By Hillary Busis
Updated August 17, 2012 at 03:28 PM EDT
  • Music

A long, long time ago, when Carson Daly reigned over TRL and Texas Tuxedos were a valid red carpet choice, casual observers couldn’t be blamed for thinking there were only two major boy bands: the sophisticated, polished Backstreet Boys and their slightly wackier arch-rival, *NSYNC. But discerning connoisseurs knew that there was a third option, the Mandy Moore to Backstreet’s Britney and *NSYNC’s Christina, if you will, the Vanessa Carlton to their Michelle Branch and Avril Lavigne.

I’m talking, of course, about 98 Degrees, a group that stood apart for a variety of reasons. First of all, 98 Degrees wasn’t scientifically created in a lab by creepy Lou Pearlman — the band’s members actually knew each other before they started working together, and the group formed independently before getting signed to a label. Secondly, 98 Degrees had four members. Four! Not five! Very different.

Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2002, its members have said for the past 10 years that 98 Degrees hasn’t gone cold — it’s just on an extended hiatus. That hiatus finally ended this morning, when the band reunited on Today. How stoked were they to be back together? “Well, now that we’ve gone through puberty, finally, we’re very excited,” front man Nick Lachey said with a straight face. Swoon!

After a performance of “Invisible Man,” their debut single, the “man band” stopped to chat about back pain and vocal strain (things have changed since the ’90s). Then they took the stage again for “I Do (Cherish You)” (above), a goopy ballad played at hundreds of imaginary weddings to Jeff Timmons in 1999. The song gets points for the parentheses and the part that goes, “I do, doo doo, baby,” but it isn’t nearly as great as “The Hardest Thing”:

The drama! The synchronized jazz hands! The way they almost make you feel sorry for a guy who’s cheating on his girlfriend! Is “The Hardest Thing” the greatest boy band song of the ’90s? No; it’s not “I Want It That Way.” But it’s for sure among the top five. 98 Degrees also performed “Because of You,” a sweet song that probably still gives Jessica Simpson a case of the sads:

As you watch “Because,” keep an eye out for the girl in the hat who’s clearly not enjoying herself. McKayla Maroney would be proud, if she had emotions.

98 Degrees has promised that we’ll be seeing a lot more from them in weeks to come — and if NKOTBSB’s success is any indication, they’ll likely find success in future ventures. But will you be tuning in to watch an older, scruffier version of 98 Degrees relive the early ’00s? How do you think the band sounds after 10 years on hiatus? And what can be done about their ultra-cheesy dance moves?

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98 Degrees

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