PETALING JAYA, Dec 3 — Music is a reflection of society, muses legendary R&B vocal outfit Boyz II Men founder Nathan Morris aka Nate — and unfortunately just like the world today, he says, standards of appreciation for real music is much lower.
After witnessing their concert packed with 17 songs and a surprise rock medley at the Plenary Hall here as part of their Asian tour last Sunday — it’s safe to say one of R&B’s most epic acts in history, know what they are talking about.
In a casual meet with the media, the trio — Nate, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockton — shared their thoughts with Malay Mail on the current scenario of the music industry, which they say is more image-driven thanks to technology.
“I always say music is a reflection of society, and unfortunately, coming from where we come from — our president is Donald Trump, meaning that the standards of what people accept is now lower,” said Nate.
“And musically, people’s standards are now lower, so a lot of people are being more successful because that’s just the ‘standard’.”
It was definitely much more different when Boyz II Men first exploded into the scene 29 years ago, bringing the sweet sounds of Philadelphia to the world.
“At the time when we came out, it was a small group of people (artistes), because we, as the people, demanded so much more from our creative artistes when it came to being creative.
“We demanded talent, we demanded certain things,” he said.
“The standard today we just don’t have high standards, we pretty much accept what’s given to us and that’s just music as a reflection of life.”
While there have been changes have been for the better, with technology levelling the playing field and allowing creatives to bypass the industry gatekeepers, Stockton says it’s also pretty much a double-edged sword, and a curse in parts for those in the music industry today.
“It’s less about music and more about the image.
“There was always this ebb and flow, a 50-50 thing. You had artistes like Prince and Michael Jackson who had images, but the music it was even,”
Saying he wasn’t putting down new artistes, Stockton said he actually felt bad for many of the new generation of music makers.
“It sucks you have so many talented people that might get flubbed, or certain things might override their actual gift because everybody’s not into music anymore.
“The industry changed a lot for the good, and some for the not so good. It’s great that artistes are able to bypass the gatekeepers of the music industry who used to hold the key to being in the business.”
With social media, many are able to get past crucial elements many had to deal with in the past — including having to go through auditions with label execs to secure a recording deal.
“On the flip side, there are a lot more critics now than when we were coming out, and a lot of those are on social media.
“I feel bad for artistes these days as they have to go through so much public scrutiny from fans, onlookers, pseudo-critics and people who just have an outspoken opinion that could potentially taint their career to the point where they don’t want to do it anymore,” Stockton said adding he personally knew artistes who threw in the towel because of it.
“Artistes should be able to be artistes and express themselves and not have to go through the pressure of having to think of things to say for strangers that are on social media.”
Nate points out the new image-driven industry has had its effect on vocal groups especially — which are almost absent from today’s musical landscape.
“We live in a day and era of YouTube where unfortunately a lot of musical artistes have become so selfish that they don’t even want to share the stage with anybody else.
“There are more groups here, South Korea and Japan that are still into uniting in a group and playing their part versus America where it’s just a selfish music atmosphere.”
Meanwhile for fans hoping Boyz II Men will be releasing new music to fill the void, the good news is that the outfit may do so, being free from much of the pressures that most artistes today have to put up with.
“We’re at the point of our career where if we do music, we can finally do stuff we enjoy and not worry about what the feedback is,” said Nate.
Not that they need to worry, with their powerful performance at the 2019 Soul Train Awards just a fortnight ago, dominating conversation on social media.
That and the recording of Boyz II Men ranking as among the industry’s elites with multiple records, — making them the biggest boy band ever from 1987 to 2012.
“We’re in a more blessed position where when we do decide to do it, we can literally just do it because we love to do it and not have the fear if anybody likes it or if the masses want to buy it.”
And that comfort, he said, would allow surprises like even a possible double album from Boyz II Men, who remain actively touring apart from performing in numerous shows and festivals will keep going on for as long as the fans want them to.
“It’s the love of it,” said Wanya.
“Being able to stand before the audience and give them what they want and they give us back the energy as long as they want to hear us and be part of Boyz II Men, we want to give it to them.”