As part of my ongoing series where I watch and examine R&B music videos from another era entirely too closely (see also, “Twisted” by Keith Sweat), I have chosen to take a look at the video for “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men. There is a very good reason for this: I love Boyz II Men. Not “loved” with a “d” at the end. Love. Present tense. Any fun I have with the video on the following pages is done entirely out of that feeling, and is a product of me watching it so many times that I developed feelings about it. Like, FEELINGS.
A little background: “End of the Road” was probably Boyz II Men’s biggest hit, both statistically and culturally. Released in 1992 as part of the soundtrack for the Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang, the song stayed at number one for 13 weeks, breaking Elvis Presley’s record of 11.
Fun Music Fact: After their reign ended, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston reached the top of the charts two weeks later and broke their record by staying there for 14 weeks. I choose to believe that the group who held the top spot between those songs, The Heights, is absolutely furious about this. (“OF ALL THE DAMN TIMES…” they probably say whenever they get together and get good and drunk.)
I suppose what I’m getting at is this: Boyz II Men, ABC, BBD. The East Coast Family.
Boyz II Men, from left to right: Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris, Michael McCary, and Nathan Morris. We’ll be discussing each of them over the course of the video, as they all have their own little moment in the sun, but I’d like to start with a quick rant about chairs.
Look at the above picture. There are four people in the frame, and not a single one is using his chair as it is designed. I don’t know who decided this or when exactly we stopped doing it, but throughout most of the ’90s, sitting improperly in a chair was shorthand for being very, very cool. The best example of this was in literally every TV show made from 1988-1997, when a character would walk up to someone to have a conversation, grab a chair, spin it around, and plop down in it backwards with his legs spread around the backrest. Once he did that, it was all over. Hell, all you needed to take over a high school in 1995 was a leather jacket, crappy posture, and either a bowl cut or a high fade. Line the ladies up at the door.
It was a simpler time.
The first verse of the song goes to Nathan Morris, who sometimes went by the nickname “Alex Vanderpool,” because you know what maybe you shouldn’t ask questions and just accept that a member of a ’90s R&B group rechristened himself “Alex Vanderpool” and move along with your day. Also, please note the following things:
- Jean jacket
- Salmon-colored button-up
- Salmon-colored button-up that is tucked into black pants
NOTE: Big ups to whichever graffiti artist spray-painted what appears to be the word “BRAS” in all caps on that wall back there. I don’t know what his end game was — maybe he just really liked bras, you know? — but I like to think it was some sexually frustrated teenager who didn’t know how else to get out all that bottled up testosterone so he just ran around town tagging every unmarked surface he could find with stuff like “BRAS” and “PANTIES.” Police would call him the Underpants Bandit, I imagine.
Here is what is happening in this shot: Four young men are performing at night in an alley — wearing matching outfits consisting of jeans, shirts and ties, and some sort of windbreakers — as a fire rages in a trash can under a large advertisement for a crappy romantic comedy starring Eddie Murphy.
Taken out of its context as a part of a music video, even a tiny bit, this is very strange.
There are two things you need to know about the next part of the song: 1) It is sung by Wanya Morris, and; 2) When Wanya Morris sings it looks like the act of projecting his voice causes him an immeasurable amount of pain. To illustrate this I have helpfully screencapped an image of him trying to sing despite suffering from what I’m guessing is either an aneurysm or a Grand Mal seizure.
While this is a decent example of Wanya Morris freaking the freak out while singing, it is nowhere near the best (and it’s kind of cheating because he’s acting out the line “pain in my head, oh I’d rather be dead,” but whatever). No, the best example would be in the music video for “On Bended Knee,” where he tosses aside his umbrella and proceeds to act like he is being electrocuted while singing on the street in the middle of a downpour.
Also, at the same time this is happening, there is a huge dude in the background who is playing the tuba while dressed like a ship captain, and that is hilarious. Please see below.
Since “End of the Road” is a song about breaking up, there are a few brief scenes where a couple acts out a split. In this example, a gentleman with fly-as-hell hair attempts to give his girlfriend a rose, which she declines before walking away. He then tosses the rose on the ground.
