Boyz II Men Hits: Philly Crooners' Best Songs

BYErin Haley1.8K Views
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Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men (Photo by Chris Carroll/Corbis via Getty Images)
They reigned in the 1990s and 200s, and they're one of R&B-Pop's favorite groups. Come jam to "Motownphilly" and revisit Boyz II Men favorites!

When Philadelphia named part of Broad Street after its own R&B superstars Boyz II Men in June 2017, it felt like a long time coming. How Philadelphia Magazine remembers it, Boyz II Men's arrival on the music scene shifted the era. They called it “a time of giant, lumbering record labels, inescapable pop stars, and enormous record sales that seem utterly impossible today.” The beginning of their career can be distilled by a key line from “Motownphilly”: "Back in school we used to dream about this every day."

Boyz II Men linked up as teenagers from different neighborhoods. They attended the esteemed Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, where they began their musical genesis in the hallowed halls of artistic education. Since their graduation, the school has relocated to Broad Street. It is that area that has been rechristened Boyz II Men Blvd. 

In between classes in German and classical music, the boys crystallized into a group that would be esteemed in the music world, making them as known for their collaborative fashion as for their sound, turning them into a unit that would stand the test of time, creating an illustrious legacy in the world of R&B.  

“Motownphilly” (1991)

The first song released from their 1991 Cooleyhighharmony, "Motownphilly" demonstrated that the Boyz were not a typical pop or R&B group. While there was a syncopation in their look and style, their sound was old school. It was a soulful harmony that demonstrated that they were musicians of the most superlative kind. Additionally, experimenting with sounds from the 1960s and 1970s, the music video had the band moving through their home city of Philadelphia. They moved through the City of Brotherly Love with a carefree belief in themselves and their music.

The lyrics mention two other New Jack Swing groups: Another Bad Creation and Bell Biv Devoe. The genre was a cacophony of sampling, swing, and other production elements that had been innovated since the 1980s. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis championed the sound and further etched their legendary status. These cameos also helped certify that Boyz II Men were part of a new musical renaissance.

“It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” (1991)

This signature ballad from their debut album Cooleyhighharmiony reached No. 2 on the charts. It solidified their reputation as a group that could deftly handle difficult vocals and entrancing harmonies. This song was a cover of G.C. Cameron’s 1975 hit. The album also alluded to the 1975 film Cooley High, whose story centered on two Black high school students from Chicago.

“End Of The Road” (1991)

Recorded in 1991 and released in 1992, the song resulted from a collaboration with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Babyface is a producer and songwriting legend in his own right. "End of the Road" was also created for the classic Eddie Murphy film, Boomerang. It stayed at the coveted No. 1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 for a record-setting 13 weeks, starting on August 22, 1992. 

“I’ll Make Love To You” (1994)

Another number written and produced by Babyface, this song was one of their longest enduring No. 1s. However, in the beginning, Boyz II Men didn’t want to do the ballad. They were concerned that the song sounded too much like “End of the Road” in terms of word choice and instrumental build-up. Further, in a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, they recalled they were grateful to producers and managers. Essentially, they seemingly forced the group to record the song. The team also recognized that it would resonate with a youthful audience in an atypical way to love songs. The single stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 Weeks, tying with Whitney Houston’s 1992 record set with “I Will Always Love You.” 

"One Sweet Day" (1995)

Any collaboration with Mariah Carey is almost guaranteed to stay in the upper stratosphere of musical hits. Boyz II Men's collaboration with Mariah Carey on “One Sweet Day” in 1995 was no exception. Landing on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 16 weeks was an epic milestone. No other song in the chart's 54-year history had ever done so. The track was written by Mariah and the Boyz after the death of one of Mariah's dear friends. The song was her homage to him, his friends, and his family. 

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