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98 Degrees (stylized as 98°) is an American adult contemporary boy band consisting of four vocalists: brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre, and Jeff Timmons. The group was formed by Timmons in Los Angeles, California, although all of its members originate from Ohio.
Unlike most boy bands, they formed independently and were later picked up by a record label, rather than being assembled by a label or a producer. They have sold over 10 million records worldwide and achieved eight top 40 singles in the U.S.
The group reunited for a one-time performance at Mixtape Festival in Hershey, PA in August 2012.
The founding members of 98 Degrees met after Canton, Ohio native Jeff Timmons decided to quit university and pursue a music career. He had been studying psychology at Kent State University in his home state of Ohio, and was planning on a career playing football in the NFL. In 1995 he sang at a college party with three friends, and received a positive reaction from the female audience about his voice. The following day he left college and headed out to Los Angeles, California. "It was a pretty hasty decision, looking back, but I was young and dumb. Sometimes ignorance is bliss," he said in 2004. He met a former student of the School for Creative and Performing Arts who passed his name on to another graduate, Nick Lachey, who at the time was attending Miami University to study sports medicine. Lachey flew to Los Angeles and after hitting it off, decided to form a boyband. Lachey suggested inviting one of his friends, Justin Jeffre, to join them. Jeffre, a history student at University of Cincinnati, had attended SCPA with Lachey and they had performed together before in various outfits such as a barbershop quartet at the amusement park Kings Island and a cover band. The final member to join the band was Lachey's younger brother, Drew, who was working in New York City as an emergency medical technician.
After rejecting a series of names (including Just Us and Next Issue), the group decided on "98 Degrees" after a suggestion from their managers, Paris Djon and Johnny Camisa.
Signing to Motown records
Taking a series of jobs including landscaping, working as club security officers, and delivering take-out food, and as a stripper, the band continued to refine its harmonies and presentation, looking to groups such as Boyz II Men, Take 6, and Jodeci for inspiration. The new group also made the rounds of auditions in Los Angeles and gradually built up its contacts in the music industry. Fortunately, the group's wait for a manager and a recording contract would not take long, as they seized an opportunity to perform during a radio broadcast of a Boys II, which they had attended in the hope of passing a demo tape to the band. Paris D'Jon, the manager of hip-hop singer Montell Jordan, heard the group during the broadcast and quickly arranged for 98 Degrees to open for Jordan on his tour. D'Jon and Camisa also became the band's managers, and they were signed to Motown Records by the time they finished the tour.
The group's emergence at a time when teen-oriented acts like the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys were just hitting the top of the charts around the world compelled them to differentiate themselves from the mere "boy band" status that they derided. From the start, they emphasized that they wrote much of their own material, which reflected R&B influences more than mainstream pop roots. "There are major differences musically between groups, not to mention the fact that we were signed to Motown, which gives us a little more credibility as far as R&B and soul music goes.
1997: First album
After sneaking backstage to a Boyz II Men concert, the group did not succeed right away, but a local radio station covering the concert asked them to sing live on the air. Paris DJon, Montell Jordan's manager, was present during the impromptu broadcast and liked what he heard; he took the group under his wing, changed the group's name to 98 Degrees from its original Just Us and gave them the opening act spot on Montell Jordan's National tour. The group was originally signed to the Motown label in the mid-1990s.
With their debut single, "Invisible Man" which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, achieving gold-record status after its July 1997 release, 98 Degrees was off to a promising start. Although critical reaction to the debut of the group was mixed, a Billboard review of their first single noted that their vocal abilities were the addition of a new track helped to keep the band in the public eye. The group also toured extensively, including concert dates in Asia. In light of the success of the Backstreet Boys, Hanson, and 'N Sync, however, even a popular debut album and a string of sold-out concert dates looked somewhat disappointing for 98 Degrees, if only by comparison to its rivals, who were astounding the music industry with their sales figures.
After building popularity with their appearance in the movie Mulan, and singing "True to Your Heart" (a duet with labelmate Stevie Wonder), their album 98 Degrees and Rising went 4× platinum in 1998. Production credit included Atlanta based producer and Babyface co-writing partner Daryl Simmons. Musician credits on the breakthrough album featured Atlanta based session musician and former Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Dick Smith. After the first album, 98 Degrees left Motown for its parent company, Universal Records.
The band's first major hit was "Because of You" (number three on the U.S. Hot 100 and number five on the Canadian Singles Chart) and went platinum. Then "The Hardest Thing" followed the success by reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold.
