Nickelback – Does it Deserve the Hate?


Samuel Fung, Staff Writer

Every generation has that one musical act that everybody seems to hate for whatever reason, and most of the time they are bands. U2, Creed, and more recently, Imagine Dragons are all loathed by a significant chunk of the population. However, there is one band that has been the subject of countless memes and countless instances of online abuse and hate. The band in question blew up in late 2001 and their music has been the subject of attacks left and right, but has also been successful commercially. Allow me to introduce the consensus number one most hated band of all time: “Canadian rockers Nickelback.”


Who is Nickelback, exactly?

Nickelback is a band based in Hanna, a rural town in Alberta, Canada. A four-piece band, the group is fronted by singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger, with Ryan Peake on guitar and Chad’s brother Mike on bass. They have run through four total drummers, but their current one is Daniel Adair. The band was originally formed in 1995, but did not blow up until around 2001. That year, they released Silver Side Up, their first major-label album with a lead single called “How You Remind Me” hoping to enter the post-grunge rock scene that already featured Creed. Hoping to meet praise, they got something way different.


The Blow-Up

The good news was that Nickelback blew up. “How You Remind Me” was released to mixed reviews, but found its way to rock radio. It soon crossed over to mainstream pop radio, amongst the likes of Usher, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Lopez, who all had major hits at the time (Usher’s had a very similar title). Eventually, the song climbed to number one in Canada and the United States, on the back of high sales and radio airplay. In fact, Nielsen Soundscan reported that the song was played 1.2 million times on radio stations across America. Perhaps it got to a point where it was overplayed…

Not everyone liked the song. Some found it boring, whilst others hated the style. In fact, post-grunge, a form of grunge with much different lyrical content than Nirvana-type regular grunge, was unpopular overall (Creed had their fair share of haters as well). And to think that any song, let alone Nickelback’s signature song, would play over a million times on radio, is insane, and probably annoying to a lot of people. It was only going to get worse.


The Comedy Central Promo

Also on the rise in the 2000s? A variety of different television networks. MTV was at its peak popularity. The Food Network and FOX were on the rise. And so was Comedy Central, a TV network that opened doors for several new shows, chief among them the Daily Show, which stimulated the rise of several notable names in comedy, particularly Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carrell. But that is not the show in question. Around 2003, Comedy Central began airing ads for a show called Tough Crowd, starring SNL alum Colin Quinn. It was a panel show that featured comedians talking about political issues of the time, such as Brian Posehn, who, while mentioning studies about violent lyrics leading to violent behavior, stated: 


No one talks about the studies that show bad music makes people violent. Like, Nickelback makes me want to kill Nickelback.”


The punchline hit hard enough that Comedy Central ran the exact clip that featured this quote on loop for two years straight. The show was canceled in 2004, but the clip made its mark, and the masses began to turn against Nickelback. Still, the band’s second major-label album, The Long Road, was a commercial success, selling millions of copies and spawning “Someday”, the band’s second number one hit in their home country. Could their third major-label album do well, even as the resentment against them compounded exponentially?


The Big Album

Nickelback’s first two albums sold really well, each garnering one single that topped Billboard’s radio charts. For them, a better album would be one that could spawn more than one radio hit. Their fifth album was entitled All The Right Reasons, and came out in October of 2005. Of the eleven tracks on the album, seven were released as singles. Here’s how they went:

  1. “Photograph”: The beginning of the song is the source of countless memes, but the song overall is repetitive and corny in the verses. Still, it was a top 5 hit in Canada and the US.
  2. “Animals”: Not as big a success, peaking at #98. Lyrics likely were the reason as to why.
  3. “Far Away”: Another radio chart topper and top ten hit in the US. Very simple lyrics.
  4. “Savin’ Me”: Peaked at #19 on the Hot 100, but also hit the top ten on multiple radio charts. The music video, for some reason, despite being shot in Vancouver, features a cameo from a New Jersey Transit bus.
  5. “Rockstar”: The most Tik-Tok friendly song on the album by far. I say that because the music video features lip syncs from a ton of different people, with cameos from Canada’s most famous human export, Wayne Gretzky. The song was then licensed to a British sofa commercial that got spammed, the basic equivalent of Imagine Dragons licensing their music to Jeep adverts in the following decade.
  6. “If Everyone Cared”: This is where the U2 influence comes in. It topped radio charts in the US, but falls flat compared to real U2 music.
  7. “Side of a Bullet”: Lyrical content is quite evidently graphic. It ironically contains the line “How could you be so full of hate”. It was not played a lot on the radio.

Five out of seven singles became hits. From 2005 to 2007 the songs were endlessly played on radio, likely causing the bleeding ears of several listeners who were standing by for the Ludacris, Black Eyed Peas, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce hits from the time, only to likely be left disappointed. The album, however, sold Diamond in the US, a rare honor reserved only for albums selling over 12 million units. Clearly, Nickelback seemed unphased by the hate when you just look at the music. So what other reason is there to hate Nickelback?


Stereotypical Chad

The band only writes music to please/satisfy themselves, and they do not seem to care about outside criticism. Especially not frontman and lead songwriter Chad Kroeger, who fully lives up to his name with the lyrics and behavior he has displayed. The lyrical content seems immature for a guy who crossed into his 30s at the peak of his fame. It has also drawn accusations of misogyny. There are also quotes online that only show that the man is so immature for a grown Canadian man. Kroeger was also arrested for a DUI in the Vancouver area in 2008 and also had a short-lived marriage with Avril Lavigne in the mid-2010s.

Kroeger has had some hits of his own during his solo career. Most notably, in 2002, he released a song called “Hero” with Josey Scott, a lead singer from a different band. Critics loathed the song, written as a theme for the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, for being unoriginal and predictable. So it seems that everything Chad Kroeger touches turns into anything but gold. Probably a scrunched-up ball of aluminum.


Post-Peak Nickelback
The memes have stood the test of time. The band itself? Not so much. Kroeger changed the band from its country-influenced radio-friendly rock to hard rock by the turn of the decade. Their more recent albums have not sold as well as they once had, as Imagine Dragons have taken their “internet shame punching bag/radio darlings” title since they released Night Visions in 2012. However, Nickelback remains the best example of how the internet and media can turn fans against a band so easily. In a way, it remains relevant.