Boyz II Men Weren’t Impressed With Their First Number 1 Song
In the 1990s, Boyz II Men were the hottest vocal group in the music industry. They made a splash on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from their debut, with their first two singles reaching the number two and number three spots. But when music moguls Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and L.A. Reid presented them with what would be their first number-one single, they were less than thrilled with what they heard.
Babyface and L.A. Reid were in a band together
Babyface and Reid first met in the 1980s as members of the funk and R&B band The Deele; Babyface played the keyboard while Reid played the drums.
The Deele released music throughout the 1980s. Their biggest hit, “Two Occasions” from their third album Eyes of a Stranger, was released in 1988 and went on to reach number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the group parted ways before the single became successful.
After The Deele broke up, Reid and “Babyface” founded LaFace Records in 1989 with the help of Arista Records creator and music industry legend Clive Davis. LaFace quickly became a top-tier home for popular Black artists who made music that appealed to both “urban” and “mainstream” audiences.
At the turn of the 1990s, Boyz II Men was one of those groups with broad appeal to cross over from the Black entertainment market to the mainstream, which was dominated by white artists.
Boyz II Men weren’t impressed by ‘End of the Road’
Boyz II Men had already burst onto the scene in 1991 with their debut single “Motownphilly,” which ended up reaching the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their follow-up single, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” reached number two.
Boyz II Men was signed to Motown Records after being discovered by New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe member Michael Bivins. When Reid was given the opportunity to do the soundtrack for Boomerang, a 1992 movie starring Eddie Murphy, Bivins was his first call. Reid told Bivins that he wanted Boyz II Men to sing the song “End of the Road” from the movie’s soundtrack, and he was thrilled to let the band members know.
Bivins was excited to play the song for the members of Boyz II Men. But they weren’t happy with what they heard. “When it’s over, I’m like, ‘So, what do you think?'” Bivins recalled in a 2021 episode of the Netflix docuseries This is Pop. “And then they go, ‘It’s alright.'”
Boyz II Men broke Billboard records
Group members Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris, and Shawn Stockman reflected on their first impressions of the track. “Wan and I liked it,” Stockman said. “Nate, not so much. He thought it was just OK.” Stockman confirmed that it was Nathan Morris who gave Bivins the “Eh, it’s alright” reaction.
Of course, they ended up recording the song, and it ended up becoming Boyz II Men’s first single to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It remained at the top of the chart for a record-breaking 13 weeks.
Boyz II Men would continue to break their own records on the Billboard charts throughout the ’90s. Their 1994 single “I’ll Make Love to You” spent 14 consecutive weeks at the top of the chart, and their soaring ballad with Mariah Carey, “One Sweet Day,” was number one for 16 weeks.
Boyz II Men maintained their hold on the record for longest-running number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for nearly two decades. In 2019, Lil Nas X shattered the group’s longtime record after “Old Town Road” spent 19 consecutive weeks atop the chart.
“It makes sense that ‘Old Town Road’ did what it did,” Stockman told Billboard at the time. “It’s the biggest song of the year… I congratulate Lil Nas X. Dude, congrats.”