DAR Music: Boyz II Men's CooleyHighHarmony

(Compiled By @TrueGodImmortal, @CherchezLaPorsh, and @JADBeats)

1. Please Don't Go 
2. Lonely Heart 
3. This Is My Heart 
4. Uhh Ahh
5. It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday 
6. Motownphilly
7. Under Pressure 
8. Sympin 
9. Little Things 
10. Your Love
(The Re-Release includes "End Of The Road", "In The Still Of The Night", and remix versions of original tracks on the album)

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-When we look back at the greatest groups in music, there's a select few that sit in high esteem. Boyz II Men fits that description. Their arrival to the R&B scene changed the dynamic of the music forever. They're a group that excels at harmony, rhythm and creating hits, and when they arrived to the scene in 1991, there was an amazing shift. The Philly natives were signed under the Motown label with Michael Bivins of New Edition there to help them through their career (sort of) and executive producing their project.

Their first album, CooleyHighHarmony, was released in February 1991, with 10 amazing tracks to introduce the group as four Philly singers who could bring that New Jack Swing sound as well as smooth ballads. Inspired by the high school attended, the title is one of the most iconic album titles in R&B history. The songs were mostly written by the group itself with the production mostly being handled by Dallas Austin. Today, I gathered the team to talk about this album that's still a great listen and an amazing project 26 years later. Let's get into it.

Groups are such an integral part of R&B and although there were many groups formed over the years, none can ever come close to Boyz II Men. When they first formed, there were five members (one of which we would later know as part of Az Yet) and their claim to fame was their a cappella version of New Edition’s “Can You Stand The Rain” which they unofficially sang for Michael Bivins. That landed them a deal and ultimately led to the debut of “CooleyHighHarmony". I heard this album shortly after its release and although I was young... I was hooked!

These guys mastered New Jack Swing, Motown sounds and instrumentals, coupled them with the smoothest vocals and the most perfect harmonization that made their ballads instant favorites. In fact, they created a momentum that would remain for the duration of their musical careers. Even the two to three years in between album releases didn’t affect their popularity. Their impact in R&B was profound and it didn’t take long for this group to be the best of the entire decade.

Even though “CooleyHighHarmony” isn’t my favorite album, it is amazing! With six officially released singles, the first being "Motown Philly", we were introduced to the New Jack Motown funk Boyz II Men would be synonymous with. Although that would be a fast paced track with an upbeat tempo, the album would offer tracks for every mood and every occasion. Their forte would become a cappella ballads and what better way to showcase that than "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday", "End Of The Road" and "In The Still Of The Night". What I loved most about these two particular tracks was one sounded right out of the 50's while the other was current and captured the '90's so perfectly. "CooleyHighHarmony" was the perfect debut for these guys. It set a bar so high that only they could reach (and they did with every release after).

As much as I loved Boyz II Men for their music at the time of release, it’s 26 years later that I appreciate them so much more. As the quality of current R&B is declining (along with music is general), when you listen back, their lyrics had substance, emotion, and passion that was lost somewhere along the way. From this debut to their Christmas album and every release after, they maintained the quality they started with and exceeded our expectations.

Although R&B was created before these guys, they managed to perfect it. They were (and will forever) be the definition and example of what pure unaltered R&B should be. Boyz II Men had the "Midas touch" when it came to ballads. No matter what they were singing about, you felt it, sang along to it and loved it. With a ton of classic tracks in their catalog, Boyz II Men will always be regarded as legendary.

The first song I heard off of CooleyHighHarmony was "Motownphilly". Being a fan of that whole New Jack Swing era, I was instantly a fan. It was catchy, aggressive, and made you want to dance. On the tracklist lineup, this was followed by 3 more similar uptempo paced songs "Under Pressure", "Sympin" and "Little Things", which were cool tracks but didn't have that same magic.

The fast paced music wasn't their strong point anyway, and jumping back to the beginning of the album, it starts off slower & kicks off with one of my favorites "Please Don't Go". Michael, the deep voice vocalist of the group opens the track with his spoken word, which would become a trademark of theirs. The next is "Lonely Heart", "This Is My Heart" and "Uhh Ahh", all slow jams that showcased their strengths. Another favorite was their rendition of "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye", and as a kid this song was sad when associating it with different life events. People would play this for friends and family that passed and I'm sure this was played at a lot of black graduations.

By far, the best song on here was "End Of The Road". I remember playing this song to my "lil girlfriend" in elementary school when we broke up. It's hilarious now. This song was amazing from beginning to end because of the different layers and synchronicity of harmonies, as well as the vulnerability in their vocals. Shawn Stockman & Nathan Morris did a great job of setting the tone and pulling you in while Wanya Morris takes it over the top with his vocals making you feel his pain. Mike gave us a whole verse of him forgiving and pledging his undying love to his cheating girlfriend to come back. The last 35 seconds of the song is chilling when the beat drops and all that's left is them harmonizing over hand claps. I enjoyed this album as a kid and I still do as an adult. It is definitely a classic in my eyes. This was a great debut and start of them being coined the greatest boy band of all time.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, this album possessed so many great songs that it's hard to choose my true favorites. As much as I love "End Of The Road" and "In The Still Of The Night", I don't associate either song with this album, because neither track was featured essentially on the original version of the album. For me, the re-release/re-issue of the album was great, but if I had to pick two songs that I love the most from this album, it would be "Please Don't Go" and "Uhh Ahh". These two tracks showcased the group's strengths as artists. Ballads are their forte and their  best attribute and Wanya, Shawn, and Nathan vocally help to carry every ballad. I did enjoy the vibe of "Motownphilly" as well, as I love the New Jack Swing sound, but it's not my favorite song on this album. In terms of all the upbeat tracks they've done in their career, I would say that "Motownphilly" is probably the best, but once again, this is a reminder that Boyz II Men shined brightest when utilizing slow rhythms and ballads.

At the core, CooleyHighHarmony is a R&B classic more for the impact and the feel of the track than the actual album itself. It is slightly flawed with a few tracks that don't really excite me as a listener years later, but it still doesn't change the fact that Boyz II Men came out the gate swinging and connected with their debut. R&B would never be the same again.



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