Overnight singing sensations credit harmonic convergence

June 03, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Most musicians will tell you there's no such thing as an overnight sensation. If a band seems to hit the charts like a bolt out of the blue, that's only because the fans weren't around to watch the years of dues-paying and chops-building that made such sudden success possible. Because it's simply not possible to go from nowhere to the top of the charts in a matter of months.

Or is it?

Right now, All-4-One is one of the hottest acts in the Top 40. "I Swear," the group's current single, is heading into its fourth straight week at the top of the Billboard singles chart. Its predecessor, a remake of the Tymes' 1963 hit "So Much In Love," spent two months in the Top 10. Not even the dictionary could define "smash hit" better.

Yet as little as nine months ago, All-4-One wasn't even a gleam in its members' eyes. Three of the four -- Jamie Jones, Tony Borowiak and Alfred Nevarez -- had been singing together for about a year, but they were hardly on a career track at that point.

In fact, they wound up meeting the fourth member, Delious, at a karaoke contest, of all things. "We hit it off," recalls the single-monikered singer. "The harmony was good and the blend was good. So we swapped numbers in case anything came up. When they called and told what they wanted to do with 'So Much In Love' and all that, I just said, 'Why not?' You know? What did I have to lose?"

What, indeed? Cutting an a cappella version of "So Much In Love" was the idea of Blitzz Records president Tim O'Brien, but nobody had any idea it would work as well as it did. In fact, says Delious, "That was the first time we'd actually gotten together and really harmonized. We joked around at the karaoke show, but we didn't really get together and harmonize until the first time we got 'So Much in Love.' "

Needless to say, the result was pure magic.

"It's nice when the blend can get together," he says over the phone from the group's home base in Los Angeles. "One thing I like about harmonies is that when everybody's doing their part, it's like a key into a lock. It just fits together. Because sometimes groups can do harmonies, and the notes will be there, but the blend won't be there.

"But when this group comes together, the blend is always happening."

Even more amazing than the group's blend is its stylistic range. All-4-One isn't just another new jack-cappella soul harmony act, like Silk or Shai. The material on its debut album, "All-4-One," runs the gamut from the raw funk of "(She's Got) Skillz" to the sophisticated harmonies of "A Better Man."

That's no accident, either. "We didn't want to be a fly-by-night act, putting out one hit with a funky track, halfway singing it and just getting by with that," says Delious.

"We wanted to put out a good song with harmony. People love to hear harmony. Not just any harmony, but good harmony. And we figure if we could keep up bringing them good harmony, then we can stay around for a little while."

Where did that ear for harmony come from? "Well, first of all, all of us are musical," answers Delious. "We all have some kind of musical background, like singing in choirs or stuff. Tony was even in a barbershop quartet at one time, and you know the complex harmonies that they do."

Delious, in fact, was on his way to a solo career before that fateful night at the karaoke bar. A self-described Air Force brat (though he does have relatives in Baltimore), he'd been at the University of Maryland in College Park when he heard about a talent contest then-talk show host Arsenio Hall was conducting.

"I heard that he was looking for tapes to be sent in to compete for his Flavor of the Future contest," he says. "So, I sent in three tapes. Federal Expressed them in. And out of 20,000 tapes, he came to pick one of mine to be on the show."

He soon moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music and RTC was sitting at home one evening when a friend called to tell him about the karaoke contest.

"Actually, I wasn't even going to go," Delious laughs. "I told him I wasn't going to travel like an hour away just to sing a song. But the prize was like $977, and at the time, I was doing my thing in the studio, and I needed the money. So I said OK." The rest, as they say, is history. Still, one question remains about that karaoke contest: Who won?

Delious laughs. "We both lost," he says. Then he laughs some more.


To hear excerpts from All-4-One's self-titled debut, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch 6205 after the greeting.

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