Boyz II Men’s “Four Seasons of Solitude”

In The Number Ones, I’m Looking Back at Every #1 Single in History billboard The Hot 100, starting with the charts in 1958, has continued to the present.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but that’s what we’re doing today. From 1992 to 1997, Boyz II Men spent a total of 50 weeks at No. 1. billboard Hot 100 – Two weeks less than a full year and nine weeks less than the Beatles’ history combined. Boyz II Men did it with just 5 #1 hits. The quartet has a crazy habit of breaking chart records with these singles. “end of the road,” “i will have sex with you“Collaboration with Mariah Carey”sweet dayAll temporarily hold the record for longest No. 1 of all time. Boyz II Men must have been weird when 1997’s hit single evolution, their third album, remained at number one for only a week. They must have known something was coming to an end.

Maybe it’s a relief. The world had plenty of time to tire of Boyz II Men during the group’s age of empires. But the Boyz II Men never really had to deal with a public backlash, like overwhelming the block with their one-time leaderboard peers and future new kids on the nostalgia circuit. Instead, when their time came, Boyz II Men exited the winner’s circle quietly and with dignity, and they did so with a utterly memorable song.

In a sense, the Boyz II Men are a throwback even when they arrive – the kind folk singers who ride the new jack-of-all-trades swing dance, but they get the most out of it by evoking the sad splendor of ’70s Philly soul success. For several years, this style has made the Boyz II Men unstoppable. But by the late ’90s, other voices started to enter R&B. Its proximity to rap makes R&B tougher and more streamlined. The savage flash of Puff Daddy and his Bad Boy production team had an impact on R&B, and Timbaland’s spaced-futurism — and all the producers who started trying to sound like Timbaland — also twisted and mutated the genre. Boyz II Men’s former duet partner Mariah Carey adapted to the changes, changing her style to suit the moment. Boyz II Men can’t or won’t do that. “4 Seasons Of Loneliness,” the group’s last hit, was Boyz II Men doing their folk thing—a style that was a little outdated in 1997.

Boyz II Men top charts in 1994″on bent knees” from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, a very successful songwriting and production duo. They recorded the song with Jam and Lewis after a chance meeting at the 1994 NBA All-Star Game in Minneapolis Song. Three years later, with the All-Star Game in Cleveland, Boyz II Men met Jam and Lewis again. (It must be fun to be a celebrity at All-Star Weekend.) Boyz II Men embarked on the difficult task of following up on their wildly successful album two, they want to know when they can return to Minneapolis and work with Jam and Lewis again. Jam and Lewis had just come up with an idea to create a song about heartbreak that was repeated throughout the year, and they submitted it to the group.

The concept of “Lonely 4 Seasons” is simple and a little gimmicky.Here’s how Jimmy Jam explains the idea in Fred Bronson Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits: “Every time the seasons change, something about the seasons reminds you of this girl — like when it snows in winter, or when the flowers bloom in spring.” The two go back and forth on how to structure the song: They should sing in a chorus Split seasons in between, or should all four seasons be crammed into one chorus? They decided to crawl.

Perhaps this decision is why “Four Seasons of Solitude” drifted by without much impression.chorus has a a lot of words, because the concept of the song hinges on describing all these different seasons of loneliness at the same time: “The winter breeze blows and cools the air and flutters the snow/I imagine kissing you under the mistletoe,” etc. There is an inherent technical challenge. The singer needs to convey all these texts without losing the emotional center of the song. The members of Boyz II Men are all technical masters, so there is no problem with the layered syllables of the chorus. But “Boyz II Men” is always at its best when it comes to an overwhelming chorus of monsters, and the “4 Seasons Of Loneiness” melody simply falls short. The song has no emotional payoff. It never leaves you feeling devastated.

Four Seasons of Lonely never felt like a description of a real breakup, at least to me. The central idea of ​​the song—that sadness strikes in different ways over time—is real enough. But Jam and Lewis’ lyrics have no weight or specificity to them. Instead, they just present a different seasonal image with a hint of sadness. All four singers do a fantastic job on this song, layering delicate and lengthy melodies in complex harmonies. But aside from the vocal presentation, I didn’t get much from the track.

