No, you are wrong, so wrong. I’m not gonna tell you how much I hate Nickelback, because – hey – it’s somehow fashionable. I actually don’t hate them at all.
Take that, you cold internet.
Thou shalt integrate rock, metal, and folk into the blog, sez the RockmusicRaider book of rulez. Yet strangely, scores of insanely catchy and truly popular rock bands never made it onto those august pages RMR occupies. And those bands made a killing off a music industry where the hungry mouths of the have-nots are legion. So, true million-dollar successes on display, yet RMR sorely ignores them.
Nickelback is one of those bands.
It looks like the gang around Chad Kroeger managed to step on an awful lot of toes. The amount of hate that surges their way feels like that proverbial deluge that once apparently haunted society so many eons ago. They consistently turn up on those infamous most hated band lists. To the point that this situation almost feels like some bizarre badge of honor.
You see, I did a short and not very scientific poll with my friends. Not with you guys from those social media channels that I don’t or hardly know. But real friends, flesh-and-blood creatures I know personally. Those who cannot easily hide behind a Facebook wall or blame Zuckerberg if all else fails. Boy, I even asked my dog, but she had – wisely – no opinion.
Most seem to think that it is just somehow cool to hate these boys. There’s no real reason attached to the disgust. Nothing factual or – indeed – truly tangible in this sense became apparent. Apart from an opaque impression of non-specific nausea about the choice of lyrics, themes, and general behavior. And this syncs with the gist of ill feeling expressed by the global crowd in many a forum that I had the misfortune to do research in.
In this light, do we have ourselves a bunch of lemmings that will just repeat what the rest of the crowd does? Lest one could stand out like a sore thumb because you dared having another opinion? Well, that may, at least in part, be true.
So, with such a sustained firestorm in perpetual motion, Nickelback should have withered and died a long, long time ago.
Yet, they didn’t.
The facts speak quite another language. You have a band here that filled stadiums in the past. Their sales skyrocketed and they sport millions of plays on streaming services. Okay, one could argue that Hozier – for instance – topped them with one song of over a billion plays on Spotify. But then, this guy only has one stellar hit to show for. And once that specific fire peters out, I don’t know what will happen to him.
In short, Nickelback show numbers and a level of success that would be other bands’ wet dreams. They must be doing something right after all, methinks.
Which sounds like an oxymoron to me.
You see, they played the Madison Square Garden in front of some 18’000 fans years ago. And that is only one of many other huge venues they did over their long career.
And that makes me wonder how many of those haters on this wide earth are just pretending. That’s gotta be a gazillion loathing closet fans that just slink off to Neverland for a night of forbidden debauchery with them who must not be named. A truly guilty pleasure that they will beg forgiveness for once they find the next cassocked priest on duty.
I do have these visions of black cloaks and discreet face masks. Of people stealthily moving through dark shadows until they reach the music hall. And thank goodness it’s usually dark in there, so you won’t be pinned by face control and CCTV.
Somewhere this just doesn’t sync.
What gives then? The band must be guilty of something, right?
First and foremost, Nickelback project that picture-perfect image of a snazzy, decadent rock band. A Californian rock band. That they initially hail from Canada really is of no concern. Then in comes Chad Kroeger with his smoky croak, blonde touffe of hair, and a swagger larger than Mount Everest.
And that, folks, may already irk a great many people. Because they don’t look disheveled and confused, as they should in the eyes of the purist few. To the contrary, they do what Hollywood does best. And that is a pretty flawless image projection, no hair out of style, and everything perfectly ready for that immaculate photograph. Whenever and wherever it may happen.
As the lore goes, the merry men of Nickelback first embarked on – what is commonly called – a market study. They looked at what works and mercilessly let go of what didn’t. It also appears that they studied their limits of expression very carefully. In other words, how far could they go without pissing off the mainstream folks too much?
It’s that sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll thing that they exploit right to the edge of that abyss they must never fall into. In a way, Nickelback‘s major hit single Rockstar describes this perfectly (see below). Tongue-in-cheek, full of sardonic humor, sarcastic, borderline sexist, materialistic – and exactly the way how you describe a rock star in pop culture.
And the above goes with pretty much every track the band deemed worthy to publish, the animals. It all seems pretty lighthearted, but make no mistake, there is nothing left to chance.
And that systematic brick-by-brick approach to build a business is anathema to many creators of culture. Many seem to be happy to just jam away and then kinda see how it pans out with an audience they often have yet to find. And this in an industry where you have tons of data right at your fingertips.
On the other hand, to favor experimentation as opposed to a structural approach may not be all that bad either. Only that this feels very much like a friggin’ lottery game. And I don’t want to be hit by lightning a score of times before I even have any chance to succeed.
The crux of the matter.
Now, let’s circle back to the hating masses for a minute.
I detect a lot of hypocrisy in those hate messages. Double-standards that often are the bane of modern societies these days. The subjects of all that unease are the usual culprits. Sexism, misogyny, drugs, violence imagined or not, and so on and so forth. All of that served on a rosy platter of political correctness that must be followed. Or people will not be part of The Crowd anymore.
And it’s truly ironic, Nickelback gets a taste of the moral hammer for things that other bands never get zapped for. And there’s a ton of examples out there that would – by those same rigid principles – deserve some outrage at least. Like the giant alcohol commercial that the pirates of Alestorm have become. Or Ozzy Osbourne, late of Black Sabbath, who fried his brains on drugs before Nickelback even became a thing to moan about. And partook in many an outrageous activity over his life-long career, albeit that he wizened up a bit over the last years. Or take the whole hip-hop and rap movement. They openly indulge in violence, drugs, fancy luxuries, and bitches. The list goes on and on.
Well, I guess that moral outrage on social media often prefers the weakest victims, perceived or real. Not that Nickelback are weak, but they take that criticism with a smirk and the occasional stab. Whereas the tacitly accepted rockers and rock bands have their die-hard fans to stand up for them, and often violently so. And the hip-hop folks? Well, they have real guns and all the snazzy fun in the world that you can possibly stomach.
So, it seems that the only sin Nickelback committed was to build a music business that made them a fortune. And then stringently lived the persona they created. Creaky, scratchy, and with loads of rough edges. In a way, they impersonate that sentence Krokus‘ Chris von Rohr likes to utter. And it says: “We need more dirt [in rock’n’roll]!” And I could not agree more.
So, why – then – will RMR never review Nickelback?
You see, the band took that market study thing to the utmost limit. And their resounding success truly gives them credit. That means, however, that whatever they do kinda sounds like cut from the same cloth. Something we already consumed before, regardless of whatever variation they built into their tune. A portion of déjà-vu, over and over again, like The Matrix on replay without the cookies.
So, in essence, once you reviewed one record, you pretty much reviewed all of them. And – little fun fact – I won’t even get to one review. Because after about four songs or so of much of the same highly-styled and perfectly arranged muchness, my mind switches off out of pure boredom. Or depression, whichever happens first.
And besides, we much rather scour the underground for a few tasty nuggets than rehashing the riches of the mainstream.
So, there you have it. And hate ain’t nowhere in it.