It’s the song that started it all for Boyz II Men, and what a strong start it was. Released in 1991, “Motownphilly” made it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first single from their debut album, Cooleyhighharmony. Harmony was just one of the keys to their early success. They had some smooth dance moves, too.
The song title is a mashup of two of the group’s musical influences: 1960s Motown and 1970s Philly soul. In 2017, a section of Broad Street in Philadelphia was renamed “Boyz II Men Boulevard.” It’s near the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where the group came together. The video for “Motownphilly” was filmed in various locations around Philadelphia, which is why I like it so much. Anyone who has lived there will recognize the scenery.
Another major influence for Boyz II Men was New Edition, who recorded a song called “Boys to Men” in 1988. Michael Bivins of New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe produced Cooleyhighharmony. He appears in the video for “Motownphilly” along with Another Bad Creation, which explains the opening line of the song: “Boyz II Men, ABC, BBD, the East Coast Family.”