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Q&A: 98 Degrees

With a revived career, a strong friendship and brotherhood within the band, and an ongoing connection with its audience, 98 Degrees is far from burned out.

G.K. Hizer
October 28, 2019

By most measurements, 98 Degrees was the third-biggest boy band of its era, with the Backstreet Boys and the Justin Timberlake-led NSYNC filling the top two slots. 98 Degrees was always different amongst the crowd, where instead of focusing on big poppy choruses, the group elected to highlight their R&B and soul influences.

And unlike Backstreet, NSYNC and others, they weren’t created by a producer, but rather by Jeff Timmons. During his senior year of college in Ohio, Timmons gathered a different lineup of guys together at a party to sing to girls. That inspired him to quit school, move to Los Angeles, and start a serious vocal group styled after the harmonies of Boyz II Men. The new lineup included Justin Jeffre and Nick Lachey, who then talked his younger brother, Drew, who was an EMT in New York to fill out the foursome.

Their vocal abilities caught the attention of music executives, and 98 Degrees ultimately signed a recording deal with Motown and, later, Universal Records.

Although the group made a splash with their debut single, “Invisible Man” in 1997, critics were still suspicious of their success. The group’s credibility was cemented, however, when the lead single from their sophomore album (98 Degrees and Rising), “Because of You” sailed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts. The group also collaborated with soul icon Stevie Wonder on “True to Your Heart” for the soundtrack to Disney’s Mulan in 1998.

On Sept. 10, 2001, 98 Degrees was standing at the precipice of its career, performing to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York, as part of the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration. The star-studded salute to the pop icon’s career provided a platform for what could have pushed the group to the next level. Instead, the 9/11 attacks on New York City occurred the next day, bringing a change in perspective and priorities. In light of all that transpired, the quartet opted to take a break. Aside from a one-off TV performance in 2004, it would be over 10 years before the group would perform again.

In August 2012, 98 Degrees tested the waters for a potential return by appearing at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pennsylvania, as well as The Today Show that same weekend. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Drew Lachey explained that the members felt comfortable committing to the group again and that the timing felt right.

That weekend established the groundwork for a more significant reunion, as 98 Degrees hit the road in the summer of 2013 as part of “The Package Tour” with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men. Paired with the band’s first studio album in 13 years, 2.0, the group launched into the second stage of its career.  

In the interim, members of the group each pursued individual projects. Both Nick Lachey and Timmons released underwhelming solo albums; Nick starred in a slew of reality shows — the most high-profile of which, Newlyweds, centered on his much-scrutinized marriage to ex-wife Jessica Simpson; and Drew Lachey won as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

“We were always very careful to make sure everyone knew we’d never really broken up,” Nick Lachey told Rolling Stone. “We always had the intention of doing another record. It just maybe took a little longer than we anticipated.”

With all four singers’ schedules finally aligning, as well as what Nick calls “the boy band cycle coming back around,” 98 Degrees felt the time was right to reunite.

In 2017, 98 Degrees released its second Christmas album, Let It Snow, followed by a seasonal tour, and has continued to remain active.

98 Degrees
Skyline Event Center | Osage Casino Hotel
951 W. 36th St. N. | Tulsa
Nov. 16: 7 p.m.
Must be 18 or older to attend