Though those six syllables mean nothing in the English language, they helped the members of Washington, DC-based quartet Shai open up the doors to success way back in 1992. They were the opening salvo for their monstrous hit single "If I Ever Fall in Love," which rocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and sat at the No. 2 spot for eight weeks -- only held off from the No. 1 spot by the behemoth that was Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard soundtrack. Needless to say, the song led to their debut, ...If I Ever Fall in Love, going platinum three times over and took Shai's four members -- Marc Gay, Carl Martin, Darnell van Rensalier and Garfield A. Bright -- from talent show singers at Howard University to overnight sensations.
While "If I Ever..." was the crown jewel of the album -- it appeared twice on the album: in its original a cappella form and also as a smoothed-out quiet storm remix -- it was not the album's only magic moment. The Shai guys had a great vocal chemistry and it showed throughout the ballad-heavy set, which found them navigating the line between the more clean-cut harmonies of Boyz II Men and the rougher-edged, hip-hop verve of Jodeci. Follow-up singles "Baby I'm Yours," a mid-tempo that played up the guys' sweet sides, and "Comforter," a bedroom jam made for quiet storm radio, each peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100.
Interestingly enough, though it was released during the New Jack Swing era, ...If I Ever Fall in Love rarely went into that territory. When it did, however, it yielded severely mixed results. "Flava," which utilized the same sample as the ubiquitous "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," is a definite miss, with the guys attempting to rhyme (badly) with a sudden burst of faux machismo that elicits more chuckles than anything else. "Waiting for the Day," however, was pitch perfect and perhaps even single-worthy (save for a couple throwaway rap verses unnecessarily tacked on toward the end). Still, even with "Waiting for the Day" being a great track, the guys did their best when they kept it slowed down and focused on their tight harmonies.
To that effect, the rest of the album was pretty on point. "Sexual" was just that, with the crooners voices set to seduce any and all that dared press play. "Together Forever" played up the more romantic side of the group and, with its simple piano arrangement, recalled songs like Force MDs' "Tender Love." "Changes" and "Don't Wanna Play," though definitely from the Jodeci playbook, still managed to show off the groups charm and incredible vocal skills. The short and sweet "Lord I've Come" was the only other acapella piece besides "If I Ever..." and it was nothing short of amazing. The quartet's voices meld together effortlessly and it really showcases just how dynamic their sound is.
Though ...If I Ever Fall in Love went triple platinum, none of Shai's subsequent releases ever matched its success. Their last Top 40 hit would be 1994's "The Place Where You Belong" from the Beverly Hills Cop III soundtrack. Their next full length album, 1995's unfortunately-named Blackface, while going platinum, did little to establish them as an R&B force to be reckoned with. The group still soldiers on, though it has replaced several members since their time at the top. They needn't worry about their legacy, however, for as long as there are boy groups and talent shows and men wanting to express their love to a special lady, Shai is one group that will always be remembered.
Shai ...If I Ever Fall in Love [Amazon][iTunes][Spotify]