Twenty years ago this week, a slick R&B ballad appeared at the top of the charts and simply refused to go away.
One of the most successful songs of the '90s, Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" ruled the Billboard Hot 100 for 13 weeks, setting a new record. The soundtrack single was a major triumph not only for Boyz II Men, but for producers L.A. Reid and Babyface and for mainstream R&B as a whole.
We hate it.
"Gee, gosh," you might be asking yourself. "How could anyone hate such a lovely, timeless song as 'End of the Road?'" Well, first of all, the song is not timeless. In fact, it sounds dated as hell. Second, we can think of several reasons to hate "End of the Road." Ten of them, to be precise.
Because Rocks Off has never been shy with our strong opinions, we've decided to share with you our top 10 reasons to mock, scorn and despise the global smash, "End of the Road." We think you'll find them compelling, but if not, do us a favor: Buy yourself some damn headphones and give the rest of us a break already.
10. Outrageous Overexposure
Let's get something straight right off the bat: "End of the Road" was not the worst song of the '90s. At its core, the tune is a glossy, formulaic bit of R&B soundtrack fodder that's inoffensive by design. It's a little silly and it's a little overwrought, but those flaws aren't enough to inspire genuine hatred.
What was truly revolting about "End of the Road" was its sheer inescapability. In addition to completely dominating radio and MTV, it was played at every school dance. It was played at every high-school graduation. It was even a popular wedding-reception tune, which is especially bizarre given its pitiable breakup theme.
Long after its run at No. 1 ended, "End of the Road" was still just... everywhere. Despite all claims to the contrary, there was absolutely no end to that road in sight, and after a short while it made us want to jab letter openers into our eardrums.
9. A King Dethroned
So, "End of the Road" set a new record for consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. No matter how you slice it, that's pretty darn impressive. Impressive and also exasperating, when you consider who the Boyz bumped out of the record books: Previously, the single with the most weeks at No. 1 had been Elvis' "Hound Dog."
Now, we won't deny that "End of the Road" has earned its place in pop music history. It was a hit all over the world, and at least you can sort of slow dance to it. But "Hound Dog" damn near single-handedly kicked off the rock and roll revolution, effectively ending the "race music" era and giving young people a sound to call their own at last.
It's a timeless, stone-cold classic that helped spawn a movement now in its 56th year. "End of the Road," on the other hand, sounded dated before the '90s were even over. We can't be the only ones to find it rather insulting that this was the song to slap the King's crown off his head.
8. Got Any Prozac?
For one of the biggest smash hits of all time, "End of the Road" is pretty goddamn depressing. It's the tale of a jilted lover who, despite being cheated on repeatedly, simply can't let go of his misbegotten ideal of unshakeable love. Basically, it's the ballad of a sucker, and it's painful to listen to.
Have you ever really listened to the lyrics?
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
C'mon now. If you'd prefer agonizing death to the prospect of sleeping apart from a serial cheater, you may have some serious psychological issues that need to be worked out before you can enjoy a happy, meaningful relationship. This is not a healthy vision of love (or sex!) that deserves to be immortalized in song. Either get some self-respect or turn in your man cards, Boyz.
7. The Spoken-Word Bullshit
Boyz II Men were refreshingly egalitarian when it came to the spotlight. On "End of the Road," each of the four Boyz gets his own solo verse to show off his pipes. Each, that is, except for bass Michael McCary, who gets saddled with an inane spoken-word passage that's practically a cruel parody of R&B tropes.
"All those times of night when you just hurt me and just run out with that other fella (fella?!), baby I knew about it... I just didn't care," says McCary in his best Barry White impersonation. "You just don't understand how much I love you, do you? I'm here for you."
Yeah, here for you to repeatedly cheat on. These spoken-word bass interludes were an unwelcome feature of several Boyz II Men songs, but rarely were they quite this embarrassing.
