By 1992, Boyz II Men were on the rise with their mass-appeal mix of smooth R&B and new jack swing. The act had arrived, via Philadelphia, 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 released 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 ballad “You Light Up My Life,” from 1977, and the late legendary 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, with Carey, for the longest-ruling No. 1 that stood for 23 years. (Following “End,” Whitney Houston had wrested the mark away in February 1993 when “I Will Always Love You” linked its 14th week atop the chart; the adoption of more accurate Luminate data in late 1991 has since led to longer reigns for many Hot 100 No. 1s.) The group remains 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 (87), Rihanna (60), The Beatles (59) and Drake (54).
(Notably, “End” co-writers and co-producers Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons ranked at both Nos. 1 and 2 on the Hot 100 for six weeks starting upon the song’s coronation, as TLC’s “Baby-Baby-Baby,” which the threesome likewise composed and produced for TLC, peaked at No. 2 over that stretch.)
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, they debuted in the Billboard 200’s top 40 in November 2014, when their 11th studio release, Collide, scored a No. 37 peak. The set helped up the group’s to-date U.S. album sales to over 25 million, according to Luminate.
“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!”
As reported in December 2021, Amazon Studios, Davis Entertainment and Malcolm D. Lee’s Blackmaled Productions are partnering on a coming-of-age movie musical titled Brotherly, to be based on the music of Boyz II Men. Brotherly will follows a group of men who, according to the project’s synopsis, “return to West Philadelphia for a high school reunion 20 years after having gone their separate ways — eventually finding hope, redemption and a new understanding of the enduring power of friendship.”