Discography Check: Boyz II Men

By @TrueGodImmortal

We tend to talk the 90's often on this site, and with good reason. What decade had better music? One could argue the 80's, but that's a bit of a reach. One of the biggest from the 90's and possibly THE biggest R&B group of all time, Philadelphia's own Boyz II Men, had a complete control on the 90's. They came onto the scene showcasing their vocal harmonies, and would sell million of copies on their softer, less aggressive brand of music. In the "thug heavy" R&B 90's, Boyz II Men didn't take off their shirts, they rarely got raunchy, instead they went for a more smooth, gentleman approach, and it worked. Through all their ups and downs over the years, and everything they've been doing for years, we took a look at their discography, from their debut to their most recent project. Let's get into it.

*CooleyHighHarmony (1991)

-Their epic debut was truly something special. The foursome came in with a bit more of their Philly style on this one, and it seems like their image was still perhaps being honed by the ending of the New Jack Swing Era (at least as far as the height of its popularity). There were some remnants of the era driven into this album, as well as some traditional smooth R&B, such as the mega hits "Please Don't Go", "Uhh Ahh", and of course, the Babyface penned "End of the Road", which wasn't included on the original version, but did make it onto the reissue in 93. Upbeat tracks like the first single "MotownPhilly" and "Sympin". This album is a personification of New Jack Swing mixed with smooth R&B sensibility and to be honest, I think it is their greatest. It is their 2nd highest selling album, and I think with all the hits from it, it's easily one of the best albums of the decade in the genre. When ranking it in the discography overall, I have to put it at the top. This is the supreme Boyz II Men release.

*II (1994)

-I'm honestly of the belief that this album is SLIGHTLY overrated. The album is a bit overly sappy, but it still features enough great music to make it a near classic overall. In terms of impact, hits, and those other vital factors, it is probably a top 3 R&B album of the 90's without a doubt. However, as an album itself, I feel like I could do without a few tracks. I also thought some of their singles fell on the territory of cheesy, but I get that's the point. Boyz II Men were the gentlemen to lay down a coat so a lady could walk over a puddle, they always opened doors, bought flowers, and ran baths for the women that deserved them. They begged, they pleaded, they cried when they wanted to be forgiven. They did what it took to keep their woman at all costs. On songs like "I'll Make Love To You", "I Sit Away", "On Bended Knee", and "Water Runs Dry", the group bring their best harmony, some of their most iconic vocal runs, and they create greatness in this process. Like I said, there's a few tracks I could do without, but the majority of this album is absolutely timeless. I love this album and with it being certified diamond, it stands as the biggest mark in the career of Boyz II Men.

*Evolution (1997)

-I almost prefer this album to II actually. Almost. It's a bit more growth in the approach to this album, which is welcomed here. They are still the same gentlemen, still bringing their music with a lack of aggression or dominance in it, but there's a different feel about this one. It's as if the group decided to forego the big ballads for more intricate harmonies and more complex songs. It worked, in my opinion. There's a spiritual feel in some of the songs, there's also a need here to showcase each singer's identity, and we see that shine on tracks like "Doin Just Fine", and "4 Seasons of Loneliness". I have a special appreciation for the classic "A Song For Mama", as well as the other Babyface penned songs such as "Girl In The Life Magazine" and "Never". This album only loses its way briefly when we see Puffy come in and attempt to assist the group, which wasn't necessary, but I guess that was a part of the group wanting to experiment more. Regardless, I enjoyed this album and I think it's extremely slept on since it doesn't get mentioned in the conversation about the group as much.

*Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya (2000)

-I personally don't like this album as much, but it's not necessarily a bad one, just a bit uneven. The album was written entirely by the group, which usually should spell great things for an artist, but it had the opposite effect for sure here. A majority of the songs here were just a bit poorly written and I think they missed the feel and lyrics that Babyface and their other writers brought to their hits. Don't get me wrong, the single "Pass You By", "I Finally Know", and "Never Go Away" are all great songs, but more often than not, the songs lack the feel and the style that made their previous albums before that so successful and so enjoyable.

