Poor 98°. What happens when you reform and nobody even knows or cares? Okay, there is some minor fuss over the lead single Microphone, because it is a thinly-veiled attempt to pass off a song about a guy instructing a woman on the art of going down on him as something more innocent.
Actually, that issue isn’t confined to Microphone alone. These guys are back, and for some reason, they want everyone listening to know that they just don’t have functional pee-pees, they want to use those pee-pees on anything female that fails to get out of their way in time. Girls Night Out has them going, “So many women, looking good in the place right now; makes my head spin ’round, ’cause each one is sexy; Help me, I wanna love ’em all!”
The problem here is that 98° has such squeaky clean image that, while three of them may be considered conventionally attractive, they are positively asexual from all appearances. Their interviews are bland and safe, and even Nick Lachey’s high-profile divorce with Jessica Simpson was coated with such sickening G-rated gloss that it’s like seeing Barbie and Ken go separate ways after a few years of unconsummated marriage. Therefore, hearing them go, “Do you have what it takes? Can you put your money where your mouth is? You can make no mistakes, you gotta promise to try!” can be rather creepy, especially considering that the situation in Microphone easily resembles games people play on the casting couch. They are practically demanding that “you better do your best”, so yeah, really creepy there.
Musically, it’s as if they have never left. This is the same problem that plagues other boybands: they make the same sounds when a decade has passed and their fans are now older. In 98°’s case, it’s harmless and inoffensive pop tunes about love found and love lost. There is nothing wrong with the vocals or production value, and it is easy to nod one’s head pleasantly to the songs when they are played in the background while one is shopping or doing the laundry.
But these songs don’t stand out much. They are easily listened to and forgotten. Microphone is easily the most memorable track here because it is upbeat and doesn’t feel as bland and safe as the other songs in this album. That and it has the raunchiest words of them all. If this song had been sung by someone with more genuine sexual vibes, it would have been a toe-curling affairs. Being performed by men with squeaky-clean and boyish vibes, however, makes this song more disturbing than it should be.
If these guys just want some money to pay the rent, then I guess 2.0 could be given a pass for effort, if nothing else. As a comeback effort, however, it is too safe and bland to work, and these guys need more than singles announcing their functional pee-pees to the world to get me to care.