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Boys II Men shift from selling platinum albums to spreading other musicians' 'Love' on the road



Boyz II Men
8 p.m. Friday
Riverwind Casino
1544 W. State Highway 9, Norman

Nathan Morris says his fellow Boyz II Men musicians don't consider themselves part of the music business.

"We're in the touring business," he said. "We make records here and there, but that's not really what we do."

This is a fair claim since Morris performs nearly 200 shows annually, but records only sporadically. However, he, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman comprise a group of legendary R&B hit-makers that has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, won four Grammys and had five No. 1 Billboard singles. September marks the beginning of Boyz II Men's 20th year of existence " a staggering career length for an act that easily could be labeled the definitive modern boy band.

So is Motown Philly back again? Figuratively, no. Boyz II Men has performed steadily since its first record in 1991. Literally, however, it returns to Oklahoma, mere months after last year's State Fair performance, with a Friday concert at Riverwind Casino.

It would probably be easy for musicians with the powerhouse catalog of Boyz II Men to rest on their collective laurels, but Morris says for now, the act is more interested in focusing on the present.

"We're on the road constantly. The future of the group, we don't know what it holds," Morris said, "but we're going to try to do this as long as we can. A lot of groups nowadays find it very difficult to get out on the road and tour. This is something we definitely don't take for granted. We're not sure how many more records we'll make, but we know that we'll be touring for quite some time."

Boyz II Men is traveling in support of 2009's "Love," a collection of unlikely cover songs " tracks by Bonnie Raitt, Cyndi Lauper and Goo Goo Dolls, to name a few " handpicked by the band to showcase unexpected diversity.

"We wanted to make it different," Morris said. "People know we sing love songs. Since we were doing a remake record, we didn't want it to be hokey. We wanted to show the world we're capable of more than just classic, R&B-style songs."

Compared to the multiplatinum records of Boyz II Men's past, the sales of "Love" and its last two records, both collections of covers, have been relatively meager. Morris sees no sign of that changing for the better in the near future, either for Boyz II Men or for most pop artists.

"The future of the music business, unfortunately, is really in dire straits," he said. "It may come to a close pretty soon. We may see people making songs for strictly promotion without any record. The music industry over the last 10 years (suffered from) digital downloads and other new technology that record companies weren't ready for. The consumer has gotten tired of having to buy a full record and not liking all the songs. They want the songs that they want, when they want them. They control the destiny of the music business."

Because of this, Boyz II Men relies on keeping in touch with fans through constant touring and social media, rather than relying on the more traditional radio and record-label promotion used by many artists of their stature. For now, at least, this method appears to be working.

"The generation who grew up with us and knows the old songs, they've passed them onto their kids," Morris said. "We've got 10-year-olds at our shows. It just keeps growing." "Becky Carman

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