RS500 #495: Boyz II Men — II

Year Released: 1994

Have I Heard This Before?: If you were to ask, “Kevin, have you listened to this specific album before,” the answer would be no. Having said that, I was alive and cognizant of things like music in the 1990s, so yes, I have definitely heard my fair share of Boyz II Men.

High Points: Look, I’m a fairly cynical guy. The world has made me a curmudgeonly asshole, as it has for most people (especially people who write about music.) However, I’m not going to be the guy who tells you that you’re wrong for liking “I’ll Make Love To You” and “On Bended Knee” because you’re not. Those songs fucking rule, and they’re standards for a reason. They both exemplify everything about II that works; namely, the group’s unmistakable vocal power and their ability to craft tender ballads. When they slow things down, Boyz II Men are at their best.

Low Points: While they’re incredible balladeers, I would argue that Boyz II Men are merely okay at making real party jams; the more upbeat moments on II are the album’s weakest. Also, this suffers from that CD-era album issue of everything just being way too long; both some of the track lengths and the album’s length as a whole scream “We can fit 70 minutes of music on one CD and goddamnit, we’re going to try.”

Loose Thoughts: I’ve yet to talk about the list as a whole, but this is one aspect that will come up later in terms of how critical discourse has changed. The 2003 edition paid little, if any, attention to 90’s R&B, both because it was relatively recent and because critics at the time were older, whiter, and thus reluctant to take the genre seriously. While I don’t think that II is the best example of where R&B went in the ’90s (better examples will come later), it’s interesting to see it here.

Rating: This gets a Good from me solely on the strength of its singles; otherwise, it would be a Meh. But if you have two good singles that are as good as “I’ll Make Love To You” and “On Bended Knee,” that’s worth a higher rating in my book.

A somewhat exhaustive run-through of Rolling Stone’s updated 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list to see if they’re all truly great.