By David Browne
February 16, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

As their creators would no doubt boast, art has absolutely nothing to do with O-Town. The latest would-be heirs to the boy-band throne were assembled in the crassest way imaginable — as part of the ABC series Making the Band. Part reality TV and part soap opera, the show chronicled O-Town’s construction, from auditions of thousands through months of coaching and practice for the finalists. Those five — Jacob, Trevor, Dan, Erik, and Ashley (Ashley?) — came across as only marginally talented, but it didn’t matter. What counted was the test-marketed package (complete with requisite goo like ”Baby I Would” and overheated bump-and-grinders like ”Every Six Seconds”), along with the massive sales figures and fame to which it would hopefully lead.

It only seems fair, then, to judge the quintet’s debut album, O-Town, by those commercial standards. In its initial week out, the disc moved about 150,000 copies, enough to push itself into the top 10. Not bad — but not phenomenal, either. It was outsold by Jennifer Lopez’s dreadful J.Lo, and O-Town was dwarfed by last year’s first-week sales of ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. In light of their TV series and slurpy hit single (”Liquid Dreams,” whose fraudulence is only magnified by the idea that teenage boys would fantasize about old broads Janet Jackson and Madonna), you’d think O-Town would have sold much better. (Is this a significant moment — the official downturn of boy-band mania?) Therefore, using the criteria its masterminds value most, O-Town is a lukewarm success at best, a clear-cut C-.

Oh, by the way, the songs are mildly tuneful at times. — DB



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