Nov 122011

We’ve all been there at one point. Confronting someone with “oh, that band you like. They suck. No, seriously. I’m not kidding they really suck.” I can safely assume that 99.9% of Townspeople do not like the band Nickelback. I’ll go even further saying that the majority of those 99.9% use Nickelback as the Mount Everest about what is really wrong music. Even casual fans of music hate Nickelback. So much so that an online petition is circulating to replace the band as the Halftime act for the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day Game. Of course, I added my name.

But why? Where is the tangible evidence that these guys, who seem to be all around nice guys are what’s wrong with music. They’ve sold over 30 million albums. Clearly someone out there is rocking out to these hacks. For me, I think it has something to do with Chad Kroger‘s manly macho man posturing and douchey lyrics. But there’s more to that. Perhaps there is a formula out there that proves once and for all the unworthiness of these yutzes.

Are there any other bands that you’ve come across in the last 40 years that have received this much vitriol?


  68 Responses to “The Great Nickelback Divide”

  1. tonyola

    The Knack got tons of abuse from all sides when they first appeared in 1979. They were accused of being fake punks, sexist pigs, smug dorks, and sellouts who were pandering to the lowest common denominator. All perhaps true but “My Sharona” was a monster hit and even “Good Girls Don’t” managed to #11 on Billboard despite lines like “she’s sitting on your face”.

  2. Happiness Stan

    I am possibly that 0.01%, but that may be because I have genuinely never heard of Nickelback.

    Over here Coldplay get a huge amount of abuse for being very boring, and the soulless antithesis of what music should feel like.

    At the end of the 80s, James went from being a rather inaccessible band making twiddly and rather jarring records which only Morrissey liked to a big-stadium-type-pop-stars-selling-huge-amounts-of-records-type-thingy, but on the three occasions I saw them (because there was no alternative) at festivals they were largely drowned out by the roar of the disdainful crowd suggesting that they go elsewhere and take their music with them.

    The chorus of their anthem “Sit Down” in particular lent itself to bellowing a phrase with an equivalent number of syllables in popular use (which one usually learns about the age of ten and is not usually encouraged to utter in the presence of a maiden aunt) back at them.

    Goodness knows there are a lot of popular bands which I like a lot less than them, and they always struck me as being inoffensive if rather dull, but I have never experienced such apparently genuine venom being hurled at someone for playing their music by so many people, and it happened every time.

    So what would Townspeople suggest as an entry point for Nickelback?

  3. bostonhistorian

    The Dead Kennedy’s live on the radio version of “My Sharona” entitled “My Payola” is worth a listen. Here are the DKs dressed for the occasion:

  4. machinery

    The first band that comes to mind is Hootie and the Blowfish who sold a bazillion albums, were seemingly good guys & college friends and who made very bland music. I think the backlash comes when these bands get very, very successful. Maybe it’s jealousy … but I think it throws a sharp light on the horrible music taste of 90% of America. Suddenly the hipsters get angry our low standards and, instead of getting mad at Americans, suddenly get mad at the band itself, as if they forced this music on the public and robbed them of their 15 bucks at gunpoint.

    At the end of the day, as much as we bemoan bad music, bad movies and bad TV … WE ARE TO BLAME. We keep buying it. So they’ll keep making it.

    I always gave Nickleback some small props because I assumed their original name was “nickle bag” and they were forced to change it. Like Dumptruck was orginally called Dumb fucks. I have no basis for this and I am too lazy to check wiki.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Why does Nickelback get props for censoring their name?

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    Thanks Machinery, you’ve taught me a new one about Dumptruck. I really like For The Country. Another one of those forgotten 80’s college rock diamonds.

    But back to Nickelback, it’s really the pandering to the lowest common denominator that I find so offensive. Much like Modern Country. Hootie was bland and inoffensive, but they managed to pluck the gem I Go Blind from 54-40 and make it a hit.
    Perhaps Chad Kroeger reminds me of the Ozzies that used smoke out on the patio in high school and made fun of me ’cause I punk wannabe.

