No groupies here. No limos. No champagne. Just four pals singing in a room devoid of the luxuries normally lavished on Grammy-winning pop stars. At the moment, in this nondescript studio on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Jamie Jones is leading his partners through ”We Dedicate,” a somber a cappella ode to God that will close the quartet’s latest album, And the Music Speaks. But it’s the name of that other supreme being that keeps popping up. ”If Frank Sinatra had a group,” Jones boasts to the others, ”it would be us: One take and we’re out.”
If only it were that easy. For several weeks, All-4-One — a multi-culti Boyz II Men, if you will — have been trying to finish the follow-up to their 1994 platinum-selling, eponymous debut and the two megasingles it spawned, ”So Much in Love,” a cover of the 1963 doo-wop classic, and ”I Swear,” a remake of the John Michael Montgomery hit, which camped out at No. 1 for 11 weeks.
Big shoes to fill (even if they are your own), and the quartet and its handlers are leaving nothing to chance: In an effort to duplicate All-4-One’s sales, the new album will veer not one jot from the original mix of love-obsessed mid-tempo R & B, a cappella ballads, slick pop, a doo-wop chestnut — there’s even another John Michael Montgomery reprise, ”I Can Love You Like That.” ”What we wanted not to do was to change,” explains Delious Kennedy, 24, speaking for Alfred Nevarez, 22, Tony Borowiak, 22, and Jones, 20.
Not changing has also meant maintaining a frantic pace, including months on the road. Last March, the group made a quick two-concert sojourn to Seoul, South Korea, where its ballad-heavy repertoire attracted capacity crowds. ”From the moment our career started,” says Kennedy, ”it’s been rush, rush! No time! No time!” Not a complaint exactly, but he wouldn’t mind a week or two to bask in the quartet’s massive success. According to Borowiak, the four still haven’t celebrated their signing with Blitzz Records, which first brought them to these studios in late 1993.
Kennedy had only just met his new comrades at a karaoke contest near their homes in ultrasuburban Antelope Valley, Calif. And they had only been performing together three months when Blitzz president Tim O’Brien (who became the band’s manager) invited them to record ”So Much in Love,” an immediate regional radio hit. By the time All-4-One had completed a full album, Blitzz had struck a distribution deal with Atlantic, and the group was about to break big nationally. Borowiak heard his group on the radio while he was still attending a Ford auto-mechanic school.