Heat It Up
Following in the footsteps of their "teeny pop" predecessors, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, both this Ohio-based quartet and its first "official" video souvenir hew close to market-tested formulae: this is plush, mainstream pop that belies its of-the-moment fashion sense and post-hip-hop choreography with a soft center of courtly romanticism aimed directly at young and preteen girls. Likewise, the companion video couples their hit video clips with two previously unseen performances (one live, the other a studio production), framed by location footage of their personal appearances, exclamatory inserts of giddy fans, and behind-the-scenes interview segments.
If 98 Degrees offers standard-issue accessories (the backward baseball cap, a lone goatee), the group itself is closer to modern R&B than its rivals, especially on the throbbing ballads (including "Invisible Man," the opening clip and the group's debut single). Those creamy harmonies and melismatic lead vocals still shine on uptempo tracks, but it's the slow jams that have snagged their admiring female fans, and that prove most impressive here. --Sam Sutherland