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.