Now Streaming: “This is Pop” explains what happened to Boyz II Men

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For music fans who want to go beyond the music, but not too much, “This is Pop” on Netflix seems the perfect streaming series. The show began airing in Spring 2021. Each episode highlights either a definitive performing group, or era in pop music. The one on Boyz II Men is particularly enlightening.

“This is Pop” is great for people who want to hear about performers and eras that defined American pop music from the people who made it. For example, if someone wants to find out what T-Pain thinks about Auto-Tune, there is an episode in which he discusses that very thing.

The Boyz II Men legacy: “This is Pop”

Popular music audiences who can remember the 1990s can likely remember Boyz II Men. The quartet from Philadelphia changed urban pop as everyone knew it with “Motownphilly.” Their danceable hit told the story of their success to that point. The vocal harmonies with the horn accents and hard drum beats made the song irresistible.

Their episode on “This is Pop” is interesting as it tells the story of how they coaxed Michael Bivins of Bell Biv Devoe into being their manager. There are also the usual stories of how from their earliest days, everyone knew the group was special. Even when they first performed as a group in the late 1980s in high school, girls screamed for them, indicating future success.

But as members of the listening public can attest, something changed. The members of Boyz II Men verified this. At the beginning of a tour, they performed in front of thousands of people. At the end, they were singing to 50 people in a tiny club with a mechanical bull.

Audiences knew something was going on – -the questions of “where are they?” or “what happened to them?” surfaced as the early 1990s turned into the late 1990s and eventually the 21st century. However, knowing exactly what happened to them, and learning more about the ways of the music industry, might prove unsettling to some fans.

Boyz ll Men, paving the way for boy bands: “This is Pop

At this point in music history, boy bands are no longer novel as an idea. Each group has to develop a special something within their repertoire to keep audiences engaged. Before boy bands as audiences know them became a thing, there was Boyz ll Men. Then, there came emulators.

In the Boyz ll Men episode, viewers get to hear from members of boy bands who admit to copying what the group from Philadelphia was doing. The admission was almost painful as viewers recognize that Boyz ll Men paved the way for others and made things more difficult for themselves.

But what is left out of this equation is what some would call racism in the music industry. Boyz ll Men had to find success first on r&b charts, then crossover. The groups who followed them, who admitted to wanting to do what they were doing, did not have to crossover to pop.

Despite how respectable Boyz ll Men were – – the lack of curse words, the bowties, the coordinated outfits, they still had to convince people of their worth by appealing to both white and black audiences. Their style, however inspired other groups. Namely, these groups were Nsync, 98 Degrees, and Backstreet Boys. They went straight to pop respectability and the top of the charts, with no need to top the r&b charts first.

The information is provided without too much drama, as all participants seem resigned to what happened. Still, viewers might find shocking the news of how everything developed.

On the bright side, it seems as if Boyz ll Men are still active. And while they might not have the same level of success as they did the first time around, another well-received recording from the quartet would likely be welcomed by audiences.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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