On the heels of the success of the R&B quartet Boyz II Men, All-4-one emerged on the music scene with their own smooth, doo-wop, sidewalk-type harmonies. Their sound revolves mostly around an a cappella vocal style, and their image of harmony and universality meshes with their multicultural foundations. From the release of their debut album, AII-4-One impressed the ears and hearts of a rapidly growing audience.
None of the members of All-4-One had any formal vocal training before they got together; however, their respective church choirs had a major influence on their ability and their techniques. “That’s where we all learned to sing, and how voices can blend together,” group member Delious Kennedy said in All-4-One’s record company biography. Tony Borowiak had previous performing experience with a barbershop quartet, and Jamie Jones had played saxophone in his school band (and reportedly started singing at the age of three).
The quartet formed with the core of Alfred Nevarez and Borowiak, who became friends in high school in Antelope
Members includeTony Borowiak, vocals; Jamie Jones, vocals; Delious Kennedy, vocals; Alfred Nevarez, vocals.
Group formed in Antelope Valley, CA; signed with Blitzz Records, 1993; released self-titled debut, 1994; released And the Music Speaks, 1995; contributed to Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King, 1996.
Awards: Grammy Award for best-pop performance by a duo or group with vocal for “I Swear,” 1995; American Music Award for favorite new soul/R&B artist, 1995.
Addresses: Record company —Blitzz Records/Atlantic, 9229 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Valley, California. The pair had landed jobs singing jingles for a local radio station and met up with Jones in the recording studio. The newfound trio set out to find another singer and discovered Delious Kennedy singing at a karaoke contest. Soon the four young men formed the quartet AII-4-One.
In 1993 AII-4-One auditioned for Los Angeles-based Blitzz Records. In just 15 minutes they were able to create an impromptu arrangement of the 1963 hit “So Much in Love” by the Tymes. At the end of their performance, they had a record contract. By the time they finished recording their debut album, Blitzz had signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records—and AII-4-One had an instant major-label deal.
In January of 1994 the quartet released their first single—the same tune that led them to ink their record contract—“So Much in Love.” The single went gold and reached Number Five on Billboards Hot 100 Singles. When Borowiak heard his group on the radio for the first time, he was attending a Ford auto mechanic school. Within a few months Blitzz/Atlantic released All-4-One’s self-titled debutalbumandtheirsecondsingle, “I Swear.” Soon the group’s popularity skyrocketed.
“I Swear,” a remake of John Michael Montgomery’s country hit, reached Number One on Billboard’s pop singles chart and stayed therefor 11 straightweeks. By the end of the year, the track had gone platinum and became 1994’s biggest-selling single, as well as the third most successful single of the rock era. Montgomery’s version simultaneously climbed the country charts and became Billboards Number One country single of 1994. “It’s one of those songs that could stay around for a long, long time and never get old, like a wedding song or something,” Kennedy told Peter Cronin in Billboard.
With their soaring success, the quartet embarked on an extensive national and international tour, which included stops in France, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea. “The last time I looked, people fall in love all over the world,” Atlantic Group President Val Azzoli explained to Craig Rosen in Billboard. “Great pop songs transcend languages.” All-4-One’s tour led to even greater worldwide notoriety with gold and multiplatinum albums in several countries across the globe. “They really have a way of relating to the audience,” added band manager and Blitzz Records President Tim O’Brien. “The type of songs that they sing creates a strong bond with people.”
“Breathless”—a deviation from the smooth AII-4-One sound—became the third singlefromthegroup’s debut album. One reviewer described the tune in Billboard as a “lively ditty that relies less on crisp harmonies and more on stylish solo parts and kinky, hip-hop derived beats.”
In 1995 AII-4-One received the American Music Award for favorite new soul/R&B artist and won the Grammy Award for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal for “I Swear.” Riding on the wave of public acclaim, the quartet went right back into the studio and released their sophomore effort, And the Music Speaks, in the spring. “We did a lot more a cappella singing around one mike with the record,” Kennedy explained in the group’s record company bio. “We did at least seven or eight tracks like that. I n this day and age of high technology, you’ve always got to go back to what works.”
Coincidentally, they again used John Michael Montgomery material for their first single from And the Music Speaks, “I Can Love You Like That.” As before, Montgomery’s version also became a country hit. However, according to Kennedy, this time the group didn’t know about Montgomery’s recording of the song when they did theirs. “We supposedly put a hold on it,” he told Rosen in Billboard. “How it got to John Michael, we will never know.”
Once again, the group went on tour in support of yet another successful album. “I just love to perform, to do the slower songs, and make it seem like we’re serenading each member of the audience,” Borowiak said in the press bio. “There’s nothing better.”
At the end of 1995 AII-4-One released their own collection for the holidays called An AII-4-One Christmas. The album includes ballad versions of “Silent Night” and “The Christmas Song,” along with a reggae version of “Mary’s Boy Child” and a hip-hop medley of “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.” The next year they contributed the song “Tapestry” to the recording Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King.
Most critics agree that AII-4-One’s ascent to stardom has fostered a stronger blend in their sound. And with experience they have developed a more cohesive recording style. They seem to have focused on transforming their image to that of a “singing group”—without genre limitations—slowly stripping away the categorizations of doo-wop, R&B, and even pop. In an age dominated by high technology, the quartet’s identity is best defined by their “back to basics” philosophy.
AII-4-One, Blitzz Records/Atlantic, 1994.
And the Music Speaks, Blitzz Records/Atlantic, 1995.
An AII-4-One Christmas, Blitzz Records/Atlantic, 1996.
(Contributors) Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King, 1996.
Billboard, April 16, 1994; April 30, 1994; September 3, 1994; May 20, 1995; May 27, 1995.
Entertainment Weekly, May 13, 1994; July 29, 1994; June 30, 1995; August 18, 1995.
New York Times, April 27, 1994; December 8, 1995.
People, June 6, 1994; June 19, 1995; January 8, 1996.
Seattle Times, December 14, 1994; January 3, 1995.
Vibe, October 1995.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Blitzz Records/Atlantic press material, 1995.
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