The 1990s saw a lot of trends come and go throughout the decade: Cross Colours, grunge and the urban late-night talk show just to name a few. One of my favorite ’90’s trends, however, was the all-star event soundtrack. 1992 turned out to be a banner year for this, with several film soundtracks — including two already inducted into our Class of 1992 — releasing hit single after hit single and ruling the charts. Released just a week after the Jam & Lewis helmed soundtrack for Mo’ Money, the soundtrack for Eddie Murphy‘s romantic comedy Boomerang continued this trend. It was led by the über-successful super single “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men. Written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Daryl Simmons, the track went to the tippy-top of the Billboard charts, hanging out at No. 1 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks, eclipsing Elvis Presley‘s 36-year chart record. While it was definitely the biggest chart success the album had and one of the biggest reasons for the soundtrack’s eventual triple platinum haul, it wasn’t the only good thing that the album had going for it by far.
That’s mainly because the soundtrack was a showcase for Reid and Babyface’s R&B juggernaut LaFace Records, the ’90’s home to artists like TLC, Usher and Damian Dame. However, one LaFace artist in particular used this album to launch a stellar career. Taking advantage of opportunities left open by a then-pregnant Anita Baker, diva-in-the-making Toni Braxton made her mark with her Babyface duet “Give U My Heart” and what would become one of her signature songs, the movie’s heart and soul “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.” The tracks proved the newcomer was both incredibly talented and a surefire musical force. Both songs were eventually released as singles, with the upbeat “Give U My Heart” maxing out at No. 29 on the Hot 100 and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” peaking at No. 33. “Love,” which was released as a single in December 1992, also served as the bridge between Toni’s Boomerang introduction and the release of her solo debut the following summer.
The hit parade from the soundtrack kept coming with P.M. Dawn‘s “I’d Die Without You.” The smooth, mellow cut peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100, the second time the duo rushed to the top 10 in less than a year. It would also help their sophomore set The Bliss Album…? hit gold status. A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Hot Sex” didn’t fare as well on the charts — it was only able to eke out a meager No. 99 showing on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles chart — but it was still a veritable party starter. So much so that it was included on Tribe’s greatest hits compilation The Anthology and later sampled by none other than Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige for her 2003 single “Love @ 1st Sight.”
Outside of singles, the soundtrack still brought its A game. Aaron Hall and Charlie Wilson pairing for “It’s Gonna Be Alright” was nothing short of an inspired decision, and their similarly styled voices of course worked well together. Also getting their New Jack Swing on was film star Grace Jones, whose Dallas Austin-produced “7 Day Weekend” aimed to get the party started, and Shanice, whose “Don’t Wanna Love You” was a smooth trip punctuated by hard-hitting drums. Ballad-wise, Keith Washington and Johnny Gill repped for the fellas with “Tonight Is Right” and “There U Go,” respectively. Each was a study in the art of the quiet storm bedroom jam, with the crooners flexing their impressive vocals to woo the ladies between the sheets. In fact, the only missteps (and they’re only missteps because the material around them is just so good) are the clunky posse cut “Reversal of a Dog” — which featured TLC, Damian Dame, Toni Braxton and the seldom-heard-from-again Highland Place Mobsters a.k.a. The LaFace Cartel — and Kenny Vaughan & The Art of Love‘s “Feels Like Heaven,” which, while nice, feels like a knock-off Color Me Badd track.
While the Boomerang soundtrack was an undoubted success, it was only the tip of the iceberg. Toni Braxton would launch a solo career that, while not without its blemishes, is enviable by many a songstress. Boyz II Men would use the massive momentum of “End of the Road” to pretty much run the majority of the ’90s male R&B landscape. Babyface, using Boomerang as a blueprint, would go on to strike soundtrack gold when he was tapped three years later to write and produce the soundtrack for Waiting to Exhale, which became an award-winning, record-breaking runaway success that went seven times platinum in less than a year. Hate or love its movie counterpart, which got mostly mixed reviews when it was released (despite this author’s opinion that it was one of the funniest movies ever), you can’t deny that the Boomerang soundtrack was destined to have a lasting effect on the urban music landscape long after the credits rolled.