By: Mar Curran
I was innocently scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the other day when something alarmed me, Internet. Headline after headline announced that 98 Degrees has released a new single, “Microphone,”. By “headline after headline” I mean I saw one post by a friend and two by “news” outlets because Lachey & Co. are old now by pop standards so few people care. I didn’t really care about the song personally, as I use all my free time to listen to Haim lately, until an internet friend of mine, Melissa, posted it along with the caption, “bahahahahaha is this a joke???” I love a good joke, reader! Of course I was going to watch this video now!
Nothing could prepare me for the confusion that followed.
My first initial thought was, well, this song isn’t nearly as bad as the Jonas Brothers’ “Pom Poms.” I have no beef with the JoBros as people, aside from knowing one of the brothers as “that dick who broke up with Taylor Swift via 30 second phone call,” which I think is just not kosher but I wasn’t the best at breaking up with people a couple years back so I’m learning to let the judgement go. I even like “Burnin’ Up” and their cover of Frank Ocean doesn’t make me want to vomit, so there you go. But this fucking pop poms song, guys. Come on. It has a few good hooks but that chorus makes me want to go back in time and lecture Walt Disney on trying to get 20-something Disney stars to appeal to preteens a little too hard. It’s weird and uncomfortable to all of us. And if anyone tries to tell me that’s not what’s going on I will calmly ask them to explain why three dudes who look like Brooklynite extras from the Girls slash an Urban Outfitters catalog are singing sexual innuendos about high school cheerleaders.
Speaking of sexual innuendos, my second thought was if they, the band named after bodily temperature, were pulling a Dr. Horrible and the microphone was his penis. In which case, I really do not need to hear about some lady putting it to her lips and going “ooooooh” over and over again. I respect whatever straight people want to do, but please do it in the privacy of your own homes so I don’t have to explain to my cats why some kids have one mommy and one daddy.
Around this time you may be wondering who the penis owner is, as there are four dudes singing this song. I only know who two of these guys are, thanks to my childhood as an N’Sync fan: Nick Lachey, solo artist of one of my favorite breakup songs, and his brother Drew, the guy who had the same last name as Nick so it was easy to remember. I think I will safely assume Nick’s penis is the dong in question as he is the Ken Doll who sings by himself the most in this song. Does that make the other guys Little Nick’s wingmen, breaking the ice so Nick can swoop in for a quick handy? We may never know, but I think we should all agree it’s a little homoerrotic whichever way it shakes out.
But maybe I’m reading too much into the video. Maybe the gents from 98 Degrees are just innocent vocal coaches, despite there being a LOT of touching going on between them and their student. And then I noticed all the alcohol around. Nick himself is seen throughout the video waving around a glass of what appears to be scotch like he’s a member of the Rat Pack and not a 90s boyband that has gotten back together because they want to milk the last of their good looks for some cold American cash. It’s downright unprofessional to be getting tipsy while you’re on the job, guys, especially if you’re an education professional. Clean up your act!
Speaking of professionalism, I’m not a vocal coach but conducting your lessons with three of your buddies while drinking on an empty stage located secretly behind a moving bookcase doesn’t sound super legit. Did this girl tell her friends where she was going for safety? I think my other work has established that I am a nervous nellie about personal safety, so this undoubtedly was not what the band or their director was going for. I just worry about this fictional dancer-turned-singer-who-doesn’t-actually-sing and her questionable teacher choices!
On a positive note, I am impressed that through sheer will alone 98 Degrees has proven to me that you can rhyme “microphone” and “lungs,” something I never before thought possible. I think the line, “You’ve gotta promise to try and do the best you can,” made little to no sense in the song, but Nick’s a dad now, right, so even his maybe-about-blowjobs songs have to be inspirational for future generations.
In the end, the dancer woman doesn’t ever sing at all; she merely changes outfits and puts on some makeup while the boyband manband members oogle her, get wasted, remove and re-tie their ties, and careen about onstage like peacocks returning to the limelight after Drew’s (second) turn on Dancing With The Stars (where he was eliminated before Bristol Palin). Is this the guys’ way of asking what the point of it all is? Does the student’s rejection of 98’s craft lead us, the viewer, to question the complexities of our interactions with those we see as our “students” in life? I can only hope that this video leads to a series of Trapped In The Closet-esque 98 Degrees videos explaining the meaning of human suffering.
Or at least just let me know whose penis we’re singing about, guys. Thanks.