98 Degrees (or 98?°) was 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.
Unlike most boy bands, they formed independently and were later picked up by a record label, as opposed to being assembled by a label or a producer. They have sold over 10 million records and achieved eight Top 40 singles.
Signed to Motown Records
Taking a series of jobs including landscaping, working as club security officers, and delivering take-out food, 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 Men concert, 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 also became the band's manager, 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 impromtu 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 #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.
1998: Breakthrough album 98 Degrees and Rising
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 4x platinum in 1998. After the first album, 98 Degrees left Motown for its parent company, Universal Records. All three albums after their first went platinum.
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 #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.
2000-2001: Revelation album & Collaboration
The group scored a Billboard Hot 100 #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 #1 on the Hot 100 for 1 week and was on the Top 200 Single Sales Chart for 51 weeks. The single went to the top 10 in the UK Charts and the group also received a Grammy 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 #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold. In September 2000, the band's album Revelation was released. Revelation peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and went 2x 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 show to celebrate Michael Jackson's 30 years as a solo artist.
2002: 10 million records sold and The Collection
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 is 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 plans 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.
2006: Man Band
In October 2006, it was announced that Timmons would participate in the new VH1 reality TV series, Man Band. The news casts doubt over previous reports about 98 Degrees adding a new member and would consider recording a new album.
2008: Ralph Nader Super Rally
Jeffre and Timmons performed in support of Ralph Nader at his Minneapolis Super Rally on September 4, 2008. Nader's supporters held a live chat online during the rally, linking Nader's raiders across the country. Jeffre introduced Nader, saying "he is my hero."