The Chicago-based male vocal trio Vi3 was among the edgier, more gritty teen pop acts that emerged in the early '00s. While there are parallels between Vi3 and famous teen pop stars like *NSYNC, O-Town, and the Backstreet Boys, Vi3 isn't a clone of any of them. Vi3 tends to have more bite -- and more originality -- than many of its contemporaries. The threesome's blend of dance-pop, hip-hop, and urban contemporary owes something to New Kids on the Block (who influenced many of the teen popsters who came along in the '90s), but they have also been influenced (either directly or indirectly) by Michael Jackson, the Jacksons, New Edition, and Bobby Brown. And Vi3 claims new jack swing favorites Bell Biv DeVoe (a New Edition spinoff that was huge in the early '90s) as an influence, so it's safe to say that Vi3 has a wider variety of influences than many other 21st century teen popsters. Vi3's members like to describe their music as "hip-pop" -- in other words, they see their work as being pop-minded and hip-hop-minded at the same time. Vi3 member Justin Roman has often been quoted as saying that he doesn't want the group to be lumped in with the glut of image-driven "boy bands" that emerged in the '90s or early '00s.
Vi3 was formed during the summer of 2001, when Roman got together with fellow Windy City residents Jackie Salvucci (who is originally from Boston) and Lucas Bowers (who Roman had known since high school). Shortly before Vi3's formation, Roman planned to move to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career. But Roman wasn't in L.A. very long; about a week after Roman's arrival, Bowers called him from Chicago and explained that local manager Erik Bradley was interested in managing a male vocal group and wanted both of them to be part of it. So when Roman, Bowers, and Salvucci joined forces as a trio under Bradley's direction, that was the beginning of Vi3. The group had been together less than three months when Vi3 signed with MCA, which released the funky debut single, Go-Get-Her, in 2001. The song became a local hit in Chicago (where it enjoyed extensive airplay on urban contemporary station B-96), and Vi3 went on to open for a variety of major artists when they passed through the Windy City -- not only teen pop favorites like Britney Spears and O-Town, but also rapper Nelly, neo-soulstress Alicia Keys, and Latin pop/rock en Español star Shakira. In November 2002, MCA released Vi3's debut album, So Tight, which finds manager Bradley serving as executive producer. "Eyes Closed So Tight" was released as a single. ~ Alex Henderson