When speaking on the impact of '90s R&B, Boyz II Men is a name that is sure to pop up in the conversation. Comprised of Shawn Stockman, Michael McCary, and Nathan and Wanya Morris, the quartet emerged from Philadelphia while barely out of their teens and made history with some of the biggest hits of the decade and becoming one of the most accomplished R&B groups of all-time.
Formed as classmates at the Philadelpia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, the group originally sung under the name of Unique Attraction and featured a number of members before settling on the lineup of Nathan, Michael, Shawn and Wanya.
The local sensations would hit it big after singing for New Edition's Michael Bivins, who was the CEO of Biv 10, backstage at a concert in Philly. The impromptu audition turned into a recording contract with Motown Records and their 1991 debut album CooleyHighHarmony became an instant classic and would sell over nine million copies. Their sophomore effort, II, would be another multi-platinum success with a bevy of hit singles, including the classic ballad, "I'll Make Love to You."
Although Boyz II Men would avoid the sophomore jinx, it would be their third album, Evolution, that would be the first sign of the group's fall from dominance. The album was a huge drop-off from their previous albums and would be their first release to not feature two multiple chart-topping singles.
The subsequent years after Evolution would be filled with change for the group. After their parent company, Motown Records, merged with Universal, the group was reassigned to Universal, were they would release their fourth studio album, Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, in 2000.
The collection would fail to garner any big hits, which was a first for the group and all but signaled the end of their reign as the Kings of R&B. But looking back fifteen years later, the album is viewed as an underrated gem that never truly got its just due.
In celebration of the brilliance of this overlooked effort, we handpicked the five best songs from Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya for your listening pleasure. Enjoy.
Thoughtful guys tend to get the short end of the stick, which Boyz II Men laments on the Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya cut, "Good Guy," an uptempo banger that sees the quartet putting the ballads aside and ratcheting up the BPM this time around. Produced by Kenin "She'kspere" Briggs, the beat is dominated by an acoustic guitar, frantic 808 drums, and claps that entice you to bust a move a move toward the dancefloor and get your groove on.
"I don't understand your thinking / Thought we were happy, guess I was mistaken," sings Wanya on the opening verse before contemplating on all of his sacrifices and good deeds in the name of love that were all for naught. "Good Guy" speaks for the under-appreciated men in relationships that - despite our empathy - simply slaps and is a great song.
Listeners are met with acoustic guitars on "What The Deal," a sensuous selection from Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya that is both steamy and addictive, making for one of the better offerings on the album. "Incredible, your legs up to your mouth, you were so edible," croons Shawn Stockman while appraising the work of art that is his main squeeze. Infused with a Latin feel that will urge you to get your salsa on, "What The Deal" is a winner that stands above a majority of the cuts on the album and gets our nod of approval.
Michael McCary's baritone gets some airtime on "Thank You In Advanced," a saccharine tune that celebrates the evolution of a relationship from the dating stage to marriage and all steps in between. The second single released from Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya, the song is a straight-forward ballad that's sonically similar to Brian McKnight's "Back At One," but in a complimentary way. Written and produced by Anthony "Shep" Crawford, the song failed to catch fire on radio, peaking at No.40 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Despite its failure to move up the chart, the song remains an underrated gem.
"I've been searching for the girl of my dreams / The one who gives all of her love to me," sings Shawn Stockman on the Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya heater, "I Finally Know." Produced by Anthony "Shep" Crawford, the track is a slow-rolling affair that features the four Philly natives serenading the women of their dreams and showering them with praise and adoration. "I Finally Know" showcases the continued maturity in the group's content and sees them hitting on all cylinder on this impressive outing.
Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya's most standout track is the Shawn Stockman-penned "Pass You By." Over guitars, delicate drums and keys, the song reminds us to never let real love "pass you by" despite past heartbreak or pain. The song may have served as group's first dud in terms of a dominant radio hit. Nevertheless, it's far from an unforgettable tune and continues to get love on urban contemporary radio.