Friday, March 30, 2012

98 Degrees Reuniting? Good — They're The Best Boy Band of the '90s

By Kate Ward , Staff

ALTI know. Halfway through reading this headline you started gathering every ‘NSYNC album you own to hurl my way. But go ahead, because I’ll still have my copies of 98 Degrees and Rising and Revelation perfectly in tact to get me through any period of pain. Heck, the two albums even got me through life’s most excruciating time period: Middle school. And they continue to entertain today — not a Christmas goes by that the Ward family doesn’t listen to 98 Degrees’ This Christmas. (You’re welcome, Dad!)

So I Do (Cherish) the rumor that 98 Degrees — made up of members Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre — isreuniting for a 15-city tour this summer. (The band members’ reps have yet to respond to’s request for comment.) Though it may be controversial to say during a time in which Justin Timberlake appears in Oscar-nominated projects, I still stand by my claim: 98 Degrees was simply the best boy band of a decade overrun with overly manufactured quintets whose horrible haircuts outshined their musical abilities. To see them back on the stage, actually harmonizing without the help of a production studio, would be a gift even greater than This Christmas’ “This Gift.” But what’s that? You’re still wondering how this little band from Ohio could be better than ‘NSYNC or The Backstreet Boys? Okay, I’ll break it down for you — here’s why 98 Degrees was My Everything:

98 Degrees was formed outside of Lou Perlman’s mind.
Unlike ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys (and O-Town and LFO… ), 98 Degrees came together without the help of the Ponzi scheme-heading criminal Perlman, who is now serving time for conspiracy and assault on our ears via “Liquid Dreams.” Instead, 98 Degrees had humble beginnings, growing up in Ohio before naturally coming together in L.A. And their natural kinship shows in their music — whereas ‘NSYNC brought the world overproduced (but no less catchy) hits like “Bye Bye Bye,” 98 Degrees released subtle tunes that showed off the group’s solid, unified vocals. Just listen to This Christmas’ “Ave Maria,” and you’ll be saying “Hello, hello, hello!” You also have to marvel at the fact that Ohio produced a beautiful group of beautifully singing men. What’s in the water? Should we all just move there?

98 Degrees’ songs were actually listenable.
Remember “Liquid Dreams”? Of course you do — I just referenced it. But the O-Town song represents the worst of boy band music — terribly written, terribly produced, terribly received by people with ears everywhere. 98 Degrees, on the other hand, actually produced good music. The band hit all the right notes with their singles, vocally and publically: “The Hardest Thing” might never be on a list with “American Pie” or “Yesterday,” but it succeeded in being a sweet, listenable song that attracted the attention of more than many a teen girl. 98 Degrees’ albums might have been schmaltz, but you have to respect schmaltz that works. Plus, don’t they get some industry respect for collaborating with Stevie Wonder?

98 Degrees didn’t just match outfits — they matched biceps.
One of the most infuriating boy band practices of the ‘90s was each group’s insistence on dressing identical. (So they could find each other while walking through busy streets?) Boys didn’t even have a House of Dereon to help them mix things up! But 98 Degrees matched muscles more often than they matched daywear. At least, three members did — photographers did a solid job camouflaging baritone Jeffre behind the muscle power that was Timmons and both Lacheys. Which brings us to one of my favorite games: Where’s Justin Jeffre?

He blends in perfectly wearing this shade of sedimentary.
He’s not just a background vocalist — he’s actually the background.
More layers! More layers!
This one’s going to take some time. Is that hi — oh wait, just a brick wall.
98 Degrees’ members boast the best extracurriculars.
So Justin Timberlake might have established himself as an A-list actor with the help of respected films likeThe Social Network. But has he run for mayor of Cincinnati like Jeffre? Has he become oddly charming as the host of The Singing Bee like Lachey? Has he won Dancing With the Stars like Drew? And has he headlined a Chippendale’s show like Timmons? You know what’s cooler than the millions of dollars a movie career gets you? A billion dollars… in your G-string.

Who else is with me? And who wants to go to the possible 98 Degrees reunion with me? Anyone? Dad?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard