Shawn Stockman was 18 years old when Motown released “Cooleyhighharmony,” the debut album from Boyz II Men — then made up of Stockman, Michael McCary, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris — in February 1991.
“Cooleyhighharmony” and its 1994 follow-up, “II,” have sold a combined 15.6 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The first album’s hit single, “End of the Road,” set a record for longest run atop the Billboard Hot 100 with a 13-week stay in 1992. “II’s” “I’ll Make Love to You” bested that with a 14-week stint at No. 1 in 1994. And then “One Sweet Day,” a smash duet with Mariah Carey, spent 16 weeks atop the chart a year later.
Two decades after the group’s debut, Stockman, 39, has indeed gone from boy to man. Asked how he’s changed, he laughs and says, “Well, I can make love better.”
As for the music? “Now, being grown men and having relationships and children, the songs take on a deeper meaning and add something that we wouldn’t have been able to understand if we didn’t experience them,” Stockman says.
That freshly formed resonance defines “Twenty,” the group’s first U.S. release of new material since 2002. Due Oct. 24 on the act’s own imprint, MSM Music Group, and in association with Benchmark, “Twenty” offers fans a fresh batch of soul, including first single “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” which has sold 15,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, as well as a second disc featuring rerecorded versions of nine Boyz II Men classics.
Since the release of 2002’s “Full Circle” (350,000 copies, according to SoundScan), the act has released three covers albums and a Japan-only full-length, and has sung the hits on multiple international tours. Since 2009, Stockman has also served as a judge on NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” However, the trio (McCary exited in 2003 due to health concerns) wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the group’s formation by reuniting with producers like Babyface and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis earlier this year and creating a new album, featuring a more adult version of its classic sound.
“Last year we realized it was coming up on the 20th anniversary and [said], ‘This is the time to do original material’-to not only write for themselves but to rekindle the magic that they had years ago,” says Joe Mulvihill, the group’s manager since 2004.
Despite the nostalgic vibe surrounding the release of “Twenty,” the rollout will be hip and aggressive: Boyz II Men’s Facebook page is updated daily for its 317,000 fans, and MSM chief marketing officer Marc Offenbach says that humor websites College Humor and Funny or Die have approached the group for collaborations following a May appearance on Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.” Those opportunities will coincide with appearances on “Today” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” as well as upcoming promotion on the current season of “The Sing-Off” — “Twenty” will be mentioned on the show during its week of release, and Stockman hints that Boyz II Men may perform on the program’s Nov. 28 finale.
The act also scored a deal with Walmart. The big-box retailer will exclusively feature the physical album, which will be distributed through the Orchard. “Walmart’s got millions of people walking through their stores, and what they’re going to do for us visibility-wise is a huge part of our campaign,” Offenbach says.