A wholesome R&B-inspired pop group who scored six Top 20 hits during their 1997-2000 commercial peak, 98° were formed by brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre. All four singers are originally from Ohio. Timmons was trying to make it on the West Coast in the music industry, so he called Jeffre and Nick Lachey, both former classmates at the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Artists, and formed 98°. Drew Lachey soon joined as well. The quartet worked odd jobs to finance talent show appearances. After they attracted attention by trying to crash the backstage area of a show headlined by Boyz II Men — one of the group's primary inspirations — they were offered a chance to sing on a local radio station. From that appearance, the group met Montell Jordan co-manager Paris d'Jon, who arranged demos and helped them sign to Motown. The quartet's debut single, the ballad "Invisible Man," was released in June 1997, eventually hit number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified gold.
The parent album of "Invisible Man," 98°, was issued a month later and went gold as well, but the group's follow-up was even more successful. Released in 1998, 98° and Rising featured "Because of You" and "The Hardest Thing," similarly sensitive and heartfelt Top Ten pop hits, on its way to quadruple platinum status. After the seasonal 1999 effort This Christmas, and a featured role on Mariah Carey's number one single "Thank God I Found You," third proper album Revelation appeared in 2000 and debuted at number two. Lead single "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" was the most-added Top 40 single in history during its first week of release. The start of a lengthy hiatus coincided with The Collection, a set of highlights released in 2002.
Over the next decade, members of 98° pursued solo projects, with Nick Lachey gaining the most traction due to his marriage to Jessica Simpson, as documented on the MTV reality show Newlyweds. The marriage didn't last, but Lachey did become a TV star, guesting on several series and hosting the talent competition The Sing-Off. His brother Drew also appeared on television, winning the second season of Dancing with the Stars in 2004, and Timmons eventually wound up on an MTV reality show called Mission Man Band in 2007. Only Jeffre didn't show up on TV; he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Cincinnati in 2005. The singers drifted back together in 2012 and toured with Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block the following year, around the time they released 98° 2.0. The quartet continued to tour and recorded a second seasonal album, Let It Snow, which was released in 2017. ~ John Bush & Andy Kellman