In Defence Of: Nickelback
Tue 24th Jul, 2012 in Features
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 Jovi – Blaze of Glory (1990); Meatloaf – I’d Do Anything For Love (1993); Creed – Arms 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.