Picks and Pans Review: Ii

updated 09/12/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/12/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Boyz II Men

R&B's male vocal outfits tend to fall into one of two categories: rude boys with smooth pecs and low-hanging baggies (Jodeci, Silk) or wholesome choirboy romantics (All-4-One, Shai). On their 1991 debut, Cooleyhighharmony, Boyz II Men were no exception, easily fitting in with the latter group. So you might figure that after that multiplatinum success, the Boyz could afford to take a few chances because fans would likely come along for the ride.

Think again.

Though their latest effort is no slump, it sticks to the familiar, mostly cruising over trails the foursome has blazed before. Like its predecessor, II includes intricate harmonies and glossy finger snappers ("Thank You," "U Know"), as well as a ballad so grandiose in structure that it might have been erected rather than written ("I'll Make Love II You") and an a cappella showcase (the Beatles' been-covered-to-death "Yesterday").

What's new here is that Boyz II Men try to underscore their superstar status with two boastful tunes ("All Around the World," "Vibin' ") that would have crumbled under the voices of less talented lads.

Everything on II is performed flawlessly. Yet aside from the tastefully risque "50 Candles" and the acoustic "Water Runs Dry," two lovely ballads that outshine anything by the Boyz' contemporaries, II is about as original as its title. (Motown)

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