‘A Boy Band Christmas’ combines 98 Degrees, All-4-One, O-Town, Ryan Cabrera

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Boy Band Christmas' (Part 1)

If you came of age in the ’90s and early 2000s, boy bands were all the rage in pop music. This past Christmas, some of them gave you their hearts in the ABC special “A Very Boy Band Holiday.”

This Friday, “A Boy Band Christmas” lands at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, combining Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, Erik Michael Estrada of O-Town, Jamie Jones of All-4-One and solo artist Ryan Cabrera.

“This is one of the most eclectic Christmas shows you’ll see,” Cabrera told WTOP. “We’re covering not only Christmas songs that you wouldn’t expect us to do, but everybody’s doing different renditions of their own hits. You’re gonna get part of a 98 Degrees show, part of an O-Town show, part of a Ryan Cabrera show and part of an All-4-One show.”

Drew Lachey says the setlist will include contemporary Christmas hits and classic carols presented in a range of styles from acoustic to piano to more heavily produced tracks.

“You turn on the radio around Christmastime and you can’t help but hear Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas,’ so you got to throw that in there. Then you’ve also got your classics, ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Run Run Rudolph,’ things like that,” Lachey said, to which Estrada added, “Don’t forget ‘O Holy Night,’ a song we all recorded together right before we started this tour.”

Lachey has fond Christmas memories from growing up in Ohio with his older brother Nick.

“When you grow up with a brother, pretty much every big gift is split between the two of you,” said Lachey. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we got the basketball hoop for you to share.'”

“But the main holiday tradition was the Christmas Eve service,” he said. “Our grandparents would take us to church with them. That’s a big part of what everyone loves about the holidays, the nostalgia.”

In 1996, they formed 98 Degrees with Jeff Timmons and Justin Jeffre in Los Angeles before landing hits like “Invisible Man,” “Because of You,” “The Hardest Thing,” “I Do (Cherish You),” “This Gift,” “Thank God I Found You” and “Give Me Just One Night.”

“Us and Backstreet [Boys] came out within a month of each other, so ‘Invisible Man’ and ‘Quit Playing Games’ came out around the same time,” Lachey said. “NSYNC was a little further down the road. The fact that you’re saying the soundtrack of people’s junior high dance, it was the soundtrack of our lives too! We were growing up at that same time, too!”

As for O-Town, Estrada formed the group with Trevor Penick, Jacob Underwood and Dan Miller as the winning group from the first season of the ABC/MTV reality series “Making the Band” in 2000. Their self-titled debut album included the hits “Liquid Dreams” and “All or Nothing.”

“I was in high school listening to these guys, coming home at 4:00 to watch ‘TRL,'” Estrada said. “I went to an audition in Orlando, came home and my life was never the same. We felt like the younger brother looking up to our older brothers who had a lot of success: Backstreet Boys going triple diamond, NSYNC selling more copies than anyone else.”

Cabrera started in the Dallas band Rubix Groove but gained fame by going solo for his first major-label album “Take It All Away,” featuring hits like “On the Way Down” and “True.”

“I was just a dude with a guitar,” Cabrera said. “Singer/songwriters weren’t really the most popular thing in the world, it was boy bands. So going around trying to get a record deal was tough. I didn’t even have a pair of shoes. I was in record-label meetings with a pair of flip-flops and everybody being like ‘that’s not a thing,’ but it’s not a thing until it is a thing.”

Rounding out the concert lineup is All-4-One,(who didn’t join us for the interview). That group famously turned a pair of John Michael Montgomery country songs into smash R&B hits with “I Swear” and “I Can Love You Like That,” the former earning them a Grammy in 1994.

“Us being all together, people are starting to realize how good that time period — late ’90s, early 2000s, mid-2000s — how good the songs were,” Cabrera said.

Indeed, boy bands fell out of favor around the time that Eminem said, “I’m sick of you little girl and boy groups. All you do is annoy me, so I have been sent here to destroy you.”

The genre would later make a comeback with the likes of the Jonas Brothers, One Direction and BTS.

“Music in general is cyclical,” Lachey said. “If it’s popular one day, it’s going to go away. But guess what? It’s going to come back. That’s just the way that people view music. It’s just there. I think pop now has become more R&B and more urban, so now there’s just a melding of the styles.”

In the end, the groups who remain are the ones with the catchiest, most heartfelt songs.

“A lot of boy bands came out at that time, but there are only a few boy bands that have really great songs,” Estrada said.

“The ones that have great songs are the ones that are still doing what we’re doing and still on tour. It’s the power of those songs that is timeless.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Boy Band Christmas' (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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