November 16, 2007

Shortcuts—Boyz II Men's Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville

What ever happened to Boyz II Men? How did the most successful R&B group go from churning out some of the most popular singles of the ’90s—even managing at one point to join the Beatles as the only other group to replace themselves at number one on the Billboard Hot 100—to releasing one lackluster album after another? The trend began in 2004 with the release of Throwback, an album consisting entirely of covers of songs that never needed to be redone in the first place. The disappointment continues with their newest release, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville, a collection of songs originally recorded by Smoky Robinson, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye, during the ’60s and ’70s.

The concept behind this album is to take some of the best pop songs ever produced and rearrange them to suit the vocal harmonies and slow deliveries of this particular group. The approach is flawed from the very start. Nothing is added here to songs like Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” The Temptation’s “Just My Imagination,” or Smoky Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears.” I kept waiting for the real artist to spontaneously appear, say “Enough is enough,” and show the Boyz how it’s really done. Why buy this album when the originals are better, and available on iTunes for 99 cents a pop?