In Defence Of: Nickelback

When Nickelback announced an Australian tour, it was met with the kind of derision that only the world’s most divisive band can incite. But are Chad Kroeger and co. really that irredeemable? As part of a new series, we asked (who else but) a former Triple M employee to defend the indefensible.

As hard as it might be to stomach for some, Nickelback are not a terrible band and not everyone hates them. SHOCK HORROR, YOU PLAID-WEARING MUSIC SNOBS.

They are not the reason ‘rock ‘n’ roll is dying’ – as claimed by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Nor are the much-maligned Canadian rockers the most unspeakably shite act in the history of all artistic endeavour – as claimed by most people you’ll speak to.

You may not like their music – and that’s fine – but to completely dismiss Chad Kroeger and his bandmates as some kind of talentless quagmire is foolish.

You Can’t Argue with (Fucking Huge) Numbers

What is undeniable about Nickelback is their knack for writing songs that keep fans coming back for more. The band has sold over 50 million records worldwide – on par with Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, Oasis, and R.E.M.

Their breakthrough album Silver Side Up – produced by Rick Parashar of Ten fame (yes, Pearl Jam’s Ten) sold over 10 million copies worldwide, hitting 6x Platinum in the US, 3x Platinum in the UK, and 2x Platinum in Australia.

Their 2001 smash hit How You Remind Me – a song to which even the staunchest Nickelback haters will know the chorus by heart – was the most played song on US radio in between 2000 and 2009 with 1.2 million spins. In a decade featuring genre-defining releases by Radiohead, Daft Punk, and Arcade Fire, most Yanks will most vividly recall the driving guitar riffs and raspy vocals written by Chad Kroeger about his dysfunctional relationship with an ex-girlfriend.

Proving they were no one-hit wonder, Nickelback have since released four more commercially successful records – The Long Road (5 million copies worldwide); All The Right Reasons (11 million copies worldwide); Dark Horse (5 million worldwide); and last year’s Here and Now.

The Disconnect of Hatred

If you’re to spend a moment on internet aggregator Reddit, you’ll quickly discover their well-documented hatred of Nickelback. As one of the most active and opinionated communities online, you’d think that Redditors and their fans would be in the business of shit-canning Nickelback songs on platforms like YouTube.

Yet, the lead single from their latest record When We Stand Together has garnered 56+ million views with a 93% positive rating. Think about the hoo-hah around another internet troll target – Rebecca Black. Her clip – as viral as it was – has been viewed only 35 million times with 20% positive rating.

In 2011, Nickelback came under its most intense internet attack – an online petition protesting their choice as half-time entertainment for a Thanksgiving Day NFL game in Detroit. The petition first attacked the choice of a Canadian band for a Detroit event – understandable, I guess – but then went on to ask: ‘does anyone even like Nickelback?’. After failing to garner the target of 75,000 signatures, perhaps they should refer back to section above: You Can’t Argue with (Fucking Huge) Numbers.

Quite simply, Nickelback aren’t as hated as you think.

A quick Google search will reveal support of The ‘Back (e.g. here), while artists like Chris Martin have “nothing but respect” for the band and Timbaland “just loves Nickelback’s music”.

Note: Chad and co. have seemingly learned how to deal with any trolling, as evidenced by their Twitter battles with fans heaping shit on them. LOLZ.

The Last (Commercial) Bastions of Rock

Nickelback’s sound may be a little softer these days, but they were once an actual ‘rock band’. Their first two releases – in 1996 and 1999 – are unmistakably post-grunge with songs that would sound at home on Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple or Silverchair’s Freak Show.

At this same time, ‘rock’ in the commercial sphere was bleeding to death. Since the ‘80s heyday of hair metal and power ballads, only three ‘rock’ songs hit the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 between 1990 and 2000: Jon Bon JoviBlaze of Glory (1990); MeatloafI’d Do Anything For Love (1993); CreedArms Wide Open (2000).

As the 21st century beckoned, it was plausible to see a rock legacy for Creed – their 1999 record Human Clay sold almost 20 million copies worldwide – but Nickelback saved us all with How You Remind Me. It hit #1 in December of 2001, driving a stake through the heart of God-bothering post-grunge.

So, keep in mind: every time you shudder hearing How You Remind Me on the radio or TV, programmers and music supervisors could instead be blasting us with a million plus spins of Jesus anthems were it not for Chad Kroeger.

Haters Gonna Hate

Discussions about Nickelback’s legacy will always produce chuckles, snorts and snide remarks. Even today with their huge commercial success, it can be difficult to find public endorsements of Chad and co.

Nickelback’s legacy will always be that of a band misunderstood: one of the world’s most hated acts, despite a commercial prowess completely unrivalled in ‘rock music’ for over a decade. And it’s likely this misnomer about the magnitude of Nickelhate, will be the hallmark of conversations in years to come.

In Nickelback, we have one of the world’s greatest guilty pleasures. They’re a band seemingly listened to only in the relative privacy a car or house, and spoken about only at their own live shows and in weird online back channels.

So, despite all the vitriol and derision you’ll muster at the mention of Chad Kroger in decades to come, the numbers tell us that there will always be someone, somewhere ready to bellow: ‘I like your pants around your feet’. Just not in public.

All research was conducted with ‘Private Listening’ activated on RDIO; else I’d now be in some social purgatory (if I were already not for writing this piece. See you guys. It’s been real.)

James is the former Executive Producer Online for the Triple M Network. He’s currently living in New York working for Downtown Music. His ramblings can be followed on the Twitter – @jamesaviaz.