’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I’ll Make Love To You”
The eighty-second No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boyz II Men. This was the group’s second chart-topper, following “End Of The Road” the year before. Both songs were superlatively successful and almost laughably similar, down to being in the same time signature (3/4) and nearly the same tempo (about 72-74 BPM). “End Of The Road” broke the record for the longest stay at No. 1, with 13 weeks, an achievement immediately overshadowed by Whitney Houston’s 14-week stay at the summit a few months later, with “I Will Always Love You.” “I’ll Make Love To You” then tied Houston’s record and co-held it for a little over a year, until Boyz II Men again broke their own record with “One Sweet Day,” a duet with Mariah Carey. All four of these songs are stylistically similar R&B/Pop ballads, although “I’ll Make Love To You” stands out for its straightforward sexual theme. One could see it as a classier version of “Bump N’ Grind,” a No. 1 song from earlier in 1994.
The success of “I’ll Make Love To You” fortified the star power not only of Boyz II Men but also of writer/producer Babyface, who despite never having a No. 1 hit of his own had tremendous behind-the-scenes influence on ’90s music, especially around the mid-’90s. For this reason, his songs, including “I’ll Make Love To You,” sound formulaic in retrospect, because he reinvented the formula.
As the title implies, “I’ll Make Love To You” is a love song for a bedroom setting. The protagonist promises to participate in an overnight lovemaking session whose components and end time are chosen by his partner. The lyrics were about as tasteful as possible given the underlying subject matter, but they still raised eyebrows among radio listeners in 1994. One wasn’t necessarily used to being serenaded on their drive to work. And their drive back. Every day. For months.
As a side note, with a reign that spanned from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, “I’ll Make Love To You” kept “Stay (I Missed You)” from adding five weeks to its three-week run at No. 1, then kept “Endless Love” by Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey and, more frustratingly, “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow at No. 2 for one and six weeks respectively. Crow’s release, which was her biggest hit, was one of the best and most original songs of the year and more than deserved at least a moment at No. 1.
Let’s take a few moments to revisit “I’ll Make Love To You”:
For a song that’s trying to get you into bed, “I’ll Make Love To You” achieves its goal, but through boredom, not arousal. The only especially interesting thing about this track is that the first line of the chorus grabs your attention for its declarative openness: “I’ll make love to you!” Beyond that, this recording is bland and by-the-numbers. Babyface and Boyz II Men, exceptionally talented as they were, did better things than “I’ll Make Love To You,” separately and together.
Boyz II Men was a tremendously right-place, right-time kind of act, coming of age just as the public went bonkers for the mid-’90s Motown revival. As such, it had the right mix of Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary characteristics to top all three charts in the U.S., and the quartet’s image was preppy and presentable enough to allay a suburban mother’s discomfort with the root message.
Does it hold up? As of this writing, the video for “I’ll Make Love To You” has garnered 70 million views on YouTube. Comments indicate the appeal is mostly nostalgic. That’s the only reason we can imagine someone wanting to hear this song today. It is dated in essentially every respect.
Dopeness: 2 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?