Oct 11

BOYZ II MEN – “End Of The Road”

Popular51 comments • 3,113 views

#682, 31st October 1992

The “End Of The Road” video presented its directors with a logistical dilemma: in a vocal group, what do the other members do when it’s some other dude’s turn to sing? The solution was a sometimes hilarious extended essay in mooching: glum faces, shuffling, shaking heads, three bros feeling the intense purity of their buddy’s pain before it’s their turn to face the camera and plead.

At one point something happens that’s become very familiar: one of the Boyz (or Men) sings, and the others sit beside him straddling chairs. This sequence also serves as a tip-off as to this track’s key inheritors – they may be the best selling R&B band ever (and this song Motown’s biggest-selling hit, astonishingly) but Boyz II Men’s true legacy in the Popular story is the slow boyband: four or five lads on stools, emoting in sequence.

Boyband performances of male earnestness tend to plod, but Boyz II Men are stronger, churchier singers, happy to push “End Of The Road” into grotesquely impassioned territories. Feelings bulge out through the tune like muscles on an Image Comics superhero – by the time I get to the absurd spoken word sequence I’m thinking “they can’t mean this stuff!”. But they do! Of course they do – the whole point of this music is the chicken game it plays with sincerity.

Still, I’m basically the wrong age and the wrong gender for it, and even if I wasn’t “End Of The Road” seems to walk a precarious line. If you listen to the utterly gloopy LP version, two minutes longer, the extra material – mostly more of that unremarkable production – pushes the track into complete incoherence. The single version is just tight enough to work, or it would be if there wasn’t something rather gross about the content: “It’s unnatural / You belong to me” – it’s pressuring and patronising (that smarmy “your first ti-eye-ime”) and for all the bravura slickness leaves me with a rather nasty taste.



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  1. 26
    Tom on 8 Oct 2011 #

    I don’t think I heard a single bit of Boyz II Men style inflection anywhere on the X-Factor tonight, incidentally.

  2. 27
    hardtogethits on 9 Oct 2011 #

    #26, Tom, I don’t watch X Factor much, so can’t comment on recent episodes, but it’s not all in the inflection.

    Perhaps Boyz II Men didn’t invent the hand-over-the-mic type ballad in which several singers showcase their same-ish-style vocal talents against each other in turn, to the detriment of the sincerity / meaning of the lyric. However, they innovated / popularised it to a degree that was previously unimaginable.

    For once, I’ve not checked my facts, but I’ve a strong feeling this was the first UK no.1 in which more than one lead singer has a go when the song doesn’t demand it (ie it’s not “Float On”) and there’s no charity to benefit (Band Aid, Ferry Aid, Hillsborough, The Crowd – which in any case showcase substantially different vocal styles). After this record, the previously unusual Boyz II Men approach became commonplace, perhaps even a genre in its own right.

    [As it happens, I agree with #25's interpretation of #14, for the individual styles, it is "almost like this is the genesis of soulful gesticulation that every contestant seems to do now"]

  3. 28
    Vince Modern on 9 Oct 2011 #

    This was their first UK single release, and came a year after their debut album Cooleyhighharmony fared relatively well in the charts (number 7).
    My big brother John was a massive New Jack Swing fan, so was onto them pretty quickly. The album became a favourite of his and his fellow acolytes (along with Keith Sweat’s “Keep it Coming”, Mary J’s “What’s the 411?”, the MasterCuts compilations and many others). It’s a decent mix of club bangers and slow jamz, all featuring the slick, polished production of Dallas Austin.
    1990-92 seemed to be the golden years of New Jack Swing with Teddy Riley becoming the producer du jour. You can hear his signature style all over Michael Jackson’s Dangerous LP; even the Rolling Stones commissioned him for remixes. So Swing was definitely popular.

