Boyz II Men: They’ve still got it

Paul John Caña

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Boyz II Men: They’ve still got it
The bestselling group behind 'On Bended Knee' and 'Water Runs Dry' returns to Manila and proves why it's one of the best male R&B groups ever

MANILA, Philippines – The last time Boyz II Men was in the Philippines was in 2010 but there are no signs that their local fan base is diminishing.

If anything, the thick crowds that packed the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night, September 17, seem to suggest that us Pinoys’ love affair with the popular American R&B act is only getting stronger with age. (READ: Boyz II Men to return to Manila for 2014 concert)

The trio of Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman (fourth member Michael McRary left the group due to health reasons in 2003) appeared onstage at exactly 9 pm, after the big screen flashed several trivia questions and a short video clip featuring highlights from the Boyz II Men’s over 20-year history.

All 3 wore matching white short-sleeved button downs and black trousers. Founding member Nathan wore a black baseball cap, Wanya a white one, while Shawn, the slimmest member, kept it simple without any headgear.

They immediately launched into their back-to-back opening songs – “Believe” and “Muzak” – but there was an embarrassing moment when Wanya sang into a microphone that didn’t work. Shawn acted quickly and handed him his own mic, then casually walked over to the tech guys near the stage to replace the malfunctioning mic.  

That proved to be the only glitch in an otherwise excellent production. Nathan, Wanya, and Shawn are certainly closer to men than boys. They seemed to struggle a tiny bit with the high notes in their songs, but if they were out to prove that they’ve still got what it takes to impress a coliseum-full of people, then they certainly succeeded.  

IN HARMONY. Boyz II Men sings a song for the audience. Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

Boyz II Men were one of the bestselling acts of the 1990s, in any genre. Their biggest-selling album, II, released in 1994, sold over 12 million copies in the United States. To put that into perspective, last year’s bestselling album in the US was Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, which moved a paltry 2.43 million copies. II contained some of the group’s biggest hits, including “I’ll Make Love To You,” “On Bended Knee” and “Water Runs Dry.”  

Not surprisingly, it was when the group performed these songs that audience response was most chaotic and enthusiastic. Security tried to restrain the mostly female crowd that descended on the stage when the trio started on “I’ll Make Love To You,” with each member handing out roses to heighten the illusion of romance. Burly bouncers swept the crowds back to their seats afterwards, as if there was any real danger that could befall the artists from a group of overeager fans. (Then again, one can’t be too careful these days).  

ROMANTIC MOMENT. Boyz II Men giving out flowers during one of their song numbers. Photo  by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

Boyz II Men encouraged the crowd to stand up and dance along when they did a Motown set, and busted out the boyband moves when they performed hits from their Cooleyhighharmony days. It was a bit disconcerting to see middle-aged men dancing like teenagers to songs from 20 years ago, but you can’t say the trio didn’t try everything to make sure audiences have a good time. The entertainment value was definitely there.

One of their most applauded numbers (and certainly one of the most digitally recorded that night) was when they sang “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” a capella. It may not have been the same as when they performed it all those years ago, but the group proved that they still possessed their amazing vocal harmonization skills, a key strength in their act. 

Many in the audience were in their late 20s to early to mid-40s, a demographic that would best appreciate the music of Boyz II Men as they caught them during their prime, when their music was practically ubiquitous in the airwaves. Although Nathan said the group was dropping a brand new album next month, it’s safe to say that the appeal of the group will forever be from the nostalgia factor. They sang the ballads that are in the soundtrack of our youth, and any time they come back to sing these songs for us live, there’s little doubt that many of us will be there always ready to listen.  –


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