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What Nickelback Did to Become the Most Hated Band in the World

nickelback most hated band

Nickelback was the last of its kind – a rock band capable of taking guitar tunes to the top of the charts, yet seemingly hated by everyone who loved guitar songs.

A certain segment of the public saved for Nickelback the kind of loathing usually reserved for someone who runs over your dog with their pick-up truck. The Canadian foursome made being the biggest band in the world seem unappealing. They were internet punchlines and online sensations. 

By the time the hype was over, rock bands had gone extinct and Nickleback were reduced to peddling funk-pop in a bid for some sympathy. There weren’t many bands replacing them at the top of the charts. And of the ones who did make it up there, your Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, or Chris Martin‘s Coldplay weren’t deemed important enough to be made fun of. 

But were they as bad as the memes made you think? Or has pop-rock music just gotten a lot worse since the days that Chad Kroeger ruled the charts?

In the end, we might have all been a little busy overreacting while we were sitting around waiting for the next great rockstar to seamlessly represent the best qualities of Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan and John Lennon. And, whoever thinks that’s gonna happen has a lot of waiting still left to do. 

Here’s how Nickelback turned themselves into the most hated rock band in the world and somehow survived it all. 

Working-class Canadian Heroes

It’s all a conspiracy. It’s the record labels, I tell you. And, it’s the managers. And, definitely, all of the pop stars are using autotune. They’re all working in cahoots to dumb down the music-listening public. Without this evil plan, we’d be better off. Remember when The Beatles or Led Zeppelin were the biggest bands in the world? 

Now that I think about it…

But Nickelback was not a band created on a television show. And they weren’t plucked from obscurity by a Machiavellian producer. They were working-class kids from Canada. And they were coming of age just as the Seattle grunge bands, and everyone else who looked like them, were reluctantly conquering the world. 

Chad Kroeger and his bandmates learned a lot from the sound of the grunge groups, and none at all from their punk-rock-born anxiety of selling out. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’ll constitute the crux of this story. 

The band was formed in 1995. It included brothers Chad and Michael Kroeger, along with guitarist Ryan Peake. Drummer Ryan “Nik” Vikedal would round up the golden lineup

Wouldn’t you believed it, they started out by playing covers. By 1995 loud rock songs were still popular. But bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains would soon be a thing of the past. Their sound had been taken hostage and made to open its wallet. Three Days Grace, Creed, 3 Doors Down were in the charts. And, frankly, they were no better or worse than Nickelback. 

Wholesome enough. So why do people hate Nickelback?

nickelback most hated band 1

“Silver Side Up” and “How You Remind Me” Become Global Tools of Torture

Now, the boys in Nickelback weren’t ever the sharpest knives in the drawer. Chad Kroeger never attempted to mimic Kurt Cobain’s tortured artist routine. He just wanted Cobain’s sound. And, as a competent musician, he got it. 

Better news was up the road. They got signed to Roadrunner Records, which is not exactly purveyors of good taste themselves, and made a couple of records. Those didn’t go anywhere. But audiences around America were still angry. Nu-metal and, now dubbed, post-grunge was the angsty soundtrack they required. 

“Silver Side Up” came out in 2001 and had on it a single for the ages. It was called “How You Remind Me”, and everyone loved it. At one point, radio stations around North America were playing it so much that it was stuck in a literal endless loop. 

Hm, how to best describe it? It sounds like Kurt Cobain getting punched in the stomach, then held at gunpoint and made to sing pop songs. Audiences heard a singer who sounded tough, and whipped around by love. It was truck driver music, but it sounded mighty catchy. Is this why people hate Nickelback?

But surely you couldn’t repeat this kind of success? This couldn’t just be a formula that could be repeated at will. 

The Formula Song Makes the Hit Train Go “Choo, choo”

We’ve discussed post-grunge almost-Christian rock band Creed here before. They were another band that was tolerated by many and passionately hated by a few. If Scott Stapp had borrowed his singing style from Eddie Vedder and overdid it to the point of parody, Kroeger would have been Team Cobain from Day 1. 

He wasn’t the only one to do it. Or to overdo it. Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace, Shaun Morgan from Seether, or Gavin Rossdale from Bush had made a living off of it. All of them looked either like angry frat boys and/or models and made Cobain sound like a testosterone-filled wrestler writing songs to an ex-girlfriend. 

The world must have liked it because the band’s singles were pure gold. The bands sold albums by the truckloads and toured internationally. And none of them were bigger than Nickelback. 

And they did it all by avoiding experimentation like it had rabies. Nickelback may not have been terrible. But you certainly needed to like “How You Remind Me” because they were determined to play the same song over and over again. 

Sure, they’d play it fast, or they’d play it slow. “Photograph,” “Someday,” “Far Away.” YouTube mashups of the band’s songs were just as popular as their YouTube videos. They showed without much shadow of a doubt that there was someone tirelessly ripping off Nickelback. And it was themselves. 

