THEY are the biggest selling R&B group of all time.
But, despite worldwide success, Boyz II Men did not always aspire to fame and fortune, the vocal group’s tenor Wanya Morris explained to H2 Review.
‘‘For us the dream was to be able to sing for girls,’’ Morris, 39, laughed.
‘‘You know, we used to walk down the street and the actual subways and sing in the hope to get girls, you know what I mean?
‘‘It wasn’t even like a dream I guess to become an artist or stars or anything like that.
‘‘It was like ‘Yo, we walkin’ down the street and we can sing harmonies and just draw girls over to us, so continue to do that and do it good, because we could possibly get some lovin’ in this situation’,’’ he laughed.
Boyz II Men formed in 1988 at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, taking their name from the title of a song by R&B boy band of the time New Edition – one of their biggest influences.
They signed a deal with Motown Records and released the debut album Cooleyhighharmony in 1991, marking their rise as the most successful R&B group in history with album sales topping more than 60million.
In the ’90s they ruled charts around the globe with a string of No.1 singles – mostly of the emotional ballad variety – including End of the Road, One Sweet Day, I’ll Make Love to You and On Bended Knee.
Their record-breaking success ranks Boyz II Men among a select group of artists that have held the No.1 spot for at least 50 weeks cumulatively, placing fourth on the list behind Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Mariah Carey.
‘‘It blows my mind because the success that happened to Boyz II Men couldn’t be forecast,’’ Morris said.
‘‘We didn’t have an idea. We was just tryna’ sing and walk down the street, like I said, looking for girls.
‘‘So for all of those things to transpire out of what we just loved to do – and that’s sing – it couldn’t be forecast.
‘‘It’s just about music and we just happened to be the vehicle that the Lord chose to spread the love.
‘‘I’m happy about it cos man, I love singing them songs.’’
Two decades on, Boyz II Men are still going strong as a three-piece comprising Morris alongside Shawn Stockman and Nathan Morris (bass singer Michael McCary left in 2003 due to chronic back problems).
In January, Boyz II Men were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the trio have a new double album, Twenty, celebrating the group’s 20-year career with re-recorded versions of their biggest hits, along with 12 new tracks recorded with the producers, including Babyface and Teddy Riley, who were the brains behind some of the group’s trademark songs in the ’90s.
‘‘We wanted to recreate the nostalgia definitely by working with those producers, but still we wanted to make it about the music and the lyrical content,’’ Morris said.
‘‘It’s a Boyz II Men record with new sentiment and new value and hopefully it will take people to the next level of what we’re trying to express as musicians.’’
Boyz II Men are touring Australia this month, including a concert in Newcastle as well as sold-out shows in Sydney and Melbourne, where second dates have been added to meet demand.
Morris said the group could never break up.
‘‘We’re brothers, you know what I’m sayin’? We actually understand each other, respect each other and we just know that the goal is music and we all are about the same thing when it comes to it, so I can’t see something being so beautiful and letting it go because of any type of situation,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s one of those things where we just brothers. Brothers do that. Friends, they can stop being friends. Brothers can never stop being brothers.’’
So how do Morris and his brothers look back on the band’s fashion choices (think preppy knitted sweaters and bow ties) and overtly heartfelt music videos of the ’90s?
‘‘Well, the videos were really fun to film. The songs held such sentiment to a lot of people, especially to us because we’d recorded it, so I think that the emotions expressed in the video was actually what pulled on the heartstrings of the viewers and the listeners.’’
‘‘So I’m tellin’ you, man, we had on some funny outfits, we might of had on bow ties and all that but they was loving it!’’
Boyz II Men perform at Newcastle Panthers on November 20.