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Revelation Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's hard not to feel a little sorry for 98°, since they're often overshadowed by their peers, the towering giants of male teen pop, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. They've had hits as big as either group, but when it came time to release Revelation in the fall of 2000, they didn't have the grudging critical respect of the Backstreets or the cultural cache of N'Sync, who had dolls hitting toy stores the same month Revelation was unleashed. They were simply a teen pop band, capable of amiable dance-pop numbers and tuneful ballads, both of which sounded quite nice coming out of the radio. Not surprisingly, they wanted a little bit more than simply being an effective singles band; they didn't just want to hold their own with the Backstreets and N'Sync, they wanted to escape their shadow. The title of Revelation (much like the title of the Sync's 2000 release No Strings Attached) is a tip-off to their goal: They want to provide doubters with a revelation that they can indeed deliver strong music. If Revelation doesn't actually hold any, well, revelations, that shouldn't be held against the band, since they do wind up turning out a perfectly acceptable mainstream dance-pop album. Apart from the infectious opening cut, "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)," a song clearly influenced by Ricky Martin, and maybe "Dizzy," which adopts Cher-like vocoder tricks, they never stretch the boundaries of the music too much, preferring to just serve up straight dance-pop and sweet ballads. They lean a little heavily on the ballads, thereby aligning themselves with the Backstreet Boys' classy crooning rather than N'Sync's charged adolescent pop. That wouldn't be a problem if the songs were just a little better constructed, so that the melodies stand out prominently on the first listen, but ultimately, the album feels a little samey. Not bad, necessarily, but a little familiar, especially since the peppier songs have stronger hooks and attitude. The preponderance of ballads weighs down the album a bit, even if some of them hold up quite well on their own, and they make Revelations seem like it has more filler than it actually does. Ultimately, it's a good singles album, which may not be enough to make 98° hold their own with the Backstreets or Sync, but it is enough to make for a solid teen pop album.

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