    1992 was when I first started buying music having just started my paper-round, and was obviously influenced by elder bruv. So upon reading on Channel 4 Teletext music pages that Boyz II Men were to release a single this week, I couldn’t get down Woolworths fast enough. Completed a blind (deaf?) purchase at 9.05am on the first Saturday it came out (didn’t need a listen, it was bound to be great right?).
    Rode home, made a big fanfare to everyone in the front room, stuck the casette in the midi system and pressed play. I immediately didn’t like it, expecting an uptempo banger in the style of Bobby Brown/Guy/Bell Biv Devoe.
    Dad was nonplussed (“They’re no Four Tops”), John said something like “This is sh*t – they’ve sold out” and then mooched off to buy some ridiculously cool 12″s.
    Mum liked it though, so every cloud and all that.

    I think Boyz II Men were the only genuine New Jack Swing artists to top the UK charts. Bell Biv Devoe/Janet/Luther came close with “The Best Things in Life are Free” around the same time (a much better song IMHO). As the nineties wore on New Jack Swing morphed into R’nB as we know it today, with artists in the genre achieving much more chart success.

  4. 29
    vinylscot on 10 Oct 2011 #

    Is this the first record covered on Popular while it is actually on the chart?

    This week sees it slip to #89 from last week’s #79.

    I presume some nobody must have “made it their own!” on X-Factor, or whatever inane drivel is currently occupying pre-pubescent minds on a Saturday evening.

  5. 30
    Steve Mannion on 10 Oct 2011 #

    I think it’s more to do with them winning the Outstanding Contribution award at the MOBOs last week.

  6. 31
    vinylscot on 10 Oct 2011 #

    Possibly. I don’t follow the MOBOs – was their award announced beforehand, as it was already on the chart before the Awards night?

  7. 32
    Steve Mannion on 10 Oct 2011 #

    OC/LA type awards are always announced well in advance so I expect it’s just a case of EOTR being played more here and there to coincide with that.

  8. 33
    swanstep on 10 Oct 2011 #

    Probably not responsible, but there’s a big B2M sample (from Uhh Ahh apparently) in Beyonce’s (well vidded!) recent/new single Countdown… so general B2M awareness is definitely on the up-swing right now.

  9. 34
    vinylscot on 10 Oct 2011 #

    OK, so there are a number of possible reasons.

    Back to my original question – has an entry in Popular ever been written while the song in question was in the charts? (If you count #s 79 & 89 as being “in the charts”)

  10. 35
    hardtogethits on 10 Oct 2011 #

    #29, #34 Wow! what a question. Maybe it does depend on what is meant by being “in the charts”. If it’s extended to the Top 200 singles the answer is definitely “no, it’s not the first time”. For one, Bohemian Rhapsody was on the Top 200 at the time it was first written about in Popular.

    I realise Top 200 is stretching most people’s definition of the chart.

  11. 36
    lonepilgrim on 10 Oct 2011 #

    straight in at 199…

  12. 37
    AndyPandy on 10 Oct 2011 #

    and surely even 75-100 is pushing it although 100-200 is IMO doubly unnotifiable in the fact that 1)it takes away any real achievement to “getting in the charts” and 2) no’s 100-200 aren’t even available to the general public. ps It also messes up weeks on charts records as just about any reasonably sized hit now seems to rack up 100+ weeks on the charts (with most of them seemingly in positions 100-200)even though the reference books still only include Top75 weeks.

  13. 38
    hardtogethits on 10 Oct 2011 #

    101-200 are available to the general public, just not free-of-charge.

    I’m certainly not advocating the use of the Top 200 to define the “charts”. However, OCC’s decision to go public and free with numbers 76-100 has not defined what the charts mean to anyone and, as you point out, hasn’t changed the standards to which reference books work.

  14. 39
    Triffid Farm on 11 Oct 2011 #

    The production is wonderful and retrograde – quite Cyndi Lauper. I had forgotten how the different vocal styles was a talking point – I didn’t pay much attention to it, or them, at the time, but it does make good use of the range within the quartet.

    There was not a chance in the world that I would have cared about this when it came out – it wasn’t even something I knew about enough to be derisive. I’m fairly sure I stood through a short set they performed while I was at university, and I entirely ignored them.

    I rather like the sound of it now, although the spoken passage intrudes too much. Its still a workmanlike piece though.

  15. 40
    Triffid Farm on 11 Oct 2011 #

    Most importantly, there is a fine comic moment at 2:25 in the video.

