Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Classic Album Review: Boyz II Men, "II"

Boyz II Men first sauntered their way onto the music scene with their debut album, "Cooleyhighharmony", in 1991. The album wasn't just a simple breakthrough, by the end of the decade it would become on of the best selling debut albums of all time, but the point being that a new R&B group had hit the music scene, and they had the chance to be one of the biggest ever.

Their sound was different that anything else that was coming out at that time, a sort of eclectic mix of hip-hop and doo-wop, old school jazz flavor mixed in with some contemporary style. It was clear from the first album that this group would be doing big things in the music industry.

The album had that rare mix of great singles with several cuts that could have just as easily been hits, the ultimate measure of a release that is both commercially and creatively successful. What could they do for a follow-up?

With the release of their second album, the simply titled, "II", the 'Boyz' assured their spot at the top of the charts and as the most successful group of the right now (well, the 'right then' aka the 90's).

Released in 1994, "II" eventually won the Grammy for Best R&B album, but it also made the group bonafide stars. The album contained multiple number one singles, and helped lovers the set the mood for years upon years to come.

The album is filled with some fantastic, soulful, and beautiful sounding tracks. The singles "I'll Make Love to You" and "On Bended Knee" are obviously great, but "Yesterday", "Water Runs Dry", and "All Around the World" are quality pieces as well.

"I'll Make Love to You" is one of the group's most recognizable and successful songs. The track spent two months on top of the charts, only to be knocked down by another Boyz II Men track. The song is a ballad in its purest form and hits on some romantic high notes, while also being a mature and soulful track.

The track became a platinum-selling single, won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and two American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Single and Favorite Soul/R&B Single.

Anyone who was listening to the radio around this time knows the chorus like the back of their hand. The group croons to every lady out there: "I'll make love to you/Like you want me to/And I'll hold you tight/Baby all through the night/I'll make love to you/When you want me to/And I will not let go/Till you tell me to."

"On Bended Knee" is another very recognizable, but fantastic track off the album. The track was written and produced by Babyface, and it shows with its harmonious melody and soulful lyrics.

This track was the one that finally bumped "I'll Make Love To You" out of the top spot on the charts and it was the first time that an act had replaced itself at number one since the Beatles' heyday, when "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", and "Can't Buy Me Love" held the top of the chart for a total of twelve weeks. That's quite some company to join.

The track is extremely well written, and has some of the best lyrics on the album and the Boyz swoon: "Can we go back to the days our love was strong/Can you tell me how a perfect love goes wrong/Can somebody tell me how to get things back/The way they use to be/Oh God give me a reason/I'm down on bended knee/I'll never walk again until you come back to me/I'm down on bended knee."

"All Around the World" is one of my personal favorite tracks on the album, partially because of its more upbeat nature. The French intro is as funky as it is fitting, with the group reciting their world travels and female conquests. Boyz II Men is global, and they prove it here.

I love the swagger and smoothness of this track, with the group rejoicing: "…Keisha, Kelly, Tonya, Stacy, Mica and LaShaun/Kathy, Trina, Carla, Lisa, Cheri, and Diane/All these girls around the world are fly in every land/And it's hard to choose, but there's one for every man/Boyz II Men back around the world/And were comin' through your town
All we do is for you/'Cause you've always been there/And we appreciate you."

Boyz II Men proved here on "II" that they were not just another cut of the cloth R&B group. They truly were in a class all by themselves, perfecting their craft on this album, and winning over a few ladies in the process.

One of the strongest points of this album is the arrangements and fine tuning of production. Everything is clean and smooth and really helps to make this album a sum of all its parts.

All in all, "II" ended up going 12 times platinum by the time it was all said and done. And that's not a typo either, Twelve times. Sure, a good amount of albums have done that, such as "Led Zeppellin II" and "Purple Rain" by Prince, but not too many have.

Boys II Men may or may not be the best R&B group of all time, but one thing is clear, no modern day group can hold a candle to what they did on this effort. It's their crowning achievement, and definitely a classic, and not just a classic in their genre.

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