To this day, I still get gushy and excited for these sentimental songs.
As the holidays are quickly approaching I can’t help but get excited about breaking out my Christmas tunes. One of my favorites is “Let It Snow” by Boyz II Men featuring Brian McKnight, from their album Christmas Interpretations. It’s just a shred of the vast repertoire of songs the talented men have given us over the last 20 years. So do yourself a favor and buy that album; you will not be disappointed.
I first discovered Boyz II Men during my days watching The Box, the music video station you’d call in to the request your favorites. Do, do-do, do-do the piano and saxophone collide to introduce “I’ll Make Love to You” followed by the strings. I was a bit mesmerized by the song. And while six-year-old me had no idea what the words meant, I definitely couldn’t stop swaying and watching the video as it played.
After that day, I would go on to hear “Bended Knee” and “Water Runs Dry,” which equally kept me intrigued and wanting this love they sang about. I’m sure you’re judging my age as these songs are all from their third album II, but so be it. These songs about love, forgiveness, and being taken for granted are what connected me to Boyz II Men, and also showed me what real music felt like.
As I grew older, I went back to listen to Cooleyhighharmony, which featured “Motown Philly” and the classic “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.” I believe we’ve all shed a tear or two to that (aforementioned) one. Vocally, it possessed crisp harmonies. Lyrically, it told the story of the end of something real, be it a relationship, high school, or friendship. You knew your words would never quite convey what you felt, so you let Wanya, Shawn, Nathan, and Michael say it for you while you lamented the loss.
The next album, Evolution, would solidify their place in my heart with singles including “4 Seasons of Loneliness,” “A Song for Mama,” and “Doin’ Just Fine.” While not well received by critics, I remembered that year when Mother’s Day came, all the boys at church serenaded their mothers with “A Song for Mama.” It’s a song not only boys can sing, but any child to his or her parent.
“When you said goodbye, I felt so all alone/ There were times at night I couldn’t sleep/ My heart was much too weak to make it on my own,” Wanya crooned. “Baby after all the misery and pain you put me through/ So unfair to me girl, you’re no longer my world/ And I ain’t missing you at all…”
Every time Wanya sang that part, I sang along as if I had experienced it, too, when in fact, I hadn’t even come close. But of course, as life would have it, years later I would be able to truly understand the emotion behind it for myself, especially the “I’m doin’ just fine/ time made me stronger you’re no longer on my mind” part.
What I found most intriguing about this song was the video. In it, you see beautiful harbor views and each man taking his lady on what seem to be a romantic adventures. However, by the end, you realize how oxymoronic it is, as these dates were only meant to tease their former lovers: It was their “I told you so” moment. “See baby when you walked away, you didn’t think that it would end up this way/ But I knew you’d be coming ’round someday, just as sure as my name is Wanya.”
Thinking it over, I’m certain that Boyz II Men is the real reason I fell in love with ballads. To this day, I still get gushy and excited for these sentimental songs. I look for one on every album I review because for me, ballads tell the real story of the album and uncover the message.
Since Evolution, Boyz II Men has given us eight more albums: Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, Full Circle, Throwback, Vol. 1, The Remedy, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA, Love, Twenty, and Collide. On each of them I’ve loved a few songs such as “Thank You in Advance,” “I Finally Know,” “Color of Love,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “When I Fall in Love,” “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” and “Losing Sleep.”
And through the albums, we’ve seen the Boyz grow, mature, and create music that does more than work for that moment, but for decades to come. Do yourself a favor: If Boyz II Men is ever in your city performing with the orchestra, go! You will not be disappointed. Plus, if you think the CD sounds good, the live, full-orchestra versions of “I’ll Make Love to You,” “On Bended Knee,” “Water Runs Dry,” and “A Song for Mama” will blow you away—and you may get to meet them, too. (Bonus!)
For all the love you so eloquently and emotionally sang about to heartbreaking realizations of loved ones, Boyz II Men, you’ve shown me and the rest of world what it means to feel, to be alive, and to dream. From high school friends at Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts to chart-topping, international Billboard history makers, I hope everyone (younger generations included) finds just one song that makes them understand a smidgeon of the impact Boyz II Men has had in music since they began more than 20 years ago.