Artist Feature: Nickelback

When did it become cool to hate on Nickelback? 15 years ago, the music landscape was dominated by pop rock. Think Lifehouse, The Calling, Puddle of Mudd, and of course, Nickelback. Their videos were on heavy rotation in MTV. And because of their genre, multiple radio formats played their singles. Men and women had no fear of being judged and openly rallied behind their sound.

And there was How You Remind Me – the anthem we rocked out to, especially for the angry and brokenhearted. You could hear Chad Kroeger meant every word. It’s like he understood where we were and having him sing on our behalf felt cathartic.

Here we are now and the thought of being associated with the band is an embarrassment. It’s like committing an unforgivable, heinous crime. Even with Someday and Photograph, there was no way to resuscitate their reputation. It probably hurt more than it helped. History was not kind and we all played a part in crucifying them.

I have a theory that if you ask majority of the people who make fun of their music what they find so abhorrent, they wouldn’t be able to put their finger on it. It’s one thing to have preference. See, I don’t listen to Bjork but I don’t have unresolved anger heading in her direction. I’ve tried immersing myself in Metallica’s music. And I have to say, it’s not my cup of tea. But I am at peace with the thought of not appreciating it as much as I do Madonna’s or Beyonce’s.

What makes Nickelback different and when did our perceptions change? Is it their crossover to mainstream success that make them less respectable? Or the fact that they are willing to modify their sound to be in sync with the general public’s taste? Surely, selling out is not as bad as people claim it to be. I mean, if you get a kick out of making music for a wider audience and having that affirmation as a source of satisfaction, is that so bad? It’s not ideal but it’s certainly understandable.

And other artists are well on their way to join Nickelback in the cool-to-hate league. We have The Chainsmokers who continue to please with their “derivative and uninspired” but effective and catchy EDM. Coldplay has taken on Newplay, a 180-degree turn from the Oldplay we were used to. And the narrative of Creed’s career has been going downhill in recent years. For what reason, I don’t know.

But I guess what I want to conclude is, the band actually deserves none of the shit we throw at them. They’ve had some poor choices but also blessed us with music we can connect to. Their sound will not be pleasurable for all, but that is true for any artist’s discography. I’m proud to stand beside Nickelback and say they are worth much more than how we value them.

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