One warm winter night in December my college friends and I gathered at a poorly designed home in Orange for a night of casual drinking and shared merriment. It was the weekend before finals week and we all knew that we would be seeing very little of each other for a while. Soon we’d all be buried in adderall-dusted books or next to a yelling baby on a flight to our home state. Thus, we gathered to have a white elephant Christmas gift exchange.
It’s one of my fondest college memories, actually. There were Coors Lights opened on every available surface, a log fire crackling on the tv, and gifts being opened then subsequently stolen. But this story truly begins when somebody unwraps a small cd and laughs. When they show it to the room, everybody laughs with them, for it is a cd of Nickelback’s greatest hits.
“Ha ha!” the room thinks in unison, “it is Nickelback therefore it is funny.” Then everyone attempts to dodge the gift for the rest of the exchange
After this is over with, we’re standing in the room doing what we usually do, drinking Coors Light and discussing interfraternal affairs, when someone noticed aloud that there is no music. The man who brought the cd suggests that we pop it in, figuring it will be good for a chuckle, and the rest of the room wholeheartedly agrees.
In goes the CD.
Grungy guitar fills the room like smoke from a Camel Crush. Chad Kroeger starts addressing us all as if we’re the last girl at the bar and he leaves town tomorrow. There are near-imperceptible nods of the head, a feeling creeps up from deep inside us all, but we try to push it back down.
Five minutes later we are all jamming. My roommate is shouting to the heavens, “It’s not like you to say sorry. I was counting on a different story.”
An ex-girlfriend sings into her tasteless pilsner, “This time I’m mistaken for handing you a heart worth breaking.”
“And I’ve been wrong, and I’ve been down.” Chad Kroeger goes on, and so does the night.
I tell you this story of how Nickelback made one night great for this reason: and read closely, because this is important…
NICKELBACK IS NOT THE GREAT SATAN
This is incredibly hard for some people to believe, due to the fact that pop culture has been steadily dredging this tired notion up from the depths of Ebaumsworld forums for quite some time.
You see, sometime around 2005 (look up “Nickelback” on Urbandictionary for proof) the American populace made the group decision that Nickelback was no longer its guilty pleasure. Then a memo was sent out that anybody seen endorsing Nickelback was to be publically hung. And to add some levity to our civic duty, we were given a bulleted list of the five possible jokes to make about Nickelback.
Look, I get it if you don’t want to have that band in your earholes, I’m not a fierce proponent of nu-metal to begin with. Music taste is on an individual basis, you’re well within your rights not to like something. What I think is unwarranted is how people have to act so fucking angry when somebody brings NB up. Some people discuss Nickelback like Chad Kroeger broke into their house and duct-taped their pets to the ceiling fan. People discuss Nickelback like they were in an internment camp and a man in a rubber gimp suit played Silver Side Up while he beat them with blunt instruments.
It seems to be the one thing hipsters and mainstreamers can agree on: that this band is the worst thing to have ever happened to music. People hyperbolize musical impact in general (Justin Bieber, F.U.N.), but Nickelback stands a cut above in this regard. A group of Canadian human beings who assembled and made something kind of generic and sort of lazy is, for some reason, the death of all music.
Is Nickelback generic? Uninspiring? Not the goodest? I feel for you. It must place a heavy burden on you emotionally. Actually, wait, no. Fuck you. Just let that shit roll over you, stop complaining, change the station. Not every band you hear has to tickle your prostate. Walk the Moon is doing a pretty terrific job of being “meh” and nobody’s joining hands across America to get them banned from the stage. Plus, I think Matt and Kim hold the title for the most savagely generic young-n’-havin-fun pop song I’ve heard in over a decade. Do I want them burned at the stake for it, not really.
The funny part is that people’s mass hatred of the band is the reason why they’re still within the common vernacular. You could have let them atrophy somewhere in the last decade, but the poison of the vengeful keyboard became their lifeblood. It might have inspired the true fans to buy more Nickelback products, thus giving distributors a reason to create a greatest hits album. Chad Kroeger has even gone on record saying as much.
