I watched “The Sing-Off” a cappella competition on NBC last month — mainly because my university had a horse in the race. The judges were an interesting group — some chick from the Pussycat Dolls, Ben Folds and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman. For the finale, Stockman joined two of the other three Boyz for a reunion, performing a medley of the group’s hits.
While I do not think that time has done any favors for their vocal cords, my husband and I both appreciated the performance, for different reasons. For Rick, it’s because the members of Boyz II Men are Philly natives, and he loved seeing his homeboys represent. For me, it brought me back to 1995.
I was 15 years old, wallowing in melodrama and anxious for a boyfriend. That summer, I got one — briefly. After six weeks, I was dumped. Of course, I believed, this meant all hopes of future romance were Doomed.
In the spring, I had gotten my first computer, which also meant my first CD player. The only album I owned on CD at that time was the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack, but my local library had a small selection of albums available for checkout. One of these was Boyz II Men’s sophomore effort, which had come out the previous year.
I was a big fan of their debut and the song “End of the Road,” which was only on the soundtrack to the movie “Boomerang.” Their second album also had a string of radio and MTV hits. And in my fragile, post-breakup state, it was come-back-to-me-baby power ballads like “On Bended Knee” and “Water Runs Dry” that drew me to this album.
I am not too proud to admit that I listened to these songs an unhealthy amount.
Of course, once my emotional need for this album had run its course, I ended up meeting and dating the man I would eventually marry. My music tastes continued to evolve, but my love for Boyz II Men did not succeed in steering them more earnestly toward R&B. Life went on. Until “The Sing-Off.”
There, in prime time, I was thrust back to my mom’s bedroom and my seat at the old Packard Bell computer, emotional justification spinning in the CD-ROM drive in the form of Nate, Michael, Wanya, and Shawn. I was grateful that they were there for me when I needed them — with the help of my local library, of course.
Struck by nostalgia, I did two things. One, I bought “End of the Road” on iTunes. Two, I went to the interlibrary loan website and requested a copy of “II.” I felt it would only be fitting to seek out the album through the manner in which I first found it.
You can’t say it’s a classic album by any measure, but for me, “II” is a critical component of the musical tableau for one of the most important years in my life. As the Boyz sing in the album’s opening track, “Cause even though when times got rough / You never turned away / You were right there / And I thank you.”