[HOT TRACK]Men stand by their boyzish formula for far too longThe four boys from Philadelphia, who 10 years ago broke Elvis Presley's record of of consecutive weeks with a No. 1 hit, have another album out, "Full Circle," their fifth release in the last two years. This rhythm and blues vocal quartet has sold some 60 million records worldwide to date. But the new album shows an unmistakable trace of time -- its 14 tracks betray a formulaic sound, and seem aimed at a more mainstream audience.
For "Full Circle" the singers went back to their starting point by collaborating with Antonio "LA" Reid, who stepped up as executive producer. Reed quickened the group's success a decade ago by producing "End of the Road," the hit that eclipsed Elvis. The prolific songwriter Babyface also chipped in with production, providing his tried-and-true formula of syrupy R&B.
As a result, the album echoes the formula the group used in the early 1990s. The sound is sophisticated, but overly calculated; again, the heavenly harmonies of the vocals are the major instrument. But by repeating the formula, the group cheapens its youthful glory days instead of recalling them.
The album opens with the mediocre "Relax Your Mind," in which the quartet adds in the vocals of Faith Evans, with awkward and monotonous results. Next is the album's first single, "The Color of Love," which displays the typical Boyz II Men sound.
One of the singers, Wanya, fittingly dubbed the new single the "2002 version of 'End of the Road.'" It's the kind of song that grabs you at first listen; the harmony of the vocals is stunningly beautiful. But then you realize how familiar the sound is, and it becomes dull, tired and jaded.
Babyface's formula works acceptably well on the fourth track, "Oh Well," which has the songwriter's signature polish. But again, the song grows wearisome. The album does have a couple of bright spots, "Ain't a Thang Wrong" and "Roll Wit Me." Both songs pack a refreshingly upbeat tempo.
With "Full Circle," Boys II Men spins the same old formula, dizzying the listener into a state of boredom. After all the years of success, the four singers aren't boys anymore -- but musically, they aren't yet men either, and seem far too comfortable in their platinum Neverland.
by Chun Su-jin