  7. 2000 Man

    The first band I thought of was Creed. Actually, my thinking kind of went, “Who was that asshole?…..Scott Stapp?….Who was he?….What was that band he was in that everyone just hated?….Kinda christian rockish…Not Staind….Creed?….Oh, no!….That song is stuck in my head now!….Eyes wide opeeeeeennnnnnnnnn, Eyes wide opeeeeeeeennnnnnnnn…………Oh, the horror!”

    I guess at least I don’t know any Nickelback songs. probably because they’re so nondescript. I know that I hate their guitar sound.

  8. cliff sovinsanity

    Entry point !! Are you sure? Here goes nothing.

    This was their first hit.

    and if you stomach that, this is just barf-inducing…

  9. cliff sovinsanity

    I do remember the backlash for The Knack. But, if I remember correctly it was the record company pushing the whole “new Beatles” thing. It is odd, how you mention them being fake punks because their music skated a very thin line between punk, power pop and mainstream rock. Their first 3 albums hold up pretty well today since the essence of their sound was up and down classic rock and pop. In hindsight, the individual band members deserved better than what they got. Hope they made millions.

  10. Creed are the first bunch that came to mind for me, too….. them, and the Insane Clown Posse.

  11. cliff sovinsanity

    Huh, I never that about James. They were fairly respected on this side within the Adult Alternative scene. Laid being their biggest “hit”. I can’t imagine them being disliked more than The Soup Dragons, who I must admit, I saw open for James.

  12. Rolling Stone‘s particular beef about the Knack was their smug sexism. The magazine made it a point to emphasize that aspect in every article about the group.

  13. cliff sovinsanity

    If sexism was the cause for their downfall, then there is a much larger debate to be had.

  14. Billy Joel, although those who like him are more visible than the Nickelback.

    I once saw a link where someone played two Nickelback hits simultaneously and they synched up pretty closely.

  15. I don’t know about Joel – he might have been trashed by the rock press and the cool people, but you don’t get 15+ years of multi-platinum mega-stardom by being universally hated. He had huge legions of committed fans.

  16. Billy Joel is obviously bigger than Nickelback, but NB is coming up on their 12th year of massive success. People are very vocal about hating them but they can’t be universally hated because someone is buying all those albums. And the question is “who has received this much vitriol”. Maybe BJ doesn’t get quite a much as NB but he’s certainly a contender.

  17. Happiness Stan

    The Soup Dragons were not popular enough over here to be hated, I think bands need to reach a certain height before they are deemed to be worth kicking.

  18. ladymisskirroyale

    Could we please add John Mayer to the list? I grind my teeth when I hear him.

  19. ladymisskirroyale

    Ah, James. I will forever love them based on two songs that were sort of my Holy Grail. My sister had come back from a year abroad in Sussex and had with her a tape of a tape of some Aztec Camera album, probably “Love.” But the album had been taped over another, and there were 2 songs left over at the end of AC and I loved them. I took that tape to every record store on Thayer Street in Providence (in the 80’s there were quite a few) trying to get someone to help me id them. One guy suggested James but didn’t have any in stock and I had difficulty tracking any down. Over the years, I would periodically ask my college radio station friends, but no one seemed to know. Fast forward twenty-something years and I continue the search but this time with Mr. Royale and the internet in tow. At first, a rereleased box set of Orange Juice seemed promising. But eventually we zero’d in again on James. We were able to figure out that the two songs were “If Things Were Perfect” and “Hymn From a Village” from the EP “James II” released on Factory Records in 1985. Here is one of them:

    My love of post punk/Factory Records/Manchester bands was not really developed until sometime after this record, but these tunes clearly were sowing the seeds of love.

  20. Happiness Stan

    Ah yes, they were the twiddly ones which Morrissey liked. If it’s any consolation, unless you taped them off John Peel it was impossible to buy those on this side of the pond also. Factory were far better at getting their records talked about in the music press than distributing the physical product. You posted a link to ACR’s Shack Up the other day if I remember correctly, and I had to buy that mail order as a German import at the time it was released as even the shops in London and Brighton I went to couldn’t get a copy of it.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    Come ON, people! Where’s your outrage about Limp Bizkit? There were *so* many layers of badness going on there, and yet… boy, for a while there, they ruled the world.

