Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 6, 2001

98° heats up

The group will headline
at World Cafe on Sunday

By John Berger

Whatever your opinion of the contemporary pop "boy band" phenomenon may be, the members of 98° certainly deserve credit for candor. How many white pop artists would admit that their record label told them to move to New York City and get a place in Harlem so they could get a better understanding of African-American culture?

"We were like, 'Hell, no!'" band member Jeff Timmons told a writer for "TV Guide" last fall. He and his partners -- Justin Jeffre, Nick Lachey and Nick's younger brother, Drew -- thought a two-bedroom apartment on the upper West Side was close enough to the urban scene. They eventually agreed to a compromise. The group got a place in Brooklyn and spent some time singing with a Harlem choir before deciding to move to switch labels.

Originally with Motown, they shifted to Universal after that label merged with PolyGram, which was also Motown's parent company. Corporate shuffles aside, the band's current album for Universal, titled "Revelation," was released late last year and is their most successful album thus far.

Hawaii first saw 98° perform live when they debuted in Hawaii as Janet Jackson's opening act at Aloha Stadium almost 18 months ago. They return to Hawaii Sunday to headline at World Cafe.

The show here follows two dates in Japan and one in the Philippines. Two shows in Alaska are next on the schedule. They'll then take some time off before embarking on a series of fairground concerts that will keep them on the road in August.

The guys are also competing with Backstreet Boys, 'NSync, Destiny's Child and O-Town for the title of "Choice Pop Group" in the 2001 Teen Choice Awards.

One that distinguishes 98° from both the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync is that they weren't prefabricated by an established producer. All four are originally from Ohio. Timmons and Nick Lachey met in Los Angeles and found they both loved the classic black vocal group sound epitomized by the Four Tops and the Temptations.

The two decided to form a vocal group. Lachey contacted Jeffre, a friend from their days as students at the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and later recruited his younger brother as the fourth and final member. 98° debuted in 1997 with "Invisible Man." The single was certified gold with sales in excess of 500,000 copies and peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. A self-titled debut album didn't do as well; it stalled at 145 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Their second Motown single, "Because of You," reached No. 3 and was certified platinum with sales exceeding a million copies.

Their second album, "98° And Rising," also did much better than first. It was certified gold for sales of more than 500,000 copies.

Subsequent hits have included "The Hardest Thing" and "I Do (Cherish You)," and "Thank God I Found You," which they recorded as an ensemble project with Mariah Carey and single-monikered Joe.

Their third album, "This Christmas," released late in 1999, was followed almost a year later by "Revelation," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified double-platinum with sales of more than two million copies. (By way of reference, the Backstreet Boys' "Black & Blue" topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks and has certified sales in excess of 8 million copies, while 'NSync's "No Strings Attached" topped the Billboard 200 for eight weeks and has sold more than 10 million copies).

98° launched "Revelation" with an up-tempo Latin-flavored song "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" that peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100.

"All we ever wanted to do was be recognized for the music and have people enjoy our music," Nick Lachey said through Universal Records when the album was released.

"I think the most exciting thing is the reaction we've gotten from the people who've been inspired by our music," Jeffre said.


When: 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: World Cafe, 1130 N. Nimitz.
Tickets: $35 general admission; available at Tower Records (Kahala, Pearl Kai), Tower Video Kapiolani, World Cafe, Blaisdell Box Office, UH Campus Center, participating Tempo Music Stores, and select Foodland/Sack n' Save stores
Call: 599-4450

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