You awkwardly danced to “End of the Road” at your middle school dances. You sang along to “I'll Make Love to You” on the radio, even if you didn't fully understand the subject matter. “Motownphilly” will always be back again.
After taking a break for several years, the Boyz behind these early '90s classics — Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman (bass singer Michael McCary left the group in 2003 due to health issues) — are back. Taking time off from their Las Vegas residency, various TV gigs and recording a new album, Boyz II Men perform tonight at Staples Center. It's part of their Package Tour, which also features boy bands 98° Degrees and headliners New Kids on the Block.
Boyz II Men are the openers, and perform 30 minutes of their most familiar tunes. Nonetheless, the sound of screaming women is just as loud now as it was twenty years ago, says Stockman and Nathan Morris. “We were blessed with Ferraris to drive,” says the latter, speaking of their song catalog metaphorically. “The women fell in love with those cars.” Below, they discuss their biggest hits!
“It's So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday” (1991)
Stockman: That was a song from another soundtrack to an old movie from the late seventies called Cooley High, and was actually the inspiration for us naming our first album after that movie. Our manager at the time thought it was a good idea for us to remake it a capella, because that's how we actually got our deal, by singing a capella for him.
When we were talking about that being a single, Jheryl Busby, the president of our record label at the time, didn't think it was a good idea. He thought it wouldn't do well and fought us on it, but gave in eventually, saying like, “Well, it's your career.” So we released it, and it went to number one. He kind of had to eat his words. Being the president of the label he didn't have to do this, but he came to us and said, “You were right, and I was wrong. Congratulations.”
Morris: That was a song that Shawn and I wrote. Our manager suggested we write a song called Motownphilly, and we didn't even really know what that meant, but we came up with some lyrics about where we got started and where we were going. Every group has an introduction song. We had no idea it would do what it did. that's another one where the video was extremely innovative with the colors and the angles. The beat section was just something that I stuck in because we didn't have anything written for the bridge. I suggested throwing in one of the scales we had learned in high school choir class, and now that's the signature of the song.
“End of the Road” (1992)
Stockman: This song had to be sometime in the summer, because we were on tour with MC Hammer. Babyface was working on the soundtrack for an Eddie Murphy movie called Boomerang, and he wanted us to do a song on that soundtrack. On one of our days off, we went to Studio Four in Philadelphia, the same place where we recorded our first album Cooleyhighharmony and recorded “End of the Road” in three hours. We went back on the road and heard it was climbing the charts and then that it had hit number one. We didn't have time really enjoy the success of the single because we were constantly busy, but it broke Elvis Presley's record for longest number one single in Billboard history.
“I'll Make Love to You” (1994)
Morris: That was the first single off of our second album. We didn't want it to be the single, because we felt sounded too much like “End of the Road,” and we wanted to innovate. We had a huge fight with our label about that. We were yelling and fighting on the phone with our label president Jheryl Busby, and his last words were “We're going to put this single out because we feel it's the best, and you need to be grown men, roll up your sleeves and deal with it,” and he hung up. It was a number one record. We called him and told him he was right.
Water Runs Dry: (1995)
Morris: Water Runs Dry was an interesting song because at the time it wasn't what you would hear a black group sing. It was more of a folk-ey song, and more pop than you would hear an R&B group sing at the time. That song and the video helped that song propel to where it got to.
One Sweet Day: (1995)
Stockman: We got a call from Tommy Mottola, who was Mariah Carey's husband at the time, and he said Mariah wanted to do a song with us. We flew out to New York, met Mariah, she told us the concept of the song she wanted to write, and coincidentally Nathan was writing a song very similar in subject matter, so we meshed those two songs together and wrote the song in an hour. We recorded it a few months later at Sony Studios in New York, went back on tour, and the song started blowing up. That song spent 16 weeks at number one, breaking our previous record from “I'll Make Love to You.” It was another crazy occurrence of a song doing really well and us not really noticing because we were working too hard.
The Package Tour hits the Staples Center on Friday, July 5