The group has toyed with new styles on its latest CD, 'Revelation,' including hip hop, rap and funk.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
Fans are familiar with the pop and soft sides of 98 Degrees, the vocal group that will perform Thursday night at Cafaro Field in Niles. They've danced to the Latin-tinged beat of "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" and sighed over the romantic lyrics of "My Everything."
Would those same fans -- or new ones -- give 98 Degrees a chance as a rock band? Would they buy a 98 Degrees CD of jazzy, soulful music a la Earth, Wind & amp; Fire?
That's how diverse this quartet could be, member Jeff Timmons said in a recent telephone interview.
It's the notorious "boy band" label that's confining.
Overall, he's not complaining. "I wouldn't trade the experience for anything," said Timmons, 28, who grew up in Canton. Band mates Nick and Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre are from Cincinnati.
On the scene: Since it broke into the music scene in 1997, 98 Degrees has recorded four albums. The first, self-titled release went gold; the other three, platinum. The group toured southeast Asia and the Philippines before beginning this U.S. tour that will bring it back to the Mahoning Valley. The guys performed three summers ago at a sold-out show at Youngstown State University Beeghly Center.
98 Degrees has recorded with Mariah Carey and will appear next month at the second of Michael Jackson's anniversary concerts in New York.
With success has come the boy-band image, something Timmons says is a product of media and marketing.
Nick Lachey made the cover of this month's edition of Teen People as one of the "14 Hottest Guys in Music." The whole group made the cover of Cosmo Girl magazine earlier this year. 98 Degrees also received a "Choice Pop Group" nomination from the Teen Choice Awards to be presented Aug. 20.
"If you listen to the music it's not really that young," Timmons said. In fact, 98 Degrees gets more air play on adult contemporary radio than any other format. Its biggest listening audience is women in the mid-20s to mid-30s. "We have a young fan base, but not the young young fan base we used to have," he said.
These musicians aren't teeny-boppers, either. Like Timmons, the others are in their mid to late 20s. Timmons is married and has a young daughter.
Asked how they landed in the same category as *N'Sync and Backstreet Boys, "... we're four white guys who sing harmony," Timmons said.
Self made: Unlike its peers, 98 Degrees is a self-made band. "We put ourselves together, we got ourselves signed," Timmons said. "We didn't have a big machine behind us." The group's first contract was with Motown Records, when 98 Degrees had more R & amp;B in its sound.
"We all like harmony and we all like pop ... we wanted to fuse that together," Timmons said.
98 Degrees toyed with even more styles on its latest CD, "Revelation," including hip hop, rap and funk.
If 98 Degrees is going to further evolve musically, Timmons believes the band might have to disappear temporarily.
"All of us would like to do some things on our own. All of us have very different musical tastes. ... People will be really surprised when we come back," Timmons said.
98 Degrees won't change a thing before performing Thursday in Niles. "I don't think people have seen us quite like this before," Timmons said, noting the presence of a "funky band" and some dancers on stage. They will perform many new songs, plus big hits and some classics by Stevie Wonder.
"He's just another influence on us," Timmons said.