An in-depth analysis of why people hate Nickelback
Written by Reid Smith on November 17, 2016
Image courtesy of twitter.com
By Dylan Reynolds
If you think Nickelback is bad, you are not alone.
In fact, you are a member of an exclusive group of millions of music-listeners who despise the Canadian rock band. Nickelback is arguably the most hated band in America, and its detractors are very vocal about their distaste. It’s gotten to the point that people who enjoy Nickelback are denying their fandom and hiding their CDs like criminal contraband.
Although there are several legitimate reasons for Nickelback’s reputation, there is also a considerable amount of bad luck at play. Yes, Nickelback’s story is one of musical mediocrity, but it is also a sad tale of public image and internet memes.
The most common complaint about the band is their formulaic approach to songwriting, which often results in several songs sounding suspiciously similar. For example, if you play their hits “How You Remind Me” and “Someday” simultaneously, you will hear a cohesive mashup that almost sounds better than the individual songs. It’s not just these songs, either. You could spend days listening to Nickelback albums without hearing an interesting song structure or chord progression. It sounds like the band is using a pop formula to make rock music, which is a recipe for critical failure.
Another area in which Nickelback critically fails is its lyrics. While many of their lyrics are run-of-the-mill rock ‘n’ roll lines, others test the limits of eye rolling. In “Photograph,” for example, vocalist Chad Kroeger delivers this lyrical gem: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh. How did our eyes get so red? And what the hell is on Joey’s head?” Kroeger never answers that question, but in the official music video, it appears that Joey has a pasta strainer on his head.
And then there is Nickelback’s thematic content, which is quite shallow and has scarcely changed over the band’s career. Nickelback’s catalogue is polluted with references to the rockstar lifestyle- drugs, sex, money, women, cars and sex. Their track “Rockstar” is an ode to that lifestyle, and “Something In Your Mouth” is, well… it’s something.
But Nickelback is not THAT bad. For all their musical shortcomings, they have one major redeeming quality: their music is genuinely catchy. The aforementioned radio hit “Photograph,” for example, has an infectious chorus that can remain stuck in your head days after hearing it. It’s stuck in my head right now, actually. When Kroeger starts yelling “Every memory of looking out the back door,” it is difficult to avoid foot-tapping. If you listen up and down their discography, you will hear catchy chorus after catchy chorus. This is how they became radio mainstays in the first place.
But there are dozens of radio mainstays who make low-quality catchy music, like Maroon 5, for example. And unlike Nickelback, people love Maroon 5. Why is Nickelback so hated compared to similarly shallow groups? This is where several non-musical factors come in to conspire against the band.
It all started with the band’s image, particularly the appearance of Kroeger, the frontman. It’s not that Kroeger looks bad, it’s just that his goofy dyed-blonde hair and cheesy goatee don’t match his grizzled rocker persona. Unfortunately for Nickelback, many people view Kroeger as weird-looking rather than unique. And it has been proven that appearances play a large role in public identity, even in the music industry.
There is also the unfortunate inclusion of an anti-Nickelback joke in an often-aired Comedy Central commercial. Back in 2003, when the cable channel was aggressively advertising its new panel-comedy series “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn,” it frequently aired an advertisement featuring comedian Brian Posehn. When asked about a study connecting violent lyrics with violent behavior, Posehn quipped, “No one talks about the studies that show that bad music makes people violent, but listening to Nickelback makes me want to kill Nickelback.” This probably planted the seed of Nickelback-hate in America’s head.
Then came the memes. As with most memes, the origin of Nickelback memes is unclear and probably somewhat random. But once the memes started, they spread like wildfire. Anti-Nickelback captions began appearing on Grumpy Cat and Bad Luck Brian images. A Facebook page called “Can This Pickle Get More Fans Than Nickleback?” succeeded in its goal. Picket signs referencing the band started appearing at protests, and before long, “[insert name] likes Nickelback” became a legitimate American insult.
Rather than taking offense, band members took their meme-fame in stride. They sarcastically responded to critics on Twitter. They even posted their own Nickelback meme on Facebook: a picture of a man holding a “Ted Cruz Likes Nickelback” sign.
It was wise of Nickelback to take their detractors lightly. When the majority of music-listening Americans hate a band for a combination of valid and less-than-valid reasons, the band must embrace their image if they want to survive in the marketplace. While Nickelback’s album sales continue to slide, they remain a marketable rock outfit. And who knows? Their next album could be a modern classic that mends their image and proves all the haters wrong.
But it probably won’t be.