    I suppose the winner of this contest would have to be Vanilla Ice, though, wouldn’t it? Mind you, I was at a burlesque show the other night, and all the hipsters were ironically enjoying a girl twirling her tassels to “Ninja Rap,” so it just goes to show you. Something.

  22. I have not knowingly heard a Nickleback song, but I know to chuckle dismissively when I hear their name.

    Like machinery i have suspected their name is based on that quantity of pot.

  23. Happiness Stan

    The first clip wasn’t licensed to be watched in my territory, but fear not, found another one which was. I listened rather than watched (I’m very much of the pre-pop-video generation), sounds like Nirvana smeared with vaseline.

  24. I’m not making this up: I read that they got their name because the bass player worked at a coffeeshop where a regular coffee was something like $1.95, so he regularly would say “Here’s your nickel back” to customers. No really.

  25. Happiness Stan

    A good point well made, but where would you draw the line?

    I prefer Barry Manilow, Liberace and James Last to Billy Joel, but doubt that the BeeJ would lose any sleep over it. My loathing for U2 is so passionate that I feel like breaking something or drilling a hole through one of my limbs whenever I so much as think of them, but it doesn’t stop anyone buying their records.

    I heard a small clip from a Justin Bieber record yesterday, the first time I’d heard anything by him. It was as if all music from Elvis onwards had never happened. Do small children really enjoy his records? Totally baffling. Give me Nickel Back any day.

  26. shawnkilroy

    this thread has made me so angry i can’t think.

  27. For the love of rock let that be a cover-up.

  28. cliff sovinsanity

    But, do people really hate Justin Bieber. His music isn’t aimed at adults. The kid is very self-aware of his place in the biz. Picking on him, is like picking on Debbie Gibson. It’s harmless youth orientated pop that’s been around since Paul Anka (Geez what’s with all the Canadians in this thread). Totally inoffensive, to me.

  29. Happiness Stan

    Cliff, that was the point I was trying to make, perhaps not very well. I suppose the question I had in my mind, but failed to articulate, was where does music which is aimed at one particular market become music that it is acceptable for a completely different market to despise?

    The bands I’ve always felt most strongly about, and who tend to get the rock musos on their case over here, are the ones who present themselves as breaking the mould of music, but are actually just jumping on someone else’s bandwagon and only in it for the trappings. To gain that level of approbrium requires not just blatant opportunism, but doing it so blatantly that only ten year olds can’t spot it. The Clash were blatantly opportunistic, Joe Strummer had been going in pub bands for years without success, saw that bandwagon coming and jumped limpet-like on the back of it, just as their “no Elvis Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977” made way to Train in Vain in the space of about two years – but they did it so well that it worked, because it looked as if they meant it and came up with the records to back it up.

    On the other hand, Generation X (and Billy Idol in particular), Adam Ant were never taken seriously, and the aforementioned U2, have always generated as much vitriol as praise over here (for their political hypocrisy as much as their music).

  30. machinery

    For the sheer stupidity of the name alone.

  31. I remember Stone Temple Pilots receiving a heap of vitriol when they came out. Then they came out with that one pretty cool Zeppelin-esque power pop song, “Road Song,” or something like that. Then they faded under Weiland’s multiple drug busts.

  32. shawnkilroy

    Rod Stewart gets a hard time pretty consistently, right?

  33. tonyola

    The problem with Rod is that he started out so good with the Faces and his first four solo albums. Then he slowly went Hollywood and before you knew it, he was cranking out “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, “Hot Legs”, and all his ’80s crap. Rod has been the poster boy for rock and roll sellout, and deservedly so.