This might be the saddest scene in music video history*. This guy invited his girlfriend to the park, got all done up, got his hair game looking tighter than a pair of Spanx, and bought a single rose to give to her in an attempt to reconcile their lost love, and he got absolutely hung out to dry. What do you think he did? He definitely cheated on her, right? Had to.
*Second place – The scene in “Unbreak My Heart” where Tyson Beckford dies after flipping his motorcycle and Toni Braxton cries about it in her underpants a lot.
- This verse is performed by Shawn Stockman (far right), who tosses little “mmms,” and “uhs,” and “mmm-hmmms” after each line like he’s a fiery Baptist preacher. All songs should be sung in this manner.
- I must have those sunglasses immediately.
DIRECTOR: [driving home from the office while talking on a giant ’90s car phone] Yeah, I think the video’s good to go. We’ve got a bunch of locations set up: a church, a bridge, an alley… what’s that? What do you mean “something more obvious”? … Well I don’t know where I’m going to find something like that on such short notice. You really need to stop springing this stuff on me at the last minut… No I don’t have an attitude probl… Holdonholdonholdon, you can’t talk to me like that… Oh yeah? That’s it. I’m calling my union represent-
[drives by subway sign that says “END Road Station,” slams brakes]
DIRECTOR: … Never mind. I got it.
Here is another scene where a couple breaks up, this time featuring a woman returning a ring to her beau. Based on nothing but her nose ring and her low-cut, cross-strapped, studded shirt, I’m going to guess she wanted to go out and party all the time but he was always like “HURR DURR LET’S GO TO THE PIER AND FEED THE BIRDS INSTEAD” and she just up and had it one day and screamed “I AM A BUTTERFLY AND I NEED TO FLY” and left him there holding nothing but his ring and some bird seed.
I’ve seen it a million times.
Oh, and while this was happening Boyz II Men was standing behind them dressed up like the R&B Power Rangers. Again, the ’90s were weird.
To: All aspiring R&B groups
Re: Important GIF
YO DO THIS SH-T RIGHT HERE. FOR REAL. LOOK AT THE THINGS EACH OF THE DUDES IN BOYZ II MEN ARE DOING IN THIS GIF, ASSIGN ONE OF THEM TO EACH MEMBER OF YOUR GROUP, AND THEN DO THAT SH-T IN YOUR VIDEO.
After a few verses and runs through the chorus, Boyz II Men turns the song over to Michael McCary (the deep-voiced, cane-wielding gentleman above) to deliver a monologue about still loving a girlfriend who repeatedly cheats on him, and he proceeds to take a stick of dynamite and blow the roof off the place. It is the best part of the song by a mile, and the fact McCary was forced to leave the group in 2003 due to health problems depresses me to no end.
Anyway, I have been through a bad break-up or two in my day, but never one so heart-vaporizing that I called a friend and asked him to come with me to the beach and wail about it directly into the ocean. Sheesh. Someone needs to take my man out for whiskey and steaks and tell him to buck up a little.
So far in this video we’ve seen Boyz II Men perform (a) in an alley next to a trash can fire, (b) on the street with a guitar case full of money in front of them, (c) on an abandoned beach, (d) on a bridge, and (e) inside a church. Are we supposed to believe that they’re, like, homeless? Is that what this video is getting at? That Boyz II Men collectively went through a bad breakup and was so depressed about it that they went into a tailspin and ended up on the street? Because if so…
FUN FACT: If I saw Boyz II Men performing “End of the Road” on the sidewalk in front of a sign that said “END Road Station,” I would empty my entire wallet into their guitar case.
The video for “End of the Road,” in which Boyz II Men’s blue jeans are presented in vivid color within an otherwise black-and-white frame, was released in 1992. Schindler’s List, in which a young girl’s red hat is presented in vivid color within an otherwise black-and-white frame, was released in 1993.
Eat it, Spielberg.
The song concludes with the music fading out and Boyz II Men taking us home a capella while clapping in rhythm on a bridge. As it should.
That brings us to the end of our discussion about the music video for “End of the Road.” Hopefully you won’t become so sad upon finishing it that you drive to the beach with a friend and sing about it to the ocean, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
We all grieve in our own way.