Boyz II Men in harmony with Vegas
You don’t know when you arrive to see three hip hitmakers make your toes tap, your heart jump and your soul melt that you’re here for … Handel’s Messiah? Now you know.
“Classical music forces you to stay in your lane and blend with other parts, that way our harmony moves around,” says Nathan Morris of Boyz II Men, who—along with Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris—comprise one of the foremost practitioners of contemporary harmonizing.
“It’s not typical A-B-C, where one guy stays on top of another and you go up and down. You cross back and forth. One guy can start on the soprano part and by the time he finishes the eight bars, he’s in the baritone area. That comes from music like Handel’s Messiah.”
Had he produced music with a great beat you could dance to—say, “I’ll Make Love to You,” “End of the Road” and One Sweet Day”—Handel couldn’t find better interpreters than the Boyz, who recently marked four years as resident Vegas performers. And it’s a gig that’s gone down as smoothly as their honeyed harmonies.
“It’s the perfect time in the music business for artists of our genre and our time to start to populate the Vegas Strip,” Morris says. “The artists on the Strip have changed hands over many decades, appealing to the next generation. Our music may not be the most dominant on radio, but it’s becoming the most dominant music in Las Vegas.”
Ah, but how pop-culturally dominant they were. Flash back to the 1990s and 2000s and the abundance of accolades: record-breaking runs of singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts—displacing Elvis Presley for longevity—and joining Presley, The Beatles and Mariah Carey among artists that held the No. 1 spot cumulatively for at least 50 weeks. With 64 million albums sold, they’re the all-time best-selling R&B group, their repertoire—laden with emotion-streaked ballads punctuated by hip-hop beats and a cappella harmonies—catapulting the genre back to the forefront of mainstream radio, where it had last reigned in the 1970s.
“We’re urban artists, but when you have No. 1 hits like ‘I’ll Make Love to You’ and ‘End of the Road,’ you surpass just an R&B genre,” Morris says. “The fact that we have audiences from Israel to London to Africa to Japan on every level—white, black, green, whatever—that’s what we offer. We offer a diversity for every single walk of life that comes through Las Vegas.”
While their Strip show regularly evolves, it is those signature harmonies that will always anchor their appeal. Since they first began rehearsing together in the bathroom at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, those golden, intertwined pipes have defined them.
“When we started, we were broke, we didn’t have any instruments—the only thing we had was our vocals,” says Morris. “We watched movies when we were younger of doo-wop groups singing on the corner, around the trash can, and all they had was themselves. All the other stuff that’s added to Boyz II Men is extra, but when you strip it away, that’s really who we are.”
The Mirage, 7:30 p.m. April 21-22 & 28-30, $39.99-$59.99, $149.99 VIP Package plus tax and fee, includes meet and greet. 702.792.7777