<!– Link: 98 Degrees

How can you tell one boy band from another? I’m not setting up a joke — I really want to know.

Because for some reason, 98 Degrees is probably the least irritating boy band out there. And it’s not like they really do anything much different from their bigger-selling co-horts in the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync.

They have slick, overproduced music. They have plaintive, heart-string-tugging ballads. They sing about girls and romance. They have killer looks. Hell, they even have album sales.

What makes them different?

The group’s last album, 98 Degrees and Rising, was greeted warmly by the same forces that have propelled Britney Spears into album sales stratosphere, but the disc was largely a collection of forgettable songs totally indistinct from everything else out there on the pop chart’s upper echelon.

With Revelation, 98 Degrees has been given a chance to show its abilities off.

Nick, Drew, Justin and Jeff have better voices individually and collectively than other teen-marketed ensembles. The Backstreet Boys sometimes sound like they’re singing through their noses, but 98 Degrees actually possess voices that a person can withstand listening to for an hour.

They’ve also been given better songs. No, they don’t sound much different from every other glossy, R&B-wannabe act out there, but they do a much better job of staying in a listener’s mind after the album has finished. They also don’t tax a person’s patience as much either.

Even the more novelty ideas such as the Latin pop bandwagon-jumping of “Give Me One More Night (Una Noche)” or the distorted, barely audible hip-hop break on “Dizzy” don’t come across as crass as they could have been. Although those Swedish songwriters should do a better job of covering up their ABBA influences — the opening of “Stay the Night” is lifted straight from “The Winner Takes It All.”

All that, and they’re better looking. Okay I admit — I bought this album for the pictures. But the music that came along with it isn’t too bad for what it is: get-rich-quick commercial pop for fast and easy consumption.

So long as more serious music fans don’t hold 98 Degrees to the same lofty standards as, say, Dynamite Hack, they’re okay.