On his album Starting Over, Chris Stapleton’s “Cold” is a rumbling, ominous dirge about a love extinguished. Onstage at the CMT Artists of the Year awards, Boyz II Men maintained the brooding feel of the original, but framed it around their exquisite three-part harmonies.
The R&B vocal group paid tribute to Stapleton, one of the Artists of the Year honorees, with an assist from Kevin Olusola, the beatboxing cellist of Pentatonix. Boyz II Men’s Nathan Morris, in his requisite Phillies hat, took the first verse, before Shawn Stockman stepped in with a soaring chorus and Wayna Morris delivered improvised vocal runs. The left-field highlight though was the addition of Pentatonix’s Olusola, who spit out a beatbox rhythm while bowing his cello. All the while, Stapleton — a typically stoic figure — and his wife Morgane looked on in awe.
Boyz II Men have become regular guests in Nashville of late. They taped an episode of CMT Crossroads last year with Brett Young and reprised their collaboration at the CMT Music Awards. Last week, Stapleton posted a photo of himself with the group on Instagram.
The CMT Artists of the Year ceremonies aired live on CMT on Wednesday night. Along with Boyz II Men’s Stapleton tribute, the show included performances by Mickey Guyton and Yola, Kane Brown singing for Randy Travis, and Luke Combs performing his hit “Forever After All.”