Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Music Feature: Why does everyone hate Nickelback?

Why does everyone hate Nickelback?

In a nutshell, they don’t.

In 2002, the band were the fastest rising name in rock, with their highly polished blend of hard rock, post-grunge, and alternative rock appealing to the masses. Ranked as one of the most commercially successful bands of the 2000s, they’ve sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and were named as the 2nd best-selling foreign act in the U.S. behind The Beatles for the 2000s.

With the release of Silver Side Up the band unveiled their biggest and most known hit today, "How You Remind Me" which peaked number 1 on the American and Canadian charts at the same time, as well as making a serious impression in the UK. The Long Road spawned 5 singles, including "Someday" which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 1 in the Canadian Singles Chart. All The Right Reasons produced 3 top 10 singles and 5 top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 with songs like "Photograph", "Far Away", and "Rockstar" and The Dark Horse produced eight chart-worthy singles. The band has won numerous awards, including 12 Juno Awards and 28 nominations.

These figures don’t lie, not everyone hates Nickelback. Rather, as with many things, a far smaller group of hipster elitists and critics have somehow managed to fabricate a large scale hate campaign to which the common sheep can latch themselves.

Now, before I continue, I should make clear the point that I’m not some crazy Nickelback fanboy. In fact, as with many bands, I find a lot of their music generic and boring. Furthermore, I fully accept that songs like “Rockstar”, while a huge commercial success, are not exactly musical genius, and a number of their more recent songs have been rightly criticised for being nothing more than a catchy guitar riff spliced with gratuitous references to a bona fide life of strippers, sex, prostitutes, drugs and drinking.

What bothers me is the small minded accusing them of having no musical talent. This is completely untrue; as each band member is a talented musician who really knows their instrument. One of the common criticisms of the band is that their music rarely contains playing that suggests virtuosity, like high tempo technical guitar solos or drum kit dominating, quadruple-kick, drum beats. The truth is though, while these things are all within their abilities, they do not feature in their music because they simply do not need to. The following is an excerpt from an interview that band members Chad Kroeger and Ryan Peake had with the magazine Total Guitar:

Total Guitar: You guys obviously can play your guitars, but there aren't a lot of solos. Do you relate to readers who think TG shouldn't be cover­ing bands like Linkin Park or Blink 182 or...

Chad: "Or Nickelback!"
Total Guitar: Yeah, anyone based primarily on riffs and chords, not soloing.

Ryan: Well, it all boils down to good songs and that's what I like to play, anyhow. I love the guitar and think I have a good deal of proficiency, but I like to play songs, not noodle scales.

Chad: Songs are what sell records, not shredding solos. There aren't that many solos that get stuck in your head, but you will sing a goddamn sham­poo commercial all day if the hook is good enough. We want to write songs that stick in your head like that - but in a good way. [Laughs.]
Ryan: Yeah. We don't want to stick in your head like, "Who let the dogs out", which is stuck there, but you're dying to get it out! Nothing by A, that gets stuck in your head in a good way.

Chad: One other thing: I'll sit down and have a go with any one of those guitar players. I learnt to play by jamming along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament records, and I spent hours in my room just playing guitar. I mean, I can finger tap on three different strings at once and lots of other things I don't really use any more. But it all helped me get where I am. I'm glad I started playing stuff that was difficult and with which you couldn't be sloppy. It gave me a good wrist. You cannot play along with any of those bands without having a good right hand. Those fast tempo rhythms riffs are very difficult to play. It's nice to start with some difficult stuff.

Ryan: The first two tab books I ever bought were Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning, but I was always more into the riffs and incredible rhythm playing than the shredding solos. My right hand goes faster than my left, and I've always been able to figure out my limitations.

Naysayers can deny it all they want, but Nickelback have created a formula that simply works.

Beyond their musical talent and ability to churn out well constructed songs, is the way that they come together in the studio and mastering room; with gloriously thick sounding, multi-layered guitar and vocal parts, deep driving basslines and powerful, dynamic drum beats. The entire mix has been expertly lifted to the limits without introducing the audio-clipping that so many similar artists suffer from in their attempts to create a truly “heavy” sound.

Almost every Nickelback song has this inherent quality and depth of sound that catches me every time. Songs like “Should’ve Listened”, “Never Again”, “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good”, “Too Bad” and “Savin’ Me” all have bass lines that, when they are introduced in beginning, truly pull everything together and continue to drive on throughout song with considerable force. Furthermore, in the undeniable hit “How You Remind Me”, the mix allows the listener separation of each instrument, highlighting the signature drum fill complete with a lovely sounding rim-shot on the snare. The band really have created a near perfect heavy rock sound.

Overall, while they are not my favourite band, I do really enjoy a lot of Nickelback’s music. They may not be the most creative of bands, but they have truly pushed the boundaries of how much of an influence a rock band can have over an industry that thrives on the arguably pretty terrible, auto-tune enhanced, pop star trash that is consumed by the masses every day.

TL;DR - “Haters gonna hate.”

By Michael Palmer


I really liked Nickelback until they went all Def Leppard. I remember buying Dark Horse and just being disappointed. They seemed to lose their sound and just be a poor copy of DL. So of course, the next thing I did, was Google the producer - only to find out that he worked on a lot of DL stuff.

I'm actually quite a DL fan, but that was a turning point in NB's music for me, and not a good one.

"They may not be the most creative of bands, but they have truly pushed the boundaries of how much of an influence a rock band can have"
Really? For example?

I disagree with a few of the points made here. I'm not sure what you mean by 'driving bass lines', the bass just seems to be a dull thud that follows the guitar, and there is nothing interesting about the drums at all. Guitar parts can be made interesting without 'soloing'. And it isn't really an excuse to say 'oh yeah, we can do incredible stuff, but we choose not to', that's just silly.

The amount of records a band sells also does not really mean they are 'good', and neither does 'winning awards'(I just googled the Juno awards, Michael Buble's Christmas album won album of the year 2011 so I can't take it entirely seriously).

Everyone's entitled to an opinion, so I won't try too hard to convince you otherwise...


They've pushed boundaries in that a lot of the music they've released which is actually very good, has topped charts alongside the utter crap that you hear on the radio most of the time. As in the article, I'm not saying that all of their chart featured songs are amazing, or that as a rock band in general they match up with the greats, but some of their stuff is pretty good, and certainly better than much of what is in the charts.

As for your opinion on the bass lines, yes, they are fairly basic and follow the guitar chord progression. However, the main point I was making was that, while simple, the bass lines are well thought out, and (as I mentioned later in the article) mastered incredibly well. If all you're hearing is a dull thud, then you need better headphones/speakers etc.

Finally, on awards. I agree completely that awards do not equate to the talent or skill of an artist (see my earlier article regarding the lack of recognition artists like Dream Theater etc. receive outwith their immediate genre's community). I wasn't attempting to make that point, but rather that the sales figures suggest that a lot of people must enjoy their music.

In all honesty, it seems as though you've skim read the article with a predetermined negative opinion and completely missed the point. Every question you asked is answered in the article.

The point I was trying to make was not that Nickelback are some sort of exceptional band that everyone should love, but that in almost no way do they deserve the hate they get, when so many far more deserving "artists" are out there making millions.


(If you hadn't guessed)

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