1999: Christmas album
In 1999, 98 Degrees released their Christmas album This Christmas, which spawned the top 40 single "This Gift". Within a month after its release the album was certified platinum. The group appeared as featured guests on Amy Grant's 1999 CBS Christmas special, A Christmas to Remember. Nick Lachey was featured on Jessica Simpson's album on the track "Where You Are", which was released as a single and reached the top 40. The group appeared in the album called Jesus: The Epic Mini Series with their song "The Love That You've Been Looking For".
20002001: Revelation album and collaboration
The group scored a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit in the U.S. with the single "Thank God I Found You", a collaboration with Mariah Carey and Joe. The single went gold, selling 700,000 copies. It stayed at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for one week and the top 200 singles sales chart for 51 weeks. The single went to the top 10 in the UK charts and the group also received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for the same song.
In the summer of 2000, 98 Degrees released the first single of their new album "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)", the single went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold. In September 2000, the band's album Revelation was released. Revelation peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and went 2× Platinum. The band's next singles were "My Everything" and "The Way You Want Me To", both reaching the Top 40.
In September 2001 the band appeared at Madison Square Garden alongside Luther Vandross and Usher singing Michael Jackson's hit song "Man in the Mirror". The performance was part of a show to celebrate Michael Jackson's 30 years as a solo artist.
2002: The Collection and hiatus
In 2002, 98 Degrees released a compilation album called The Collection, with the new single "Why (Are We Still Friends)". The single reached the top 40; at that point the group had sold over 10 million records and released 12 singles.
The group decided to take a break to fulfill other ambitions and opportunities. Drew Lachey has stated on their website that 98 Degrees has not broken up, they are just on an extended hiatus. The site has not been updated since late 2004, casting doubt that the group is still together. During the hiatus, Drew and his wife had their first daughter shortly after he won the second season of Dancing with the Stars. Nick Lachey married singer Jessica Simpson and released two solo albums, SoulO and What's Left of Me. Timmons released a solo album, Whisper That Way, and planned to release a second solo album. Jeffre ran for mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and he currently works with area activists on independent media projects.
The band came together in 2004 to sing on Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas TV special. In September 2005, 98 Degrees performed at Club Purgatory in Over-the-Rhine to support Jeffre in his candidacy for mayor of Cincinnati.
In October 2006, it was announced that Timmons would participate in the new VH1 reality TV series, Mission Man Band. The news cast doubt over previous reports about 98 Degrees adding a new member and recording a new album. However, in 2011, both Lachey and Timmons confirmed in separate interviews that 98 Degrees is still capable of reuniting. Lachey stated that despite his busy schedule, his current gig on The Sing-Off has been renewing his interest in the band. Timmons stated that the band is always open to reunion discussions, ultimately saying that "if the timings right and we have a tour lined up or we do a record, ultimately we could get back together and have a killer time. In 2012, the official website of 98 Degrees has relaunched after few years of closed, plus an official page in Facebook. The twitter account of all members are very active also."
2012: Reunion & Upcoming Fourth Studio Album
On June 20, 2012, Nick and Drew Lachey announced on Ryan Seacrest that the group would reunite for a one-time performance at Mixtape Festival in Hershey, PA in August. The group also performed at the The Today Show on August 17.
In an interview with Rolling Stone on July 26, 2012, Drew Lachey revealed that a week before, the group had their first rehearsal in over a decade. He also explained that the group decided to come back together because they were all at that place in their lives where they felt comfortable with committing to being in a group again, and they also felt that the timing is right because pop music genre has come back around. "Music is very cyclical. You go through rock stages, R&B stages, rap stages It's an uphill battle if you try and do pop during a rap stage," says Lachey. Regarding the group's future, he said that, at this time, they currently have no plan beyond their performances at The Today Show and the Mixtape Festival. However, in September 2012, he revealed that the group was going to go back into the studio to record a new album in October.
On January 22, 2013, the group appeared on The View along with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men to announce their joint tour that will take place in summer 2013. This tour has been named "The Package" and the 12 members on tour (Boyz II Men with 3 members, NKOTB with 5 members and 98 Degrees with 4 members) jokingly refer to themselves as "The Dirty Dozen." The North American tour begins on May 31, 2013.
On February 20, 2013, the band announced to USA Today that their new album, 2.0 will be released on May 7, 2013. "We are really excited to bring our fans new music and get out on the road," said new dad Nick Lachey in a news release. "This is a long time coming."
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