Nickelback is the pineapple pizza of music, you either love them or you hate them. Since the band's inception in 1995 in Hanna, Alberta, Canada, they've been picked apart, trolled on the internet and criticized internationally. This debate plaguing our great nation is worn like an old pair of socks, where the holes are jokes and the entire thing is just irritating. Calling them lame is cliché, like arguing that crocs are ugly or saying you hate the long lines at Canada’s Wonderland. How did our hate become such an obvious fact and cultural norm? In my opinion, you're lying if you claim you didn’t slow dance to "Photograph" or ugly cry all their lyrics when you were dumped. Worry not! There are legit reasons behind the anger you feel when listening to Nickelback. I'm going to debunk the so-called Nickelback phenomenon, the controversy over being one of the world’s most despised and popular bands, Canada is lucky enough to call their own.
According to Daisy Jones of Noisey.com, "they may be a group of people with yellow noodle bobs, eyebrow piercings and goatees that look like they’ve been painted onto their faces in watercolour", but you can't ignore their success. These leather jacket-wearing musicians have sold over fifty million records worldwide. Their breakthrough song, "How You Remind Me", was the best-selling rock song of the decade in the US. So, how does a band that's responsible for songs that inspire millions also evoke feelings of nausea and repulsion?
There are many theories, including that of Salli Anttonen from the University of Eastern Finland. Anttonen compiled and analyzed fourteen years worth of reviews about Nickelback in order to shed light on this very important issue. According to Anttonen, the band has been thwarted by their tendencies to remain safe and calculated in their artistic approach. For instance, in an interview when working on How You Remind Me, Chad Kroeger famously claimed that he, “studied every piece, everything sonically, everything lyrically, everything musically, chord structure. I would dissect every single song that I would hear on the radio or every song that had ever done well on a chart and say, why did this do so well?” Needless to say, Nickelback’s music and success reflects this formulaic strategy, with its easy-to-listen to vibes. For some, this tactic is obvious, and seen as "fake, forced and an illusion of hard rock". The “post post-grunge era” of Nickelback’s presence in mainstream music has meant they are often compared to bands like Nirvana. In that case they can fall short of every expectation. If separated and not compared to other bands, people might appreciate the catchy strategic music for what it is.
A sense of belonging and community may also factor into the need to despise such a recognized band. James Lachno of the Telegraph, argues that a feeling of common ground could be a reason behind the mainstreaming of hate directed towards musicians like Nickelback. The need to share hatred for Nickelback, or for pineapple on pizza, can form stronger bonds in our relationships with colleagues and family. Expressing what we hate strengthens our belief in what we love, especially when put into contrast. Lachno claims that our hatred for Nickelback validates our love for Nirvana. Chad Kroeger is no Kurt Cobain and there is nothing wrong with that.
Lachno goes on to remind us of the P.E.I police force and their new form of punishment. In order to deter drunk drivers, P.E.I police stated that anyone who chooses to drink and drive would be forced to listen to Nickelback in the cruiser all the way back to joint. I guess if you’re a fan of Nickelback that car ride may not be so unbearable. Cuffed up in the back, bopping to Rockstar. Instead of using their music for torture like the P.E.I police force, lets be nice human beings and move on. Frankly, it's pretty mainstream now to hate on Nickelback, so maybe it could be Avant-garde to love them instead.
Check out one of their most successful songs below!
Emily Andrechuk can almost always be found nose deep in a novel, usually historical fiction or one of her many travel guides. When she’s not counting her pennies for flights abroad, she’s at home cooking, drinking wine and writing. She is a direct entry student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program.