“Motownphilly’s back again!” for one special evening at the Crown Theatre.
Legendary R&B group Boyz II Men will take to the stage Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in a concert Fayetteville fans aren’t likely to forget. With their multi-octave vocals and universal themes on loss, love and family, the generational appeal of Boyz II Men is solidified by those who remember their hits from the early 90s and newer listeners who’ve come to know them as the genre-crossing elder statesmen of R&B they are today.
In a career spanning over three decades, Boyz II Men, known for their distinctive vocal harmonies, is considered the best-selling R&B group of all time. With hits like “End of the Road,” “A Song for Mama,” and “On Bended Knee,” Boyz II Men, over the years, has spent a combined 50 weeks in the top spot on the Billboard Music Charts, a distinction shared only with the likes of Rhianna, The Beatles, Drake and Elvis — to name a few.
Formed in 1985 at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Boyz II Men was discovered by Michael Bivins of New Edition and then signed to Motown records.
The label, which touted stars such as Diana Ross and the Jackson 5, found true star power in the young quartet, consisting of Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris, and Michael McCrary, who would go on to release six albums together.
In a move to bring R&B music back into the mainstream as it had been 20 years prior, Boyz II Men was successful in moving the traditional “Motown Sound” to less traditional audiences. Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, hailed them as a group “that could have been as much a part of the original Motown as it is the current company.”
Following the departure of McCrary in 2003 due to health concerns, Boyz II Men continued as a trio, releasing another seven albums between 2004 and 2017. Today, the group continues to tour and collaborate with other artists across all genres. In 2019 the R&B group was nominated for a Country Music Award for their work with country music artist Brett Young. That same year, Boyz II Men collaborated with Charlie Puth on the well-received “If You Leave Me Now” and opened for Bruno Mars on his 24K Magic Tour, creating new fans along the way.
The “hip hop doo-wop,” which marked their earlier sound under the direction of Michael Bivins and his group Bell Biv Devoe, gave way to the soulful ballads and skillful a capella which skyrocketed them to stardom in the early to mid-90s. Blending pop, soul, hop-hop and elements of gospel, the Boyz II Men brand was synonymous with talent and cross-over appeal. With over 64 million records sold, four Grammy wins, nine American Music Awards, three Billboard Awards, nine Soul Train Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a successful Las Vegas residency, Boyz II Men are, to this day, considered the gold standard in music entertainment.
As one of the most successful and visible R&B groups of the 90s, Boyz II Men is a model of industry excellence that has heavily influenced mega-stars like Beyonce, Usher and Justin Timberlake. Often dressed in their trademark jeans, sweater vests, and collared shirts, Boyz II Men has achieved and maintained astounding longevity without losing touch with their roots or fans.
For all their time in the spotlight, the group has managed to sidestep the more unsavory aspects of fame that have overtaken the careers of many of their contemporaries. They’ve maintained an image of wholesomeness, class and likability which speaks to their universal appeal — they just seem like really nice guys.
Beyond the Stage
In the years since their debut album, “Cooleyhighharmony,” hit the airwaves, Boyz II Men has also succeeded in sectors beyond the stage.
In 2020, the band launched a line of wines, appropriately called Harmony Wines, which feature grapes grown with Boyz II Men’s smooth, rich music playing in the background. In addition to their entrepreneurial pursuits, the band also runs a charity called Boyz II Men House which “lends support to individuals and organizations that focus on improving quality of life and helping to unlock human potential, while contributing to the health and vitality of those less fortunate,” according to a concert press release.
It’s then fitting that The Boyz II Men concert event is part of the 87th season of Community Concerts, Fayetteville’s oldest arts organization.
Started in 1935, Community Concerts’ chief objective is to bring “the finest in top-notch entertainment to Fayetteville.” Originally, Community Concerts endeavored to bring in more serious artists, such as dueling pianists, classical musicians, and operettas. Around 30 years ago, generational shifts moved the needle toward popular music, which has proven to be a successful transition.
After the massive success of pop trio The Letterman, Community Concerts moved from then-Methodist College to the Crown Theatre, where it remains to this day. Since its initial foray into more contemporary music, the Crown stage has hosted artists such as Tony Bennett, Olivia Newton-John, and Kenny Rogers. Most recently, Community Concert hosted 70s sensation Earth Wind & Fire last October and superstar country music group Alabama in December.
Michael Fleishmann, Community Concerts’ long-term Attractions Director, spoke about the organization’s efforts to enrich the community.
“This has become a very well-respected arts organization,” he shared with Up & Coming Weekly. “We try to be very diverse. We’ve done rock, country, Broadway, comedians, even magicians — we try to appeal to all ages and genders."
One exciting element of the Boyz II Men concert is the return of the Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame, created by Community Concerts in 2008. It has been on hiatus since the rise of COVID-19 three years ago.
The Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame honors those who have brought “musical distinction to the community.” Honorees include the owner of Daxwood Records, Doyle Wood, and the 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus.
A season, which typically takes 5-6 months to put together, is an effort Fleishmann is proud to be a part of, citing the city’s consistent support of art and artists within the community.
“Fayetteville really has a lot of wonderful art opportunities,” he commented. “Community Concerts has been very fortunate; the community and city have supported us for years, for generations. There are people who come to our shows who have been with us for 30 years.”
Ultimately, no matter who comes to the stage, the community and the people who live here are the real stars of the show.
“It’s all about doing something nice for Fayetteville,” Fleishmann admitted. “We do it for the community.”
Tickets for the Boyz II Men Concert range from $59-$139 and are selling out fast. To purchase, visit https://www.crowncomplexnc.com/events/detail/boz-ii-men.