’90s No. 1s Revisited: “End Of The Road”
The sixty-third No. 1 song of the 1990s was “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men, a quartet from Philadelphia. This single was a massive smash in the U.S., spending 13 weeks at No. 1, the longest run of any song in history at the time, a record they would break twice with follow-up hits. “End Of The Road” ended up, unsurprisingly, as the No. 1 single of the year in Billboard’s year-end tally. It was popular abroad as well, hitting the top of the charts in five other countries (Australia, The Netherlands, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).
“End Of The Road” was the first of Boyz II Men’s five chart-toppers, all of which were ballads released within a five-year period (1992-1997). Prior to “Road,” they’d had four hits off their 1991 debut album, the biggest of which were “Motownphilly” and “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” which reached Nos. 3 and 2 respectively. They would follow “Road” with 14 more hits, making them one of the most popular and ubiquitous acts of the decade. Their Hot 100 chart success ended with the decade, however, as they last hit the Top 40 in 1999 and haven’t reached the Top 100 since 2000, although they continue to release new music.
Although this song’s extended stay at No. 1 was remarkable at the time, especially following 1991 when turnover was so high, it would begin a trend of long-term chart-toppers. Of the 20 longest-running No. 1 singles in history, 19 did so in 1992 or later. The song also is significant for having a distinctively “Babyface/L.A. Reid/Daryl Simmons” sound, as the songwriters/producers’ stamp is recognizable on countless follow-up hits throughout the decade, with Boyz II Men and beyond.
Whenever a song sits at No. 1 for a long time, it keeps other big hits at bay at No. 2. In this case, “End Of The Road” prevented “Baby-Baby-Baby” by TLC (also written by Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons) and “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” by Patty Smyth (and an un-credited Don Henley) from the summit, as each sat patiently in the runner-up spot for six weeks apiece.
“End Of The Road” is an R&B/Pop ballad about the regrettable end of a relationship. It features the group’s signature harmonies as well as their sharing of lead vocals.
Take a few minutes to revisit “End Of The Road”:
To anyone who consumed music in the ’90s, this track, in retrospect, sounds very ordinary. That’s because it began a trend where these light-touch, somewhat melodramatic R&B ballads dominated the mainstream airwaves for several years thereafter. At the time, though, “End Of The Road” was somewhat novel. The smooth harmonies walking along a sweet melody sounded mature, honest and pure in a way that ’80s music often hadn’t. There really wasn’t anything like this in the ’80s, or maybe since the heyday of Motown, so audiences flocked to it, and therefore this type of music got played to death throughout the decade.
Boyz II Men’s catalog hit at just the right time to straddle almost all genres. It was MTV and VH1 friendly, and perfect for Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary radio formats. You just couldn’t escape it.
Does it hold up? Modern ears will find this song dated, bland and squarely in the Adult Contemporary category, and the vocal acrobatics in the climax seem particularly antiquated.
Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?