The familiar tunes of "On Bended Knee," "I'll Make Love To You," and "End of the Road" are poised to fill the air as Boyz II Men gears up for a performance at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on September 1. Known for its music's romantic sway, which helped conceive countless babies, the group will take the stage at LIV, the nightclub within the iconic resort.
Ahead of their South Florida performance, the trio — vocalists Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris, and Wanyá Morris — and their manager, Joe Mulvihill, pause to reflect on the 38-year journey that includes their rise to prominence, relevance, and resilience within an ever-evolving musical landscape.
With nearly four decades of musical experience, Boyz II Men has captured audiences worldwide since it first burst onto the music scene with the debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, in 1991. As the members emphasize, their lasting impact stems from their unwavering commitment to their fans and their constant drive to prove themselves with each performance.
"One of the things I have always respected about my brothers in this band is that each of us treats every performance as if it's our first and, quite frankly, our last show," Stockman tells New Times. "We don't know if it's someone's first time seeing us or their 30th time. When we hit that stage, we know we've been blessed with longevity in this business, and it's not something we take lightly."
The journey of Boyz II Men began in 1985 and has withstood its share of challenges. Reflecting on the bond that held them together throughout their career, Wayná says, "The glue for us is ourselves. We've had our ups and downs. We've been on top of the world, and we've been in the shadows. We have managed to understand one another and, more importantly, respect one another. That is how we manage to stick together," the singer explains.
Digging deeper, Wayná recalls the band's unshakable confidence at its peak in the 1990s — a period when they believed the band would be on top forever. And how could they not? "One Sweet Day," their 1995 collaboration with Mariah Carey, spent 16 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, a record that would not be broken for 23 years. (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" matched its record in 2017, with Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" eventually toppling both of them in 2019 after spending 19 weeks atop the chart.)
But life has a funny way of doling out a humbling blow.
"We went from stadiums to playing at a venue with 50 people. Right in the middle of the venue was a bull riding machine," Wayná remembers. "At the time, I wasn't sure why we didn't fire [our manager] Joe. Looking back on it now, those ebbs and flows made us the resilient, mature group we are today."
"I don't think the industry has changed us as a band, and I think that's why we've had the career we've had. We aren't just performers; we are vocalists. We take our craft very seriously," Stockman adds.
For Nathan, the band has evolved throughout the decades — but not as a result of keeping up with trends and fads. "We've grown as entertainers, which has allowed us to stay relevant. We've learned the music business," Nathan explains.
For the group's manager, Joe Mulvihill, the enduring appeal of Boyz II Men lies in the group's ability to forge an emotional connection. "It's true that the music landscape is constantly changing and evolving, but what does not change is how music impacts someone's life," he says. "When you hear a song that touched you at a particular point in your life, it becomes part of the soundtrack of your life. Boyz II Men has several hits that bring back particular moments. From weddings to funerals, they have a song etched in your mind as being part of a very special moment."
Adding to music's ability to evoke memories and emotions, Stockman notes, "Certain melodies transport you to specific times and places. You might even recall scents associated with those moments. We have a few songs, well one in particular, that we think may have contributed to giving birth to several babies."
Mulvihill points out that the members of Boyz II Men aren't afraid to step out into the unknown. "They didn't fire me after the bull incident, and it was at that moment I knew they trusted the vision," he says. "We grinded it out in less-than-glamorous venues, but the crowds kept growing, the demand kept rising, and they kept pushing. Now, when I pitch something that seems off, they step right into it."
In addition to a changing industry, Boyz II Men has transformed, most notably from a quartet to a trio due to Michael McCary's departure in 2003. This transition prompted the remaining members to acquire new skills.
"Shawn dove in headfirst into learning how to play the guitar, Nate took on the bass, and Wan keeps those vocal cords intact," Mulvihill shares.
As for the upcoming show in Miami Beach, the members are excited to return to South Florida. "We love coming down here. The food, the hospitality, the people — what's not to love? The Fontainebleau always takes care of us and our families," Wayná says. "We usually extend a few days after the show to enjoy the city and the beaches. Most people don't love humidity, but there is nothing better for our vocals than warm, humid air."
As for their performance, Boyz II Men promises fans an unforgettable experience. "The fans can expect to hear the classics they love and a few twists and turns in our rock section," Nathan says. "No matter the venue, no matter the size of the crowd, we leave it all on the stage because that's what our fans deserve."
Boyz II Men. 9 p.m. Friday, September 1, at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 800-548-8886; bleaulive.com. Tickets cost $69 to $149 via tixr.com.