Boyz II Men

Collide

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In the liner notes for Collide, Boyz II Men's first album since 2011's Twenty, the trio say their approach was "sing whatever you like," "sing whatever feels right," a move they see as "risky after many years of the same old thing." More revealingly, they confess that they had "lost the joy" and were too concerned with airplay and sales. While those words seem like they should be written in support of an album involving a great deal of creative self-control, Collide was made with at least three dozen songwriters and producers. In fact, Nathan, Shawn, and Wanya produced only the vocals and did none of the writing -- surprising, given the amount of effort they put forth for Twenty. This is easily the group's most scattered album, as it offers various shades of ballads, some throwbacks, oddly escapist adult alternative fare, and even anthemic rockers. Many of them blur the line between fresh changes of pace and ill-suited switch-ups. "Already Gone," one that falls toward the latter, is schizophrenic itself, as it bounds between early-'80s arena rock and EDM. It's also one of many songs in which Auto-Tune is used -- easily the album's most baffling characteristic. There are, however, some undeniably pleasing moments, led by "Don't Stop" -- a natural and loose disco groove -- while "Believe Us," filled with appealingly dark undercurrents, wouldn't be out of place on commercial radio stations and does not resemble a compromise. The men definitely appear to have enjoyed making this. Hopefully they can get back to writing for themselves and leaning on fewer producers, too.

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