Rewinding the Charts: In 1992, Boyz II Men Took the High 'Road'
Twenty-three years ago, the act synonymous with harmonies logged a then-record 13 weeks atop the Hot 100 with its first No. 1.
By 1992, Boyz II Men was on the rise with its mass-appeal mix of smooth R&B and new jack swing. The act had arrived the year before with two smash singles: the uptempo "Motownphilly," which soared to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a cappella ballad "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye," which fared even better, peaking at No. 2 for four weeks. Both songs were from Boyz II Men's debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, which would go on to spend 133 weeks on the Billboard 200.
With the group's next trip to the Hot 100's top 10, the then-quartet – Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman – logged its first No. 1, making history in the process. Released from the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang, "End of the Road" topped the Hot 100 dated Aug. 15, 1992. By the time the tight-harmonied, hopeful ballad wrapped its No. 1 run with a 13th week in charge in the Nov. 7, 1992, Billboard issue, it stood as the longest-leading topper in the chart's archives. (It had bested two 10-week No. 1s: Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life," from 1977, and Olivia Newton-John's 1981 classic workout anthem "Physical.")
"End" truly marked a beginning for Boyz II Men. The act would add four more Hot 100 No. 1s through 1997, including its 1995 double-powerhouse Mariah Carey duet "One Sweet Day," which gave back Boyz II Men the record for longest-ruling No. 1 that still stands: 16 weeks (after Whitney Houston had wrested the mark away in February 1993 when "I Will Always Love You" linked its 14th week atop the chart; notably, the adoption of Nielsen Music data in late 1991 led to longer reigns for many Hot 100 No. 1s). The group is the only act with three No. 1s that have each led for at least 13 weeks – "I'll Make Love to You" reigned for 14 frames in 1994 – and its 50 total frames on top trail only the sums of Carey (79), the Beatles (59) and Rihanna (51).
Meanwhile, Boyz II Men would prove influential in shaping the sound of the '90s. Acts including All-4-One, Jodeci and Shai, among others, would also top Billboard charts with similar blends of harmonies and hip-hop.
While Boyz II Men, which became a trio when McCary left in 2003, last hit the Hot 100 in 2001, it reached the Billboard 200's top 40 as recently as November 2014, when its 11th studio release, Collide, scored a No. 37 peak. The set upped the group's to-date U.S. album sales to 25 million, according to Nielsen Music.
"We were around the world for almost two years," Nathan Morris recalled to Billboard in 2014 of Boyz II Men's early '90s whirlwind. "We were a lot younger then, so we didn't really care. Two hours of sleep, and keep it moving!"
A version of this article first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of Billboard magazine.