  16. 41
    anto on 13 Oct 2011 #

    Motown junk to my ears. The first of 3 number ones in a row where the vocals become rather icky. I would go along with the score given.

  17. 42
    AndyPandy on 14 Oct 2011 #

    This site has got me checking out some worthwhile stuff over the time I’ve been reading it – eg looking more closely at David Essex and Hot Chocolate to name but 2months. And this thread has had me playing early 90s Swingbeat merging into R&B summer classics such as Montell Jordan “Something For The Honeys” and R Kelly “Summer Bunnies” (from about the last time I was still up with what was cutting edge R&B/HipHop) for the first time in about 15 years as I’ve done my visits this week at work.Thanks to the site for reminding me of those!

  18. 43
    Nanaya on 15 Oct 2011 #

    Hm, I have to agree with Tom on this one. I can’t deny it’s quite an effective song in the earworm sense (I still remember most of the lyrics with surprising clarity), or that it’s technically impressive, but I still feel as I did then about the way it seems to go on and on and on forever…

    I also have very little time for faux-sincerity, so I admit I’m biased against this sort of thing from the get-go. It just feels like a sermon of the wrong sort, where emoting is taken to indicate passion. It makes my inner frigid Brit deeply uncomfortable.

  19. 44
    wichita lineman on 17 Oct 2011 #

    I was expecting to give this a reappraisal, to like it more than I did at the time after reading the early comments, but I’m disappointed. To me it sounds much closer to the impending boyband boom than it does to 50s doo wop or 70s sweet soul.

    The production is flat as a pancake, and the imploring “boy” who handles the bridge sounds constipated. Also, it’s verrrrry long. Barely a four for me.

  20. 45
    vinylscot on 17 Oct 2011 #

    Every time I catch a glimpse of that sleeve at the top of the popular page, my mind tells me it’s a Nintendo DS game, and I have to look again to check. Obviously just a coincidence, but has anyone else had the same thought?

    (Unless Nintendo DID nick the design….)

  21. 46
    wichita lineman on 17 Oct 2011 #

    This kept Arrested Development’s People Everyday at no.2, a UK high water mark for ‘conscious rap’ (is that a genre?), while Bizarre Inc’s none-more-peppy I’m Gonna Get You was kept at no.3 by a Boyz/Tasmin one two.

    I can’t see how the overegged vocals and bullying tactics of the Boyz remind anyone of the Chi Lites, but the NEXT Popular entry is an updated soul throwback of the highest order.

    (I’m so impatient).

  22. 47
    Cumbrian on 17 Oct 2011 #


    I assume that Chi-Lites comment was directed at me. It’s simply the bass spoken word section in this reminds me of “Have You Seen Her?” which is as far as I am concerned is equally overwrought lyrically as EOTR (though I will allow that the Chi-Lites has that peppy backing vocal going on which gives it a lightness that this lacks).

    Just an aside, it’s a pleasure to participate and read these threads. I love my rugby but the comments sections in some of the other areas of the internet that I frequent this weekend have been pretty poisonous. At least differences of opinion here are civilly expressed.

  23. 48
    wichita lineman on 17 Oct 2011 #

    Yes, sorry if that sounded sharp but I couldn’t remember who’d mentioned the Chi-Lites. Have You Seen Her’s butterfly harmonies, backing (that fuzz guitar!) and shrugging, self-deprecating spoken part are in a different league to the overwrought Boyz effort – but structurally I see what you mean.

    I wanted to like B2M, for their preppiness and for the fact they had a song called Motownphilly, but then and now they sound like try-hards, lacking the gentle power and easy grace of Motown, Philly and Chi-sound.

    I’m most intrigued to see what Cumbrian, Andy and Lex make of the next entry (and Tom, natch).

  24. 49
    Cumbrian on 17 Oct 2011 #

    No harm, no foul, as far as I am concerned.

  25. 50
    Triffid Farm on 19 Oct 2011 #


    Nintendo’s DS music games tend to be equally pensive:


  26. 51
    hectorthebat on 5 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Steve Sullivan (USA) – Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (2013) 301-400
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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