  34. I think Nickelback is one of those groups that’s bunched into a trend in popular music. I don’t anything about them, so I won’t be able to address specifics, but I do lump them in with that whole late 90s Creed/Staind/pseudo-Metallica “heavy” music. The problem with most of these bands and groups to me is probably not fo their own doing. I think there was trend that began in the late 90s in mixing and mastering records where everything had to be LOUDER. So, all the guitars, drums and whatnot swept all dynamics out and ebything was just mid-range CRUNCH. Riffy crunch crunch pingy drums with some growling Hetfield-like vocals on top. After a while it all just flows together. There may be some really good bands buried in all that shitty sound, but my ears will never know it. And it’s all a trend. So, now the trend is gone, it;s cool to make fun of them. Poor, poor Nickelback…


  35. I thought STP were a poor-man’s Pearl Jam, but I love this piece of 60s-influenced fun.
    STP — Bing Bang Baby.

  36. Yes, which I remember being funny. Remember how when Pearl Jam first came out they were considered a “sell-out” version of Nirvana? Then STP came out, cheesier and more “sell-out” than Pearl Jam and took the heat off them. Pearl Jam should thank STP when they’re inducted into the R’nR Hall of Fame.

  37. The Spin Doctors and their “Two Princes” song got slammed hard in 1993. I’m not sure whether it was the obvious “alternative” cash-in or the goofy lead singer and his dorky hat.

  38. misterioso

    Moral: it is useful to have a suckier version of you around to cast you in a better light. But, at the end of the day, Pearl Jam are still sucky.

  39. misterioso

    You’re right, but I hope that it was cool to make fun of them even before the trend expired. Same goes for Metallica.

  40. hrrundivbakshi

    Let’s not forget the dreaded “drop-D” tuning, employed by many of these bands. That’s a big part of the bullshit “heavyosity” they project.

    For non-music nerds: I’m talking about these bands’ tendency to lower the tuning of their guitars by a full note, resulting in a deeper, more bass-heavy rumble in the guitar parts.

  41. Andyr and I were talking about that band on Saturday. They were actually touring a few months ago. What an early ’90s GAP-inspired jam band they were! Ugh, I can’t bear to think about that song and their other hit. They are a case of all that’s wrong with mediocrity in the arts.

  42. tonyola

    Black Sabbath were an early adopter of the dropped-D tuning, as was Jimi Hendrix.

  43. hrrundivbakshi

    Pince-nez! Jimi dropped his a half-step, to an E-flat. Jimi disciple Stevie Ray Vaughan followed suit. Me, I like a guitar that’s tuned up to F-sharp. Chime-y! Ringing! Cheerful!

  44. hrrundivbakshi

    A notable drop-D moment in rock: the intro (and I presume the whole song) to “Unchained” by Van Fucking Halen.

    The killer riff in “Good Girls Don’t” by the Knack is also drop-D.

    I guess I should clarify, lest I be double-reverse pince nezzed by somebody else: these two examples actually just involve dropping the low E-string to a D. Jimi, Sabbath, SRV, and countless turd-metal bands actually tune all strings down to some degree.

  45. Damn, too slow, cdm!

    Just to be clear, the two examples you cite are Drop D (just lowering the E string from an E to a D while all other strings are tuned normally.)

  46. Is there anything that can be done to help facilitate the dropping of Jon Anderson’s gonads?

  47. bostonhistorian

    Stone Temple Pilots made me stop listening to commercial radio c. 1992-93. I was in the car, and the three stations I normally switched among were all playing the same STP song. That was the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the decade.

  48. bostonhistorian

    The Spin Doctors were execrable. About a month ago I picked up a new Twitter follower, someone promoting Boston nightlife. I looked at their tweets, saw that they had listed the Spin Doctors as a must see for a Saturday night, and immediately banned them from following me. There are some things a man just can’t be associated with.

  49. Happiness Stan

    Oh yes indeed, and not only that but he seems to positively gloat about it in a way which makes me warm to Billy Joel in comparison. He played Glastonbury about ten years ago, and all weekend there was a sort of warm feeling that he might do some old stuff and really turn it on – there had even been reasonably well substantiated reports beforehand that The Faces were ready and willing to get up and do it with him. Come the performance it was soon clear that everyone who would have liked to have heard even one Faces song performed with feeling were going to be sorely disappointed. The most tuned-in, alternative Festival audience anywhere that year were treated to what I imagine to be the complete Vegas cabaret experience – cheesy covers with emoting and chest beating which made the original King Kong look restrained, lots of “phwoaarrr look at my backing singers”, a considerable amount of rubbing the Rod rump against the backsides of said backing singers as about 70,000 people stood and gasped in wonder than somebody who once commanded such respect could misjudge a crowd so completely. I’ve seen a lot of headliners at Glastonbury, and been disappointed by acts I’ve looked forward to, but I have never, ever felt so let down by anyone’s performance, it was so sad and flattening to watch somebody who had it all toss it so casually, gleefully and contemptuously away, lacking the wit to know that he was doing it.