Is this why people hate Nickelback?

My girlfriend grew up listening to the music of bands like Nickelback and Panic! At The Disco. A lot of people did. I’ll never know how I managed to look past that.

nickelback most hated band

The Most Hated Band in the World

A lot of people felt it. The folks wearing glasses and working on a brag-worthy collection felt it the most. But it was one person who dared to stand up for the jilted music critic in all of us. 

And that person was… Patrick Carney, drummer of the Black Keys. In what has gone down as one of the most courageous statements made by a millionaire rockstar, Carney said: “Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world… So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit – therefore you should never try to be the biggest rock band in the world. Fuck that!”

Preach! Carney ended his statement by adding that he knew he himself sucked at banging the drums. But it was too late. The Black Keys drummer was a hero to millions. His statement was tattooed on the arms of millions. Pompous music listeners came out of their shelters demanding free rights. 

And, slowly, this overall feeling starting gnawing on the carefully crafted image of Nickelback as a band that was going to make the same hit song forever. 

Why did people hate Nickelback? Why did it work? 

Well, as always, I have some theories:

  1. The Black Keys were also clearly ripping off the blues and The White Stripes as much as Nickelback was ripping off Nirvana. But The Black Keys were cool to the eyes of the intelligentsia. When one of their songs got featured in a movie, it was deemed a victory for rock n’ roll. 
  2. The guys from The Black Keys looked like kids who got picked on and who collected records as a hobby. The guys in Nickelback looked like guys who earned university scholarships by being on the football team but rejected it to work in a gas station. 
  3. Everyone was secretly hoping that after Nickelback, the biggest rockstar in the world would be a Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley-type character. That never happened. 
  4. The pop charts were turning to crap. And that didn’t stop just because Nickelback wasn’t on them. If anything, it got much worse. 
nickelback most hated band

Nickelback’s Victory Lap and the Fall

Why do people hate Nickelback? The internet can be a mighty hostile place. Sadly, for Nickelback, every city they played in had an internet connection and a bird’ s-eye view of the memes. 

And the memes were many. It was “Revenge of the Rock Nerds featuring Nickelback”, the now most hated band in the world, where the jocks were getting eviscerated. 

Idiots threw rocks at Kroeger during concerts. Cool websites like Pitchfork threw damning reviews. And, for of all, the internet mercilessly insulted his hair-do. 

But Nirvana… err, sorry, Nickelback was still out in the Sun. Chad Kroeger married fellow Canadian star Aril Lavigne. He got Billy Gibbons to mumble on the single “Rockstar” that became a global smash. And, each night, Nickelback played to audiences of thousands. 

The life cycle of a pop star, however, is nearly as short as that of a tropical butterfly. Alas, Nickelback chose to be pop stars when they repeated making the same single every few months. Finally, a good chunk of the listening public had had enough. 

The album “No Fixed Address” didn’t do much. Kroeger cut his hair and embraced the redneck-in-a-tie image that he seemed destined to portray. And for the first time in more than a decade, the band was back to desperately trying to promote itself. 

It had taken a while, but the meme vigilantes had won out. Nickelback was the most hated band in the world, and even the people who loved them ignored them. 

nickelback most hated band

Nothing Can Kill Nickelback. It’s Been Tried

It was a good run. 

By the late 2000s, Corey Feldman had a better chance of getting a hit than Nickelback. But that didn’t stop them from trying. They didn’t feel it was beneath them to make country-pop or throw in a dance number. 

But by now, Nickelback knew who their core audience was. It was people who felt stupid wearing a backwards red baseball cap to a Limp Bizkit concert but who still had enough anger issues to need an anthem for it. Nickelback, for the most part, went back to writing songs for those people. 

To his credit, Chad Kroeger didn’t give up. He didn’t much complain either. Nickelback was now a working band again. Maybe they’re saved on their millions. Maybe Avril Lavigne had taken it all in the divorce settlement. But the Canadian band kept putting out albums, kept touring, and, yes, kept writing the same song over and over again. 

Was Nickelback deserving of becoming the internet’s most-hated band? Yes and no. 

Nickelback is a very good band. There are plenty of hacks out there. They can’t play, have their producer write them songs and spend more time combing their hair than playing their instruments. Nickelback’s musicians are competent. They’ve shared a stage with folks like Jerry Cantrell or Billy Gibbons for a reason. 

But, no, they’ve never been the most tasteful proposition. This helped them for a while. Post-grunge was bigger than grunge in business terms.

Us nerds always have our revenge though. And, when we had a clear shot, we took it. Mark down Nickelback as the last rock band, for a while, to have chart-toppers. Yeah, they all sounded the same. That’s called “getting miles out of a song”!

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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