Californian crooners All-4-One stormed the charts in 1994 with their hit single “I Swear.” The song — a cover of country singer John Michael Montgomery’s mild hit from 1993 — ruled the summer in ’94, spending 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. (It would’ve had the biggest streak of 1994, had Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” not enjoyed 14 weeks atop the Hot 100 that fall.)
Now, All-4-One has plans to rule another summer, albeit in a different way: The group will appear on the I Love the ’90s Tour that kicks off Friday in Greenville, South Carolina and also includes Vanilla Ice, Salt-n-Pepa, Coolio, and more.
EW connected with one of the group’s singers, Jamie Jones, to get the scoop about what All-4-One has in store for the tour, why ’90s nostalgia is so hot right now, and how, exactly, an R&B group got convinced to cover a country tune in the first place. (Hint: It involves Whitney Houston.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can fans expect from the tour?
JAMIE JONES: A lot of fun. The thing I love about music is it always remembers. Music has such a cool way of attaching itself to your memories and emotions. When you hear a song, you can remember what you were doing, who you were with, what you were wearing, what the situation was the first time you heard it. The cool thing about these tours is that feeling of nostalgia, because time goes by so fast. You turn around [and] you’ve got kids, a house. When people come to the show, they leave a lot happier than they came because of that feeling of being able to go back when time was simpler.
What are you planning for your sets?
When you’re in this type of show it’s what I call “hit it and quit it”: You come out with the hits, blast them, and people hopefully want more. But we might have something up our sleeves.
Why do you think ’90s nostalgia is so hot right now?
Times are changing. It used to be that my parents, their music to me was old school. We were all interested in old school stuff, whether it was ’70s or ’60s or whatever the case is. Now our parents are grandparents and we’re the parents.
Our kids, when they see pictures of us, they see some of the trends that we were doing — and now you see folks doing them again. I walk around all the time and I see little cool kids with hightop fades like I had. They left and then they came back. I see a lot of — and I’m doing quotations with my hands — “Retro Jordans.” I remember when those joints came out — I had those! They weren’t retro, they were just new shoes. What’s old becomes new again.
Music and pop culture and all that stuff, it’s a circle, it’s always going round. Music and pop culture is something that you share that you pass on.
Tell me about the origins of “I Swear.”
Our first album was completely done being mastered. Doug Morris, who was the president of our label Atlantic Records called us into his office and played us this country song [by John Michael Montgomery]. We listen to it and are like, “It’s a good song — what else do you want from us?” And he was like, “Well, I want you guys to record it.” And I was like, “You do know we are R&B right?” And he said he wanted us to work with David Foster, who did Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” I was the one who was most hesitant about it. I said “Our album’s in mastering. What are we going to do?” Morris said, “You let me worry about that.”
After we recorded it with David at his Malibu house, I thought to myself, “It’s a really good song!” And I’ll never forget [the response]: During our first gigs at Disneyland Grad Nites and I remember each week we thought, “Oh my God! We can’t believe it! Our song went number one today!” And then next weekend, “It’s been two weeks!” Then three weeks, four weeks. It just kept going. Eleven weeks later, we were still number one. We were shocked. It’s the type of success everyone hopes and prays for.
Can you tell me about your new 20th anniversary album Twenty+?
It’s called Twenty+ because it has been about 23 years — we were just a little bit late getting the album together at the 20-year mark. We did 14 new songs and then reimagined the hits. We redid them because we’re at such different places as singers that we feel like we’re in our prime and sing so much better now than before. There’s some great All-4-One love ballads, but then there’s also some of those fun, feel good ’90s-inspired type records as well. We’re super excited and happy about it.