Just two years after the disappointing release of Nathan, Michael, Shawn, Wanya, Boyz II Men return with a new label and some old friends. Full Circle, the group’s sixth album, doesn’t exactly transport the Boyz back to the days of “End of the Road” or “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” but it reunites them with longtime producers Babyface and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The quiet ballad “Oh Well” marries Jam & Lewis’s signature production (tinkling keyboards, synths and lush strings) with Boyz II Men’s warm, falsetto harmonies; “On the Road Again,” produced by Nathan Morris, is a smooth, Sade-esque track infused with acoustic guitar and silky vocals. The album’s lyrics are typical R&B fodder, with the possible exception of the racy “Luv N U” (“So good to see you on top of me…Livin’ inside of your ebony”), and efforts to update their sound with contemporary urban flavors are hit or miss. The group’s attempts to fit in (“Whatcha Need,” “I’m OK, You’re OK”) all but blend away their distinct doo-wop style. The success of Boyz II Men has always rested largely on the fact that they seemed to be from another, simpler time, but rather than getting back to basics, most of Full Circle spends its time trying to prove there’s a place for Boyz II Men in 2002. Unfortunately, there might not be.
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