“Season 4 Lonely” has some nice little production moments. The Busy Echo Drum Machine mode is a nod to what’s going on elsewhere in R&B, and I love the muted little murmurs of the bass. But the song never jumps out. I would say the video is more memorable than the song itself.Paul Hunt directed a a lot of In 1997’s most popular video, his camera rotates through different landscapes, often accompanied by a distracting swish effect. The colors all pop like crazy, and we get all sorts of gorgeous moments, like zooming out from Sean Stockman’s eyes on the Milky Way.

“4 Seasons of Solitude” was part of a megatrend of late ’90s R&B videos that took place in gleaming, spotless spaceships.A generation Love those videos. The whole trend probably started with another Jam and Lewis work, Michael and Janet Jackson’s “scream“Started in 1995 and continued into the early 2000s. (“Scream” peaked at #5. It was 6.) This visual style was perfect for the psychedelic-cybernetic form of R&B that was popular during that time. It’s an odd match for the sensitive souls in Boyz II Men, who look far more comfortable when they dramatically drop their umbrella in a rainstorm than when they’re driving some kind of sexy enterprise. But I’m glad They tried.

When the Boyz II Men recorded their evolution On the album, they had some clashes with the boss of Motown Records over their direction. The group worked hard to release “4 Seasons Of Loneiness” as the album’s first single. The album itself is filled with the same low-key ballads, though it does feature some tracks produced by Puff Daddy and his colleagues. But Boyz II Men never released those Puffy tracks as singles. (Guest-sampling Puffy/Amen-Ra/Stevie J’s “Can’t Let Her Go” hit No. 23 in the UK, but it never came out as a single in the US.) Times may have changed, but Boyz II Men’s Not interested in leaving their heartbroken folk district.

I really can’t say that “Four Seasons of Solitude” was a failure. Anytime a song reaches #1, the song is a success. But when you compare “Season 4 Lonely” to the massive hits that Boyz II Men got a few years ago, it does seem like a pretty steep drop. evolution Double Platinum – Pretty good, but nowhere near diamond sales two. Boyz II Men follows “4 Seasons Of Loneliness” with another ballad.Babyface wrote and produced “Mama’s Song” and became the subject of this much-loved film soul food. “Mom’s Song” peaked at No. 7, resulting in Boyz II Men’s last top 10. (It’s a 6.)

Boyz II Men never stopped recording after their pop domination ended.The group tours in the back evolution, but they have problems. Boyz II Men had to postpone a series of appointments after Wanya Morris developed polyps on his vocal cords. Bass singer Michael McCurry suffered from poor health, and his multiple sclerosis was a factor in his eventual exit from the band in 2003. The Boyz II Men have been seen as a trio since his departure, and McCary has had occasional one-off reunions.

“4 Seasons of Solitude” wasn’t just Boyz II Men’s last hit; it was also the last on the Motown chart before Universal absorbed the venerable company. Boyz II Men only released one album, 2000s Nathan Michael Sean Wanya, as part of the Universal Machine, that album stagnated in gold. Since then, the Boyz II Men have jumped into several different labels – sometimes primary, sometimes standalone. They appear in cameo appearances in movies, TV shows and commercials. They’ve been performing, and this summer they’re touring the best casinos and amphitheaters in North America.

Boyz II Men featured in an episode of the Netflix show last year it’s pop music, a few people I know talked about it in that episode. (Tribute to Chris Molanphy, another of Slate’s popular chart historians, who did a great job explaining the size of the group.) That episode was about the historically underappreciated Boyz II Men. They were business giants, influenced generations of boy bands, and they’re still there to make people happy. In Boyz II Men’s moment, it’s hard to imagine that group being considered unsung heroes. But that’s how popular history works. The ubiquitous superstar fades away, becoming a footnote in history, and new characters rush in from the wings to take their place. The Boyz II Men ran great. They were the overlords of their time, but we won’t see them again in this column.

grade: 4/10

Bonus beats: Here’s Michigan future bass producer Atu sampling “4 Seasons Of Loneness” from his 2013 track “Let Me”:

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