NEW YORK (Reuters) - In 1991, Boyz II Men arrived on the pop music scene with their own brand of R&B that peppered Motown-like harmonies with New Jack Swing, a genre that fused R&B, hip-hop and pop music.
The following year their wrenching ballad “End of the Road” sent the Philadelphia natives to international superstardom, and Tuesday, the band releases “Twenty,” a double-disc album of new and revisited material commemorating the 20th anniversary of their debut album, “Cooleyhighharmony.”
“Twenty” reunites Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman with “End of the Road” producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Their latest single, “One Up for Love,” the video for which premiered last Friday, was produced by Edmonds.
“There’s a song for every person, a song for each day,” Boyz II Men singer Wanya Morris told Reuters.
“It’s autumn so the leaves are changing and it gives me a ‘So Amazing’ vibe,” he added, referencing a new mid-tempo track produced by the hitmaking duo Tim & Bob.
“Tomorrow, if I’m feeling more romantic,” Morris continued, “I may want to listen to something like ‘Slowly,’” which is the album’s slinky ballad that also was produced by Tim & Bob.
The 20-song collection is comprised of 12 new original tracks and eight newly-recorded versions of classics like “Motownphilly,” “I’ll Make Love to You,” and “On Bended Knee.”
“When we first did the songs they were just given to us and we went into the studio and got it done,” explained Nathan Morris. “But now we’ve been singing them for so long and even experienced some of the stuff that we’ve been singing about ... we’re able to express them a lot better.”
The group marvels at how far they — and the record industry overall — has changed in 20 years.
“When we came out there wasn’t even an Internet! No Internet!” said Wanya Morris. “Everything is digital now and it’s easier to get your talent out fast.”
But Wanya is careful not to discount celebrities like Justin Bieber whose career was launched on YouTube.
Bieber, who was born the same year that Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” was a hit, counts the group among his influences, and he and Boyz II Men recorded a song together for the teen star’s upcoming Christmas album.
“(It) was the perfect avenue for us to do something different because it’s the type of record that doesn’t matter how old you are or who you are, it doesn’t matter, as long as the song sounds great,” said Wanya Morris.
While many Boyz II Men-inspired acts such as 98 Degrees have come and gone in the last two decades, Wanya Morris attributes his group’s longevity to their homegrown bonds. The trio met while students at The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
“Most of the time you have solo artists that come together to form a group, and they’re often contrived by a record label or a manager — just four or five guys who look like models or TV stars,” said Wanya. “Boyz II Men, we came together through music.”
To be sure, there have been differences among the group over the years. Originally a quartet, the group saw the exit of original member Michael McCary in 2003.
Although health issues were cited at the time, Nathan Morris says now that McCrary “kind of got lazy” and that “it wasn’t an amicable separation.”
Now, the band struggles with being called legends because, they say, there is much more music to come.
“Legendary status is usually reached at the end of your career. We’re just beginning a new chapter in ours,” said Wanya Morris. “We hope that title is still representative of who we are when we put out the record ‘Forty’!”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte