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Jodeci vs Boyz II Men: The Dichotomy



I'm of the belief that Jodeci is one of the greatest groups of all time, and easily the best R&B group of the 1990s. It seems that amongst like minded individuals, this sentiment is also shared. However, in recent memory, I've come across people who seem to be partial to Boyz II Men and their brand of R&B in the 90s, and it got me thinking.... Which group was better? Who has the stronger catalog? And were they truly the yin and the yang of 1990s R&B? The differences start right away in their vocal approach. While Boyz II Men seemed to be mostly trained vocalists, Jodeci's vocals were more soul stirring, invoking pain, hurt and more emotion. The differences in vocal approach could also have a bit to do with how the groups were received, perhaps.

One could argue that Boyz II Men represented idealistic R&B, in some ways providing women with a fantasy world of what could it be like in love. On the other hand, Jodeci provided you with the more realistic and honest R&B, with a rugged twist that showed they can be vulnerable yet aggressive when they time calls for it. There was a bit of aggression in Jodeci's brand of R&B, while Boyz II Men stayed in their lane where aggression was very seldom, if at all. Wanya, lead singer of Boyz II Men, had a very distinct and commanding singing voice, but through the songs that they made, he began to sound whiny at times. The sappy love ballads from Boyz II Men seemed to hit big instantly, similar to how Babyface started his late 80s domination: Good Old Fashioned Simp Music, as they say. On the flip side, you had Jodeci, baggy clothes, caps turned to the back, pants sagging, telling their women that they want her to be "Forever My Lady" and that after an argument, all they want her to do is "Stay".

Image has proven to be effective in music, and this was no different: Boyz II Men, usually clad in suits, were marketed in a sense, as the guy that a woman could take home proudly to meet her parents and the rest of her family. The guy that spoils her, loves her, has a squeaky clean image, and worships the ground she walks on. That was Boyz II Men in the 1990s. Jodeci? They were essentially marketed as the guy a woman would be hesitant to bring home to her parents, because he's aggressive, thugged out(to an extent), doesn't have anything near a squeaky clean image, and despite loving his woman to death, he might cheat on her from time to time, only to beg for forgiveness and mess up again sometime down the line. As exaggerated as some of that might sound, that's the way it was, for the most part. It was that very difference in image that quickly separated their career paths, as Boyz II Men rose to be pop stars selling millions and garnering Grammys, while Jodeci became R&B stars and racked up Soul Train Awards and a few Billboard awards. It was the squeaky clean image of Boyz II Men that allowed them to crossover and reach superstardom combined with having those monster accessible hits. White America could embrace a song like "End Of The Road" for their college graduations and various other ceremonies, while "One Sweet Day" with another huge pop star Mariah Carey could be played at funerals and going away parties. When setting the mood right for those late night adventures, "I'll Make Love To You" became a standard song to play when you are with your significant other in bed. That type of accessibility and crossover potential helped Boyz II Men became mega stars, selling 60 million records worldwide, breaking some Billboard chart records and earning their place in music history. Jodeci, however?

Jodeci lacked the huge crossover appeal that Boyz II Men came with and their image had a lot to do with it, as previously mentioned. So what did Jodeci bring to the table? The appeal of the "bad boy", which we were beginning to learn was more and more appealing to women as times were changing. Jodeci didn't have that song for graduations, funerals, or any momentous occasion for White America. What they did have songs for? The average everyday person. You see a woman from a far who catches your attention and you're debating your approach? "Come and Talk To Me" is perfect for this. You and your lady had a bad argument and she's considering leaving? Cut on "Stay". The woman that you love is pregnant and you both have elated(yet shocked) joy? "Forever My Lady" is the go to song. Those late night moments come and you want to honestly express what you need and want? "Feenin" and "Freek'N You" are always on time. That was the beauty of Jodeci's music: it was instantly relatable to the average listener and you believed every word that they would sing. Another element here that may play a big part is that Jodeci's music was written by the group itself for the most part, while Boyz II Men's music was usually written and crafted by some of the bigger names in R&B(Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Babyface, etc). Those big ballads written by the legendary names for Boyz II Men might explain the huge success of the songs, but might also explain why there was a bit of a disconnect between Boyz II Men and some listeners. With their songs being written for them, a lot of the true passion from when those songs were wrote cannot be transferred and leaves some of their hits sounding forced and slightly cookie cutter even. Jodeci, with their personal pain, desires, problems and thoughts felt through their self written music became the culture's favorite and thus we arrive at the final variable in this comparison: Catalog.




Jodeci's catalog is nearly flawless(sans the most recent album released this year), but only features a total of four albums over 25 years nearly. However, with two straight classics under their belt, they managed to do something very few artists/groups can do. "Forever My Lady", the debut album, is one of the greatest R&B albums ever, while "Diary Of A Mad Band" continued that feeling by etching itself as one of the best R&B albums of the 90s. The only minor misstep was on "The Show, The After Party, The Hotel" where the group got a bit ambitious by placing a whopping 22 tracks on the album. That album, however, was still solid and featured a few hits as well, but you could see that maybe the lifestyle was beginning to catch up to Jodeci(it apparently was). Jodeci wouldn't make another album for 20 years after that. How does Boyz II Men's catalog hold up?




Boyz II Men also pulled off the feat of back to back classic albums with "CooleyHighHarmony" and "II", but after those two albums, Boyz II Men had the unfortunate issue of nothing being able to recapture the magic. The albums that followed the first two classics ranged from subpar to good, as they went on to make Christmas albums, cover albums, and albums without 4th member Michael. Their most recent "Collide" made very little noise on the charts, as did Jodeci's recent "Past, Present, Future" album, so its safe to say that there will be no resurgence of this dichotomy between the two seasoned groups. With that being said, its interesting to see the differing opinions on these two legendary groups 2 decades later.

Jodeci and Boyz II Men are two of the greatest R&B groups in history for some of the same reasons and some very different reasons. There's no right or wrong answer to who was truly better, but they both represented two necessary perspectives in R&B. Today, there's no true line to separate perspectives, artists style, or anything really in R&B, everybody is pretty much the same. What's to be celebrated here is the fact that each group shined with their own identity, each staking a claim in their own lane in the art form. Now, me personally, as I alluded to earlier, am more partial to Jodeci, as they are more relatable and that makes their music better. However, if you were to side with Boyz II Men, I'd understand, when talking hit records, sales, and maybe even image. Either way, today allowed us a reflection to a time where R&B had true soul and artists sang about love in their own special way. Long Live Those Days. Long Live Them.

-True

3 comments:

  1. The answer is to create a perfect mix of Boyz II Men and Jodeci for the foreplay, the making love and afterwards. That's the answer for me and KS.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jodeci has only one sound, primarily. Where'd Boyz II Men had different ranges and sounds.

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  3. Jodeci - no contest. Boyz 2 Men were amazing but Jodeci were the greatest and on another level. Kci and Jojo's vocals along with the Dalvin Brothers productions are just indescribable

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