*Full Circle (2002)

-The group bounced back here with a truly nice effort that saw them reunite with some of their old writers and collaborators. Babyface penned the smooth single "The Color of Love", Faith Evans would assist them on "Relax Your Mind", and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis provide them with a scorcher in "Oh Well" and "That's Why I Love You". There's a few other tracks here that are definitely fun to listen to and I think the group got more comfortable with this album than the previous. The pressure of writing all your hits on your own like they did the previous album might have taken a toll on them, and as such, they went back to the drawing board and came with this. There's still a few ill advised songs here, but overall, this is a pretty good listen and I'd say it's slightly underrated. The group seemed ready to make a comeback, but only time would tell if that would be the case.

*Throwback Vol. 1 (2004)

-What occurred here is that one of the members, the deep voiced Michael, left the group due to chronic back problems and they became a trio. Instead of coming back with an original album, instead they opted to showcase their singing abilities and do an album of covers via Koch Records. This is a strange project for me as I don't like cover albums or cover songs much in general. I think the group did well on a few of these covers, but when you do a cover, you should try and match the original if not outdo it, and the now trio did NOT do anything close to that. They can sing, they were good here, but none of the covers were even close to the originals. Perhaps this was something they shouldn't and wouldn't try again? Well...

*The Remedy (2006)

-I didn't even remember this album came out until I went back to revisit for this article. I was disappointed. A lot. This release just feels extremely flat and lacking of the soul and feel you'd expect from this group. There are a few select good songs here like "You Don't Love Me", "Morning Love", and one or two others. I think the less said about this the album the better, as it is likely the most forgettable project in their discography.

*Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville (2007)

-Ah. Another cover album. This time they're tackling some of the greatest classics ever in Motown hits. Oh boy. Once again, I enjoyed this one somewhat, but what is the purpose. There's no actual purpose in a covers album unless you can sing much better or equally as good as the original. That's not what happened here. As I said before, why would they continue making cover albums? Did they run out of new material? Did they not have any songs available or producers available to make new music? Whatever the case, the trio went from smooth singers who sold millions via classic singles and hits, to a group that only does covers. Let's hope the covers business is done with this one. It's still better than their first covers album, but you're not saying much with that.

*Love (2009)

-Another. Covers. Album. Are you kidding me. Really?? Well they took my advice finally and covered some songs that they could improve. Ah. Good job guys, but that's only because they chose more classic rock and contemporary songs that lack the harmony and the soul within their voices. This was enjoyable, but I still hate the concept of a covers album, so I'm still biased as to how this turned out. It went well, and the trio shines brightly, but this album just doesn't do it for me. It's hard to really be focused on the album when I already know the songs and usually prefer the original anyways. Despite the trio sounding better than some of the original artists here, I still prefer the original version of the songs to be honest. Can we get a regular album from the group again? Please?

*Twenty (2011)

-FINALLY. A full new album from the group. Thank you. This album reminds you of what you love about Boyz II Men, and it's a blast from the past basically. With them reuniting with all of their older collaborators, the group tries to recapture their old glory and while it doesn't work as well as it would have in the older days, this is still a nice album to enjoy. With Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Tim & Bob back in the fold, this was a last ditch effort to restore their fan base and while they'll never sell platinum again, the album did manage to chart in the top 20, which is decent for them in this era. The best tracks here are "Slowly", "More Than You'll Ever Know", "One More Dance", and "So Amazing", all which invoke the old spirit of the group. While not a great album, this is a pretty good album, and a great way to thank the fans for allowing them to be in the game 20 years (hence the title), and they redid some of their classics and included it in a separate disc. For nostalgic value alone, this is worth the listen out of every album they put out in the 2000s.

*Collide (2014)

-The less said about this one the better. Perhaps the NBC money they've gotten and the climate caused this album to come out the way it did. Maybe so. This is a horrible album. It doesn't feel or sound like a Boyz II Men album. It's just rough to listen to and enjoy. There's alternative elements, some EDM, some rock sounding stuff, all of which clash with their voices and styles. I struggled to find a redeeming quality about this album, instead I found myself wishing the group just retired after the last release and rode off into the sunset on a relatively high note. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. Like I said, the less said about it, the better.

So when you look at it, their discography is a bit underwhelming to be honest, but regardless, there are a good amount of gems and two overall classics. Not too many artists can say that in the game. Is Boyz II Men one of the greatest groups ever? Certainly. Is their discography one of the greatest? Not at all. Not even close. Sometimes it happens like that. Their legacy is still in tact however.



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