6. Egregious Karaoke Butchering
God help you if you're trapped in a karaoke bar and some drunk convinces the DJ to let him attempt "End of the Road." Talented as they were, Boyz II Men were also unrepentant, caterwauling showboats, and bad things happen when regular jerks try to match them note for note.
Or even worse, a group of regular jerks. Harmonizing is harder than it looks, folks.
5. Freaking Boomerang
Remember Boomerang? If you do, it probably ain't fondly. The '90s were a rough decade for Eddie Murphy, and this flick is no exception. Eddie plays a womanizing ad executive who meets his match in new boss Robin Givens, and discovers what it feels like to be played. Somehow, it's even less funny than that sounds. Murphy is at his most hilarious on film when he's playing a beleaguered outsider, not a hot-shot alpha male as he does here.
In fact, Boomerang is best remembered today for its soundtrack, highlighted by the incomprehensible success of "End of the Road." The song was actually a slap-dash affair, with the Boyz taking a four-hour break from touring to record what they considered a decent-if-unspectacular tune by L.A. Reid and Babyface.
4. I Will Always Hate You
Elvis' "Hound Dog" held the record for most weeks at No. 1 for nearly 40 years. Pretty incredible, right? And how long did "End of the Road," that Hank Aaron to "Hound Dog's" Babe Ruth, hold the title? A lousy 17 weeks. The song to boot it from the top spot? Another godawful soundtrack ballad, Whitney Houston's intolerable version of "I Will Always Love You."
Whitney spent 14 weeks at No. 1, showing Boyz II Men how a real diva belts one out. Even more histrionic and inescapable than "End of the Road," "I Will Always Love You" made us want to suck on a hot tailpipe. Improbably, it wouldn't be long before the Boyz took back their crown with ANOTHER cruel auditory assault...
3. "I'll Make Love to You" is the Same. Damn. Song.
Imagine if Hitler had a twin. He'd be twice as shitty, right? Well, two years after "End of the Road" began its merciless rule of the pop landscape, Boyz II Men delivered its foul doppleganger: "I'll Make Love to You."
This song followed the "End of the Road" formula so closely that the chorus of either tune could easily be swapped out without missing a beat. Same tempo, same harmonies, same mega-selling success. "I'll Make Love to You" spent 14 weeks on top, an agonizing replay of the overexposed "End," and it's a miracle more radio listeners didn't hide their heads in wet cement to get away from it.
2. The Rise of the Boy Bands
"I'll Make Love to You" wasn't the only copycat inspired by "End of the Road." Anytime a song blows up THAT big, you can bet record executives are watching and listening with visions of solid-gold yachts dancing in their subhuman brains. Suddenly, the boy-band phenomenon that had appeared to fizzle with the demise of NKOTB and New Edition was back, and we had Boyz II Men to thank.
Backstreet Boyzs. N'Sync. 98 Degrees and all the rest. The flood of white R&B balladeer groups wearing matching clothes that arrived in the latter half of the decade were all put together in response to the unprecedented success of "End of the Road." That's reason enough in our book to crucify this song.
Ironically, Boyz II Men themselves fell victim to the boy-band crash. They haven't had a platinum album since 1994.
1. No More Motownphillies
You know what song kicks ass? "Motownphilly," Boyz II Men's debut single produced by Michael Bivins of Bel Biv DeVoe. It's a delicious bit of ultra-danceable New Jack Swing that put the Boyz on the map. It was fresh, it was funky, hell, it was funky-fresh. And it's still certain to get your toes tapping today, more than 20 years later.
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We could have had more Motownphillies. We should have had more Motownphillies. In 1991, it was the New Sound. But instead, Boyz II Men's next big hit was "End of the Road." Game over. For the rest of the decade, the Boyz pumped out more drippy, overwrought ballads in the same vein as "End." And hey, they made a crapload of cash all over the world with those songs. But not one of them featured the ecstatic dance-floor harmonizing of their breakthrough.
"End of the Road" cheated us out of the Boyz II Men that could have been, and that's the song's most unforgivable sin.