Harmony at the heart of Boyz II Men

April 24, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

As the Hammer/Boyz II Men/Jodeci road show makes its way across the country, some folks in the music business think the package seems less like a concert tour than a competition. Sure, Hammer is the headliner, but the commercial strength of the openiAs the Hammer/Boyz II Men/Jodeci road show makes its way across the country, some folks in the music business think the package seems less like a concert tour than a competition. Sure, Hammer is the headliner, but the commercial strength of the opening acts -- particularly Boyz II Men, whose "Cooleyhighharmony" debut is currently outselling Hammer's "Too Legit To Quit" -- suggests that the rapper is anything but untouchable.

At least, that's the way it looks from the sidelines. But Michael McCary, one of the four young men who comprise Boyz II Men, says the perspective onstage is nothing like that.

not a competition to us at all," he says, over the phone from a tour stop in Montgomery, Ala. "We put together a show, the best show we can possibly do, and hope that it works for us. But there's no way four guys can compete with 60 people onstage. His having 60 people onstage at one time is a show in itself.

"So what we do is we go out there and do the best we can representing Boyz II Men, as opposed to trying to go out in competition. In competition, we would lose -- just on the effects alone."

Besides, he adds, "It's actually two shows. I mean, we sing, and Hammer is a rapper. First people are being entertained by vocals, and then Hammer comes out with all the effects and rapping. There's two different shows there."

Singing -- close-harmony singing, to be precise -- is at the heart of the Boyz II Men sound. And though McCary credits producer Dallas Austin and others for concocting the blend of soul harmony and new jack beats that pushed "Cooleyhighharmony" up the charts, he adds that "we always harmonized, all the way back to when we were in high school."

Granted, the music the four sang back then was a little different than the sort of thing heard on hits like "Motownphilly" or "Uhh Ahh." Says McCary, "In school, we sang classical music and a lot of gospel music. We did some jazz numbers as well.

"But during our lunch breaks and changing classes, we would go into the restrooms or a corner of the hallway, and just start singing. And when we got a break, the music that was fun for us was doo-wop and harmony. We did a lot of Take 6 tunes."

Now, of course, the group has songs of its own to sing -- and a much larger audience than the restroom crowd. But what McCary likes best about Boyz II Men's success isn't the fame so much as the sense that he and his buddies can express something many of their fans can't quite articulate: The sound of love.

"What we do is sing love songs to the women for all the guys," he explains. "Sometimes, a guy may not be able to sing, but he wants to express himself to a woman. So what we do is communicate what he's trying to say to the women vocally, and he can get their point across.

"We just try to spread as much love as we can," he says.

Boyz II Men

When: Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena.

Tickets: $25, limited seating available.

Call: (410) 347-2010 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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