There is no shortage of sexiness in Miami, and the same can be said of its music scene. Sexy ladies in sexy outfits do sexy dances to sexy lyrics in sexy music videos set against the sexy backdrop of South Beach. But a lot of the time, that sexiness seems deprived of something deeper, something soulful. It hardly ever seems romantic.
You know what soulfully romantic music sounds like? It sounds like Boyz II Men. And even now, 27 years after their first major-hit singles were released, their harmonies, their swagger, and their Philly sound still make them unquestionably iconic and timelessly sensual. It’s high-key fuck music that is also about genuine love and longing, a marriage of sensation and emotion that is hard to find today — except at a Boyz II Men concert.
And in Miami’s music scene, where the sexual is all too often devoid of the romantic, a band that brings both holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of Magic City lovers. Luckily for anyone matching that description, Boyz II Men will perform at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Saturday, November 3.
When the founders of Boyz II Men came together, they really were just boys. They were friends and fellow students at Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts, where the young bandmates would practice harmonizing together in the school bathrooms. It must have been hard to imagine back in those days, singing by themselves with the assistance of porcelain acoustics, that they’d achieve the legacy they have today.
They reissued their first record, Cooleyhighharmony, to include their major crossover hit “End of the Road.” The album had already been released two years before with solid singles such as “Motownphilly,” but “End of the Road” was different. It was the kind of song where the lyrics and vocal performances came together in a song that went beyond being relatable. “End of the Road” resonated with anyone who had ever felt heartbreak.
That song spent 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, setting the record for most consecutive weeks at number one. It was a record that Boyz II Men themselves broke when they dropped their second record, II. That album featured the single “I’ll Make Love to You,” which spent 14 weeks at number one, as well as “On Bended Knee,” which would take the top slot in week 15. To this day, only 11 artists have ever replaced themselves with the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. Before Boyz II Men, the only two acts who’d ever done it were Elvis and the Beatles.
But Boyz II Men’s significance has little to do with their success on the charts — it’s all about the way they affected the people listening to them. I was only a kid when “End of the Road” first hit the radio, but it’s a piece of music that has remained relevant throughout my life. When I lost my first love at the end of my college days, there was something heartrending and at the same time comforting in the words: “When I can’t sleep at night without holding you tight/Girl, each time I try, I just break down and cry/Pain in my head, oh, I’d rather be dead/Spinning around and around.”
For other South Floridians, a very different part of the group’s discography got them into Boyz II Men: their Christmas music. Wintertime is a droll thing in Miami. There’s no snow and maybe two weeks of weather below 70 before the New Year if we’re lucky. The jolly jingle-bell numbers that get kids excited for sledding and snowmen in colder parts of the country feel disingenuous when you’re wearing chancletas under palm trees. But an album like Boyz II Men’s Christmas Interpretations, replete with rich vibratos, sultry R&B beats, and heartfelt messages of love and gratitude? That’ll work just fine.
And not for nothing, these cats’ fashion sense in their music videos is absolute ’90s heat. Hanging at a marina in matching yachting outfits in four primary colors? Fire. Identical red and gray flannel shirts worn open over T-shirts while riding an empty subway train with sparks shooting out the window? Fire. Standing on the crest of a desert dune while wearing nothing but white linen blowing in the wind and singing to an estranged lover walking through the same desert? Straight fire.
So don’t dismiss Boyz II Men as a ’90s relic. When the ugly realities of the stormy present are often too harsh and weird to bear, there’s nothing better than soaring harmonies, a little soulful romance, and a lot of swag to buoy your spirit and tug at your heartstrings.
Boyz II Men. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 3, at the Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 800-548-8866; fontainebleau.com. Tickets are sold out.