The Nineties holds the dubious honor of spawning the most music artists from Disney’s ‘Mickey Mouse’ club since Frankie and Annette hit the beach to play bingo. My high school and college experiences were dominated with conversations beginning,’ So, who do you think is cuter- Justin (Timberlake) or Joey (Fatone, both of N*Sync)?
I looked upon the Nineties as the Seventies for my generation; too embarrassed to admit I was ever involved, until I recently borrowed a co-worker’s iPod for my afternoon trek on the treadmill. In my search to find music to get me motivated, I happened upon the complete play list for ‘Cooleyhighharmony’, the 1991 debut album from BoyzIIMen. On the cover, I recognized Nate, Wanya, Mike and Shawn, each dressed in bow ties and ball caps, looking like Carlton Banks, with just a little Will Smith thrown in for added cool and street credibility.
The moment I touched the screen and hit play, I was instantly transported to a place where smooth, mellow, rhythms blended with enough of a hypnotic beat to make me get my groove on. ‘Motownphilly’, the first single, includes a guest appearance by Michael Bivins of the Eighties R&B boy band, ‘New Edition’ and reinvented doo wop by adding hip hop style. The song raced to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number three.
The name of the album, ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ is a reference to the 1975 film classic, ‘Cooley High’, and the album includes an acapella cover of ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday’, which appeared on the original movie soundtrack. The movie is the story of friendship between African-American men, high school seniors trying to make their way out of the poverty and temptations of life in the neighborhood. The album title is appropriate; BoyzIIMen, most noted for their ability for harmony, debut a collection of songs in their freshman effort that embraces the freedom, excitement and uncertainty of growing up. While the ballads are soulful, I cringed ever so slightly when the song intro for ‘Please Don’t Go’ included the following conversation,
‘Mike, it’s over.’
‘Don’t say that baby,’ he responds. ‘
The love is gone,’ she whimpers. ‘Uhh Ahh’, another ballad, is sexy as long as you’re in a college dorm making out-and it’s 1991. Slow grooves such as, ‘This is My Heart’ and up tempo mixes ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Sympin’ Ain’t Easy’ contributed to BoyzIIMen’s 1992 Grammy award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group or Duo. “End of the Road’, a contribution to the Eddie Murphy movie, ‘Boomerang’ can be found on extended versions of the original album.
BoyzIIMen went on to top the charts and in 1999 Billboard magazine bestowed the honor of ‘Top Pop Single of the 90’s’ on their 1996 hit, ‘One Sweet Day.’ Among the Nineties many forgettable artists and plaid skirted moments, ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ stands out as a positive, credible contribution to the world of music.
Sources: billboard.com, rockonthenet,com, amazon.com and Entertainment Weekly