Why Do People Loathe Nickelback So Much? (And Do They Deserve It?)

Categories: Nickelback

People are in a bit of an uproar over this week's announcement that Nickelback—the Canadian post-grungers whose seventh album, Here And Now, comes out later this month—would be the halftime entertainment during the Thanksgiving Day NFL tilt between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, which will be played at Ford Field in Detroit and which is one of the two NFL games beamed all over the country on Turkey Day.

There have been numerous blog posts. There's a petition, which has engendered even more blog posts and actual news stories. Nobody from the band's camp has commented yet, but I'm sure they're wondering what I am: Why are Chad Kroeger and his rock comrades pilloried, when, say, bands with similar aesthetics like Seether and Staind are still around, too? It's not just the sort of misplaced patriotism that recoils at the idea of a Canadian band serving as the centerpiece of televised entertainment on the most American of holidays.

Nickelback, "Bottoms Up"

Let the record state, first of all, that this inquiry is not a defense of Nickelback's music at all. I spun through Here And Now earlier this week and it's pretty crummy; the above song, one of the album's first singles, is a very blatant rewrite of the F2K-honored ode to oral fixations "Something In Your Mouth," only this time it's about drinking. (Perhaps the working title was "Something Else In Your Mouth"?) They do have a couple of decent tunes—their breakthrough "How You Remind Me," the slight "Remind" flip "If Today Was Your Last Day"—but try as Kroeger's snarl might, their blandness is probably the most aggressive thing about them.

Still, though, the vitriol sent in their direction is ridiculously high—particularly when you compare it to the ire raised against other artists of their ilk, or of their sales stature. It wasn't like people started petitions about the Black Eyed Peas being the Super Bowl halftime show last year—and that was for a much bigger stage than a football game that'll be viewed through a collective tryptophan haze. Here are some hypotheses as to why this came to be.

They represent not just one, but two bygone aesthetics. Nickelback straddle the not-as-vast-as-people-think chasm between grunge and arena rock; they've worked with Mutt Lange, the producer who's epitomized a certain maximalist aesthetic since Def Leppard's 1980s breakthroughs (there's a reason Lady Gaga chose him to produce her end-of-the-night lament "Yoü And I"), while Kroeger's yarl sounds like Eddie Vedder's voice copied at 150% on a malfunctioning Xerox.

Put those two factors together with the way that some of their songs just work on a pop-song sense—dislike "How You Remind Me" as much as you will, its structure is pretty impeccable, as anyone who's performed it at karaoke can attest—and the end result is that listening to Nickelback and enjoying it can be sort of embarrassing, like being confronted with an awkward-teen-years photo.

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