II Men’s “Water Runs Dry” and Jodeci’s “Cry For You”) but only one made any sense: Boyz II Men’s. Ain’t no water in the desert, b. Meanwhile, Jodeci was bringing water to the desert with their tears, since they’d cry for you, since it has been an hour since you’ve been gone…which, let’s be real, is too long. Come back home girl. Come home. Not for nothing, I’ve always felt like desert videos were a cop out. Can’t think of shit else to do in a video? Just send the dudes to the desert and let them sing their hearts out in sandals and white linen. For the record, “Cry For You” is a MUCH better song though. Beautiful music, fam. Beautiful music.
If you want to start a real live debate, ask a group of Black people what Jodeci’s best song was and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. I, personally, think it’s “Freek’N You” since I think it epitomized the group, but answers range anywhere from “Love U 4 Life” to “Come and Talk To Me (Remix)”. Ask a group of Black folks to argue about Boyz II Men…and you’ll get somebody who throws out, “eh…Jodeci would whip their ass!” That actually happened once by the way. It’s completely untrue. Nobody would EVER pit Jodeci vs Boyz II Men in a singing fight and claim its a fair one. Boyz II Men’s acapella take on the classic New Edition record, “Can You Stand The Rain?” might actually be better than the original. Those are fighting words. I realize this. Fight night, b. Don’t get pitch slapped! See what I did there? Like, from the movie Pitch Perfect? Hehe.
People like 112 more than Boyz II Men, and we know they’re not even as good as Jagged Edge, which is a group that is clearly not as good as Boyz II Men. I realize that chart success isn’t an indication of a group’s inherent greatness, but Boyz II Men is one of those groups whose success seemed to truly match up with their talent. You don’t sell 60 million records worldwide without literally being one of the best to ever do it.
But again, when you hear people rave about the groups from the 90s, Boyz II Men rarely gets a mention and I wonder why this is. I have a few theories on this. For instance, it’s entirely popular that Boyz II Men’s popularity has worked against them. They were a bit TOO popular thus making them pure pop sensations and when people think of their favorite things (like whiskers on kittens) they usually go for things that are a bit more “authentic”, which could explain Jodeci and 112’s appeal. They seemed like dudes you might know from next door. But then how do we explain Mariah Carey or even Whitney Houston, two women who were even MORE popular who have managed to remain relevant in nearly all music conversations. So that theory is horseshit.
It can’t be because they peaked too early. Their last number one album was in 1997 (Evolution). Meanwhile, Jodeci’s last album (that you’ve heard) came out in 1995. Was it as good as II? No. But I doubt anybody would say that The Show, The Afterparty, The Hotel was as good as Diary Of A Mad Band.
Did they take some kind of PR hit that I don’t remember that pushed them to the background? I remember Wanya dating Brandy was a thing because her parents didn’t approve though they somehow approved of her dating Mase. Parents are odd ducks. The only plausible theory I have is one that ties into their popularity. When you go mainstream, folks tend to write you off as a favorite or artist of note, at least in R&B. Babyface knows this problem all to well. Then again, Babyface probably couldn’t care since it’s likely that he is still cashing checks from the 90s.
Maybe I’m completely wrong here. But I listen to a lot of 90s stations, music, and attend many events catered to the 90s. I might hear Kid ‘N Play, but I’ll never hear “Motownphilly”. Or I’ll never hear “On Bended Knee” or “End Of The Road” on a 90s station. New Edition has a more permanent place in our memories than Boyz II Men. So what gives?
How come nobody cares about Boyz II Men anymore?