To be clear, Boyz II Men, for all their beloved songs, did not sing the original version of the classic Chili’s jingle. You know: “I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs” with a dollop of (in a lower voice) “barbecue sauce.”
But you’re forgiven for thinking that they did. It wouldn’t be the first time someone thought the R&B group was behind the catchy ditty that was introduced in 1997, the same year the guys released their fourth studio album, Evolution. It was three years after they dropped their second album, II, which featured the singles “I’ll Make Love to You” and “On Bended Knee.” That double play made them the third artists ever, after Elvis and the Beatles, to replace themselves in the top spot of the Billboard charts. They were everywhere. So it’s understandable people would make that mistake.
“A good majority of the public confused us as the original singers of the jingle because our style was so similar,” members Nathan Morris, Wanyá Morris and Shawn Stockman tell Yahoo Entertainment in an email interview. “The a capella, soulful harmonies and baritone aspects you hear throughout the jingle were very similar to the music we were releasing that decade.”
Sadly, that original jingle singer, Willie McCoy, died in 2012. He had a baby back ribs-themed funeral, reportedly filled with live pigs, a fountain of barbecue sauce, a casket shaped like a smoker and pallbearers harmonizing to… you guessed it.
It’s only now that the Boyz are actually covering the familiar tune, giving what the restaurant calls a “smooth ’90s-inspired makeover,” in a new ad. As fans of the group can probably guess, they turned it in a love song, singing it as, “I Want My Baby Back.” Of course, it sounds amazing.
When the idea was first pitched to them, they thought it was a joke. They quickly got serious about it.
“At the time the request came through, we were a week out from an international run so it took a lot of back and forth, Zooms, phone calls and late nights, but we managed to get it done just before we hit the road,” the Boyz explain. “The jingle is already iconic, so while we hopped to put our flavor on it, we wanted to maintain the integrity of the song. The shoot itself was complete in one very long but very fun day. The continuous chips and salsa refills at the shoot were an added bonus.”
Judging by the positive comments on the new ad, which is accompanied by merchandise, fans approve.
“I think our fans appreciate that we have stayed authentic to who we are and the sound we’ve created since the beginning,” the guys say. “Our music is heartfelt, and the melodies are sultry, which we have kept consistent for years, including in this ‘I Want My Baby Back’ jingle. It’s important for us to remain true to our craft in anything we do and being able to tap into fans’ memories with a ’90s earworm in our Boyz II Men harmony was special to us.”
Aside from their new tune, the Grammy winners, whose last album was 2017’s Under the Streetlight, are in the midst of their latest U.S. tour, with dates stretching through May 2024.
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