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Music

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Boyz II Men joins New Kids, 98 Degrees on tour

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but Boyz II Men had to get out, just for a couple of months.

The group had a sweet deal there, having launched a 78-show residency at The Mirage in March. But then the Boyz got a call from their old friends in New Kids on the Block asking whether they’d do The Package Tour with them and the newly reunited 98 Degrees.

They couldn’t help but say goodbye to Vegas for two months and jump on board.

“We thought it would be cool for our core fans to see us in this light,” says Shawn Stockman, calling from a soundcheck in Toronto. “We thought it would be nice considering most of the times we perform, we do some arenas, but mostly they’re theaters and smaller venues. To take our prowess and be able to do it on a bigger stage is something that always excited us.”

Boyz II Men – Stockman, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris – came out of Philadelphia in 1990, specializing in slow jams and new jack swing. Following on the heels of New Edition, the Boyz became the fourth-most-successful music group of the ’90s, according to Billboard, scoring such hits as “I’ll Make Love to You,” “One Sweet Day” and “Motown Philly.”

Most of the time, vocal groups or “boy bands” that start out when they’re young experience a sharp rise and fall and end up parting ways for a long stretch. NKOTB, which debuted in 1986, were down from 1995 to 2007. 98 Degrees, which broke out in ’97, was mostly out of action from 2004 to 2012.

Although the Boyz saw their popularity crest in the late ’90s – their last Top 40 hit was 14 years ago – they never called it quits.

“It always starts with the group first, and how we respected each other and rode with each other through hell and high water,” Stockman says. “We believed in each other, we believed in the brand of Boyz II Men, we believed in the music and, most importantly, the fans believed in us, too. That’s a big reason why the band never died. We believe we still have a voice and something to say in this business.”

Boyz II Men is running short one member from its heyday. The deep-voiced Michael McCary left the group due to scoliosis in 2003, at which point the Boyz decided to go on as a trio.

“That was a choice that was helped along by the fans,” Stockman says. “We basically put it out there and asked the fans how they feel about a fourth member replacing Michael and they said, ‘Absolutely not. We’d rather keep the three of you than have someone else that we don’t know and don’t connect with come in and try to replace him.’ Our fans are still happy. They still support us and still come to our shows, and they love us for who we are even if we are one less member.”

On the tour, Stockman admits that a little bit of friendly competition comes into play.

“It’s one of those things where we’re all good friends at the end of the day, and being in this business for as long as we’ve been in it you can’t survive without having somewhat of the competitive mind state.”

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