Also, let’s acknowledge the fact that they even made enough half-decent radio-playable music (that human beings listened to) to warrant a greatest hits album. Are you aware the quantity of bands that didn’t even come close to making a greatest hits album? It’s a fuckload, in case you’re wondering. Think about all the one-or-two-hit-wonders from the 2000’s who seemed like they were decent enough to stick around, but ended up producing about two songs. In no particular order: The Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, Dirty Vegas, Fountains of Wayne, Yellowcard, Bowling for Soup, every American Idol winner except for Kelly Clarkson, Caesers, James Blunt, MGMT, Snow Patrol, Feist, Flyleaf, the Flowbots, Shwayze, Estelle, Pepper, Wolfmother, The Ting Tings, The Plain White T’s, Daniel Powter, Gnarls Barkley, The All American Rejects, Vanessa Carlton, Jet.
And that’s discounting bands that you knew were gimmicks from the get go, like Eifel 65, Asher Roth, or the Darkness
And yes, I hope I headfucked you into nostalgia-searching Spotify all this week
But I’ll concede that Nickelback may not have enough original or groundbreaking music to truly constitute a greatest hits collection. Some of their guitar riffs repeat themselves every album, a lot of their lyrics are tired and predictable, their themes have been trodden over, the smoky appeal of Kroeger’s voice died with Kobain. I get it, you demand originality in your music. But here’s the question, if you demand originality in the pop culture you consume, why the fuck are you okay with your jokes coming straight off of an AIM chatroom? Why do people keep rewarding this repetitiveness with laughter?
You see, I try to be original in every contribution I make. Even if it’s incoherent, even if it’s esoteric, even if it’s shit, I at least fail in my own distinct way. That’s what I can’t stand about people repeatedly dragging this dead horse out for public flogging. It’s become a lazy shorthand for those who aren’t organically funny. I’m not a big fan of the band, I’m just a fan of creativity in your insult game.
I was in middleschool when I heard my first ‘Nickelback is bad’ joke. I thought the guy who told it was hilarious. And he was, because he lifted 95% of his content from Maddox and the cool older guys at the paintball range. Now I’m not saying I’m so avant-garde that I immediately rebuked him, because I didn’t. I laughed my ass off. In fact I made these jokes well into high school. This is for two reasons: 1: I hadn’t yet come to value originality in my work and the work of others and 2: If you don’t run with the pack in High School, they will maul your ass. It’s fine to do this stuff for a while, score some humor points while the fruit hangs low, but some people never left that stage.
Think I’m hitting this “high-school-level jokes” thing a little hard? Think nobody still makes these jokes? After less than thirty seconds of researching on Facebook, I found the following comment, posted on an NB article in the year 2016, “I would rather listen to twilight the musical on glee through a blender, than listen to a Nickelback song”. Sound at all familiar to you? Twilight reference? Glee reference? Extreme over exaggeration?
That comment had well over a 100 likes.
I have a sneaking suspicion about these people who sniff out Nickelback threads in online forums in order to post negatively on them. I have a feeling that such people could name only one song by Nickelback, maybe two. Why do I believe people would breathe fire on something they don’t have a full understanding of? Because people love howling in unison. They don’t care what it’s at, they don’t care who it’s for, they just want to know that they are part of that awful din that’s pointed in something’s direction.
I’m not saying to stop hating things, after all, hating things is the only reason I have a blog. Hatred is the sweet nectar we sip of on the internet. I’m just suggesting that maybe in the future, be creative in the way that you hate a thing. Have a working knowledge of the thing, a serial killer’s disturbing understanding of what you’re going to publically loathe. After all, you might even learn a thing or two, might even grow a little.
I thought that Lana del Rey was a sleepy crooner who wrote songs solely about poisonous relationships, who confused morbidity with artistry. One day though, as I worked I listened to an album and a half of hers to change my perception.
I still don’t like Lana del Rey.