October 5, 2000

Give Me Just One Song (Trece Tiempos)

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Despite my friend Angela’s insistences that “Oh my gawd, 98 Degrees is so hot,” no matter how appealing the thirty second song samples on MTV’s First Listen, the prospect of reviewing 98 Degrees’ new album, Revelation, contained a particularly daunting obstacle: how to find the CD?

With my mission in hand, I sat down to figure it all out. Shoplifting was eliminated from my list of options almost immediately. What if I got caught and ended up in the police blotter? That would be almost as embarrassing as the guy caught masturbating in the computer labs. And then, it was clear.

And so, dressed as discretely as possible, I hopped in my car, and off I went, to a magical place where nobody has ever looked at anyone funny for anything: the Commons. Sure enough, ten minutes later, I had managed to buy my 98 Degrees CD without incident.

And with that, I made sure all my roommates were gone, and prepared myself for the slightly-scary journey into the testosterone-deficient world of the boy band. Sure enough, Revelation managed to fulfill all of my expectations. No soul, liberal “borrowing” from other bands, and heaping helpings of sensitivity training.

The album is dominated by the type of saccharin songwriting that even Peter Cetera would have a hard time singing with a straight face. 98 Degrees, led by Jessica Simpson paramour Nick Lechey, almost manages to pull of the endless emotings of songs like “The Way You Do” on sheer earnestness alone. However, the problems start to creep in very quickly once you realize that, for the most part, they are all exactly the same. A couple tweaks of tempo would leave ballads like “My Everything” virtually indistinguishable from the requisite up-tempo dance tracks.

Revelation also has the group incorporating the elements of various other acts into their songs. Unfortunately, their influences are mostly just as cheesy and sanitized as they are, if not more. From the worst case of vocoder abuse since Peter Frampton, to “You Don’t Know”‘s wholesale thievery of the rhythm to Kool and the Gang’s ’70s wedding standard “Cherish,” things get more and more Hallmark by the second. They even go so far as to raid the catalog of the other boy bands, with “The Way You Want Me To” sounding way to similar to a Backstreet Boys’ single that will remain nameless. (Hey, I don’t want to ruin ALL their surprises.)

However, the album isn’t totally devoid of worth. Taken on their own, most of the album’s 13 songs would be fine, and some, most noticeably the hit single “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” and “Never Giving Up,” would be great. It’s just that when taken as a whole, 98 Degrees songs are just too similar and uniform. One of the reasons that ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached has been the best boy-band album so far (I mean, so I’ve heard) is that it takes a break from being overly sentimental to have fun and celebrate life.

I find it hard to believe that the members of 98 Degrees are really as constantly sad and heartbroken as Revelation makes them seem. Remember, even Angela says “they’re so hot.” That said, the only time on the whole album they actually seem content and confident is “He’ll Never Be,” where lines like “it’s not the same/ am I to blame/ and when you’re with him/ you call my name” let out the cocky frat-boy mentality they work so hard to suppress.

So while the girls of Ithaca Middle School are most likely going to burn me in effigy (at least, once they get to the E section of their vocab books and find out what effigy means), Revelation is simply not nearly interesting enough to warrant the astronomical level of sales it will undoubtedly reach.

This will most likely be my last foray into the boy band section of the music store for quite a while, and not just because of utter embarrassment. I just think it makes much more sense to rely on Napster, a CD-burner, and my well-crafted compilation skills for my sugar high.

Archived article by Mike Giusto