Why do we love to hate Nickelback?

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Image credit: Vancouver Sun

The fact that Nickelback is somewhat of a meme has become common knowledge over the last few years. Somehow, the internet has collective agreed at one point that Nickelback has become laughingstock in the industry, and the same can be applied to those who like his music. At this point, there seems to be only two kinds of people in the world; those who unapologetically enjoy listening to Nickelback and those that fuel the collective hatred towards him. For the purposes of a non-biased article, I won’t disclose which side I stand on.

While listening to his music and following his work as a teenager, I was completely oblivious to this phenomenon, only to be made aware of it once I came to university. After seeing countless memes and hearing a great amount of jokes being made about him, I decided to finally try and understand why people aren’t particularly fond of Nickelback. When did this happen? Who initiated this seemingly worldwide movement singling out one particular artist? And most importantly, why?

Curiously enough, some people and even academic scholars have analysed this cultural phenomenon and narrowed it down to a few points. A PhD student from Finland concluded that hating Nickelback has become somewhat of a thing primarily because all his songs are ultimately dupes of each other.

The idea that every song from an artist sounds the same is particularly true for Nickelback. He has been repeatedly accused of using the same melodies over and over again and always adhering to a pre-structed layout. This in turn, has increased the band’s image as trying to prioritise becoming a commercial success over creating genuinely good music.

This collective hate towards him has, to an extent, changed the purpose of his songs. You probably won’t turn to them for a good time or passively listen to them on the way to your 9am lecture. My point is, his music belongs to the niche collection of songs that you either only listen to with the sole purpose of reminiscing about a time in the past or when you’re very drunk during karaoke in Glasshouse.

This entire cultural phenomenon can perhaps be pinpointed to a specific time in the past, almost 21 years ago now to when the band signed its very first record deal. In 1999, they signed with Roadrunner Records, a label known for being a metal cultural hub of artists, which Nickelback simply did not fit into. Because of this deal, the band came across as trying very hard to fit into the ‘rock metal’ genre, much to the mockery of actual metal and rock bands of the time and their large fanbase.

After that, a couple of landmark events decreased the band’s credibility even more, including a Chrome extension entitled Nickelblock that completely scrubs any trace of Nickelback from your internet browser. From 2002 to 2004, a Comedy Central show entitled Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn played a promo of their show in almost every commercial break that featured the comedian Brian Posehn saying, “No one talks about the studies that show that bad music makes people violent, but listening to Nickelback makes me want to kill Nickelback.” Fast forward to 2008 when the band licenced their hit ‘Rockstar’ to a marketing agency for it to be used in a sofa commercial, which understandably resulted in a new wave of ridicule.

Other critics bring attention to the fact that the lead vocalist and guitarist, Chad Kroeger, simply doesn’t embody the cool rock singer vibe. In fact, he’s far from it. People make fun of his spaghetti-like blonde curly hair and some even go as far as saying that his signature goatee is ‘super creepy’. He has been called out for sometimes stumbling onto the stage and having trouble getting his guitar to turn on.

The curious thing, however, is that the band accumulated all this hate while being extremely successful. They have sold over 50 million albums worldwide and accumulated a total of six Grammy awards over the years, including prizes for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album. The top comment on one of his songs on YouTube (Far Away) reads, ‘I will never understand why this band gets so much hate.’ That comment alone has 4.1 thousand likes. However, even though there are still quite a handful of faithful fans of the band, Nickelback seems to have accepted their fate and have joined in on the joke as well, reporting that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Frontman Kroeger stated in an interview back in 2014: “We are one of those bands that a lot of people think take themselves seriously. And no one — no one, and I know this is hard to believe — can make as much fun of us as we make fun of ourselves. And we are harsh. If you think the Internet’s rough, you should sit in a van with us.”

We as a society have become extremely tolerant and accepting over the years, but somehow completely overlooked Nickelback. But then again, perhaps it’s nice having a common target that unites people all over the world.

MA Publishing Student at City University

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