Original boy band back in limelight

By Ross Purdie

Trio mark 20th anniversary with world tour and credit Justin Bieber for helping them find wider audience.

Boyz II Men says their shows are now family affairs. Photo / Supplied
Boyz II Men says their shows are now family affairs. Photo / Supplied

Boyz II Men says their shows are now family affairs. Boyz II Men once described themselves as "the most popular unpopular group in the world", a declaration based on their peculiar love-or-loathe reputation with music fans.

Often credited for kick-starting the boy band craze, the R&B crooners are the fourth highest grossing group of the 1990s with over 60 million album sales and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Their singles One Sweet Day, I'll Make Love To You and End Of The Road hold the top three places for the longest-running US No1 songs, putting them behind only Elvis, The Beatles and Mariah Carey on time spent at the top of the charts.

But despite the gold discs and accolades, the group has encountered its share of haters.

After a shift from clean-cut pop around the millennium, Boyz II Men's emotive balladry and cap-and-suit fashion quickly became the butt of jokes.

They were dropped by two labels, Universal and Arista, and forced to downsize from arena concerts to gigs in distant markets such as Indonesia and China.

Throughout their changing fortunes and several line-ups, Boyz II Men persevered for the sake of the music and despite a short touring break, they never officially split.

As tastes have gradually turned back to more authentic styles of songwriting, the harmonising trio have come back in vogue.

At a recent 4000-capacity show in London the group were pleading with fans to quieten down so they could hear their own voices through the monitors.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary with a world tour, Boyz II Men - comprising Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris - are glad they stuck to their guns.

"We know that being together for 20 years is a feat for any band, and we know that because of a lot of imitators have come and gone in that time," says Wanya Morris over the phone from New Jersey.

"Real music is what put Boyz II Men together and real music will always triumph regardless of whatever's going on with changing tastes of fashions."

One young fan who always appreciated the value of Boyz II Men was Justin Bieber, who invited the group to perform on his Never Say Never film.

Having also recorded with him on Bieber's Christmas album, Boyz II Men are thankful to the teen star for opening up a new audience.

"For us it was awesome because it's introduced us to a whole new audience and now our shows are family affairs, with kids singing along to all the songs," says Morris.

Live preview

Who: Boyz II Men, old-school boy band
When and where: Wellington's Opera House, Dec 2; Napier's Pettigrew Green Arena, Dec 3; Auckland's Logan Campbell Centre Dec 4; Hamilton's Claudelands Arena, Dec 5

- AAP

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