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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Boyz II Men

MUSIC REVIEWS

Boyz II Men - Under the Streetlight

Boyz II Men – Under the Streetlight (Sony Masterworks)

Boyz II Men have embraced the sound of old-school doo-wop music from the very beginning. Their second huge single from their breakout debut album Motownphilly was an a capella cover of an obscure soundtrack single from the 70s – "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," which came from the long-forgotten film Cooley High – and was essentially an attempt to bring street-corner singing to the 90s. Many of their biggest hits – such as "End of the Road" and "On Bended Knee" – have used this singing style as a keystone for their sound.

In 1992, they even covered the Five Satins' doo wop classic "In the Still of the Night" for the soundtrack of the TV miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream. The song was released as a single and reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. They also covered the classic Grease song "Beauty School Dropout" in the 2015 TV special and record Grease: Live.

Since Boyz II Men have spent much of the new millennium doing covers albums of their favorite music – 70s soul hits (Throwback, Vol. 1 in 2004), Motown classics (Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA in 2007) and more generic – and eclectic – love ballads (Love in 2009), it probably was only a matter of time before they put together an album of classic doo-wop tunes from the 1950s.

Under the Streetlight is that album.

Well, it's not completely a cover album, the final song "Ladies Man" is a doo-wop-styled cover of an obscure Boyz II Men b-side from their last album Collide (2014), but it is remade to feel completely authentic to the album's musical style.

It's a little questionable who Boyz II Men's audience is with this album. With most of the songs being 60 or more years old, the band's fans probably won't be on the lookout for them. Also, so many of these songs are undeniable classics that there are many other versions of them out there, so they won't necessarily be getting the casual doo-wop fans who'd be more likely to search out the originals.

However, the guys take nine R&B classics and give them a sweet and sexy sheen, and while the production is faithful to the original arrangements, it basically does have a modern sheen so that some of this could possibly catch on radio.

Probably most likely to break out are some of the lesser known tunes. Sam Cooke's gorgeous "I'll Come Running Back to You" and Irma Thomas' smoldering "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is" both deserve to be kept in the public eye. (It turns out "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is" was co-written by a very young Randy Newman! Who knew?)

As for the classics, no one will ever deny that songs like "A Thousand Miles Away," "Tears on My Pillow" and "Stay" are great, great tunes. The group teamed up with former Teenager Jimmy Merchant on his group's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Also along for the ride are long-time Boyz II Men collaborator Brian McKnight, jazz-a capella group Take 6 and former Glee diva Autumn Riley.

Under the Streetlamp is an old-fashioned labor of love for the group, but it is a sweet and soulful one which is definitely worth checking out.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 7, 2017.

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Copyright © 2004-2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 29, 2004, November 2, 2011 and November 7, 2017.

 

 Everyday Beautiful

Boyz II Men-Twenty (Koch)

Has it really been 20 years since "Motownphilly?"

Apparently it's been that long and the best-selling R&B group Boyz II Men are reminding us of their staying power and their ability to live up to their name.  No longer boyz but grown men, their aptly entitled anniversary album, Twenty, is a very pleasant jaunt down R&B/Pop music memory lane.  No, this isn't another greatest hits album, but instead a mixture of re-recorded Boyz II Men staples as well as some new music with that signature Boyz II Men blend. 

Like a few of their previous albums, lost is the anchor of bass, Michael McCary.  The re-worked classics still sound as good as before, but just don't have the fullness of the originals.  They did manage to make them more organic with live instrument production, and some re-recorded vocals. 

Don't be fooled, they still have the vocals to carry the songs after 20 years.   Expect to hear "I'll Make Love to You," as well as "On Bended Knee," "End of the Road," and the aforementioned "Motownphilly." And that is just part of their two-disc offering. 

Loaded with thirteen new tracks, there is something on this album for die-hard fans as well as those discovering them after 20 years, if that's possible. Leading off is single "More Than You'll Ever Know." This airy single features the voice of R&B legend Charlie Wilson (The Gap Band).  Vocally the song works perfectly, with Wilson's distinct vocals blending fluently with those of the group. They can still harmonize like no other group out today. 

Next, and probably the most intriguing, is the single "One Up for Love." Those expecting signature Boyz II Men will not find it in this song.  Backed by a live band, and futuristic synthesizers is a contemporary rock song about peace, unity and well... love. Throw one up for love/throw one up for love repeats the chorus. It's bound to catch the ear of anyone who knows the Boyz II Men style, but will surely not disappoint.  Other notable tracks include "Put Some Music On," and "Refuse to Be the Reason."

After years of soothing us with the syrupy sweet ballads, Boyz II Men are still as strong as ever.  Incase you were wondering what R&B sounded like 20 years ago or just want to reminisce and rediscover some great music, this album is definitely worth a listen.  If the next 20 years are anything like the last, Boyz II Men will continue to give their fans what they are used to hearing.  Classic, timeless R&B music.  (11/11)

Abraham Kuranga

Copyright © 2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 2, 2011.

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Boyz II Men-Throwback (Koch)

Boyz II Men defined the decade of the 90's with their sinless R&B harmonies and pure pop appeal.  With hits such as "On Bended Knee," "Motownphilly," "End of the Road" and "I'll Make Love to You," Boyz II Men will go down in history has one of the greatest vocal groups of all time.  They cemented their place in music history with the now classic duet, "One Sweet Day," with songstress Mariah Carey, which topped the charts for a record 16 weeks.

With the conclusion of that era seemed to mean the demise of the Philadelphia quartet.  No longer were they the chart topping, multi-platinum sensations they once were, taking a back seat to pop groups, N'sync and the Backstreet Boys.  The turn of the century also saw the departure of Michael McCrary, the group's harmonic anchorman.  With commercial success seemingly in the past along with two label departures, the group now returns with arguably one of their best sets since 1997's Evolution. 

Throwback consists of reinvented soul classics, with the Boyz' signature lush harmonies.  Favorites such as Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and The Stylistics "You Make Me Feel Brand New" never sounded so, well brand new. Very little is lost in their translation of these timeless classics. Their vocal prowess is undeniable.  Individually, Shawn, Nathan and Wanya shine. Their voices are distinct yet blend seamlessly making this a mature and easy listen.

They may never return to the pinnacle of the pop world, where they once resided.  Nevertheless, their ability to harmonize and mesmerize was not lost. Throwback is an example of their growth and transition into the adult arena.  Boyz II Men, unlike many of their pop counterparts have lived the days as Boyz and now return as Men.  (8/04)

Abraham Kuranga

Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 29, 2004.

Everyday Beautiful