  50. 2000 Man

    Sadly, that can of Testost A Roni has long since gone past it’s shelf date.

  51. misterioso

    Cliff’s posting caused me stop and wonder about something. Since it is obvious that Nickelback sucks to a remarkable degree, so much so that they should make me really angry; but I cannot summon anything. Which led me to wonder when I lost the capacity to get all worked up and angry about music that I hate. I am sure you all are dying of curiosity and I will do what I can to pin down the date.

  52. And to reclaim their spot on top of the heaps of turdy bands they inspired, Sabbath reunites for 2012:


  53. tonyola

    Billy Joel was a skilled pop hack right from the start, and everyone knew it. Every move he made was commercial with no need for explanation or apologies.

    Rod was different – he started as a real rock and roller with sincerity and charisma to spare, not to mention a unique and unmistakable voice. Every Picture Tells a Story and “Maggie May” made him a huge star without sacrificing his strengths. He didn’t need to pander and sell out, so it’s especially sad that he chose that path.

  54. cliff sovinsanity

    Nickelback doesn’t necessarily make me angry. It’s the “sinking to a new low” that truly annoys me. How can so many people not see the soullessness and vapidity of their music. I throw them on the heap of other popular things that confound me such as Adam Sandler comedies, NASCAR, Two and a Half Men, Larry The Cable Guy. It’s the dumbing down of society. But, I’m not angry about it. Just annoyed.

  55. Please do. We may then have to open a study with RTH Labs.

  56. tonyola, I loves ya, man, but does your smartphone have an app that generates these Billy Joel comments? 🙂

  57. Happiness Stan

    Agree, totally.

  58. tonyola

    1. I don’t own a smartphone and I don’t need one to express myself.

    2. If you care to refute anything I’ve said, please feel free to do so. Otherwise, I’m not getting the joke.

  59. Well, it was in jest, trust me. Sorry if I rattled your chains.

  60. ladymisskirroyale

    The reverse Charlie’s Angels effect.

  61. ladymisskirroyale

    Freaky, Mod, but I had a dream the other night that someone introduced the new singer of Yes and his name was something-or-another Pussy.

  62. underthefloat

    Did you ever hear the much later album “zoom”? It was considered a return to form and some even suggested there strongest disc….

  63. I had an RTH dream the other night, in which 2000 Man and I were doing nothing other than sitting around a turntable, playing each other records.

  64. I too had a recent RTH dream. My band was in the basement learning a new song and Big Steve was there playing the keyboards and every time he played the signature riff, he would do that “champion” thing with his hands where you clasp your hands together and shake them on either side of your head (see the Lollypop Guild from the Wizard of Oz for an example if you don’t know what I mean)

  65. tonyola

    Now you’ve done it. I’ll forever think that Big Steve looks like a demented littleperson with weird hair and striped stockings. Does he have to stand on a box to reach the keyboards?

  66. misterioso

    Cliff, I hear you. And I can hardly think of anyone more loathsome than Adam Sandler: nor do I take the “he used to be hilarious but now he isn’t tack with him. No, he’s always sucked. You might enjoy this

  67. My Canadian wife confirms this story.


  68. People who don’t like “Nu-rock” in general can hate them specifically. People who like “Nu-rock” can hate them as the sell out band that their girlfriend kinda likes.

    Of course they sell tons of records and radio loves them. Their “Sharp Dressed Man” on VH1 Honors was damn good.

    They are not the worst band I’ve ever heard, but they are such an easy target.

    Very similar to Creed (in basic sound, popularity and hate from music critics) and that may be part of the problem.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube