Somewhere over the past five years, Nickelback was deemed the unofficial "worst band in the world," usurping Creed as the rock snob's go-to reference for "awful."
How did this happen? To date, the British Columbian quartet has sold close to 20 million albums, sell out arenas in every city, and have enjoyed massive radio play since first hitting the public's ears with 2001's "How You Remind Me." From what we can tell, they have written every bit of their six chart-topping albums without help from Swedish studio svengalis or washed-up alt-rock gods ghostwriting their singles. Nickelback has never been caught lip-syncing or possessing child pornography, nor has the band ever had a song placed in a major corporate ad campaign. (The same was true of Creed.) Those sins are much more grievous than, you know, actually being successful. How can one band so divide America, while at the same time bring together so many? You never hear anyone specifically defend Chad Kroeger and company in any way. No major rock critic - or die-hard fan, for that matter - has ever been able to adequately justify either their love or hatred for the band.
No doubt bands like Journey and Foreigner went through the same thing during their heyday of making your Mom all gooey. We're sure that teens clad in Motorhead jean jackets spat on the steps of the Summit in 1983 when one of those two came to town - just like people driving to Dan Deacon's gig at the Orange Show tonight will snicker at the crowd assembled in front of the Toyota Center. Ask a true-blue fan why they love Nickelback, and the answer will, without fail, have something to do with the Canucks "rocking" or being "wicked." No self-described fan we have ever spoken has ever gone into why exactly they buy their shirts and records, or go see them live. Conversely, ask someone who straight hates the guys and seemingly prays nightly for a Lynyrd Skynyrd-style aerial fiasco why they hate Nickelback, and you usually only hear that they "suck hard" or that Chad Kroeger is an ugly man. (And the latter sometimes comes from Nickelback's male detractors.)
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As confident heterosexual men, we can admire a man's looks without feeling awkward. We think Chad Kroeger resembles a meth-addled Frank Zappa and could probably use a few gym visits with Carrot Top. We love the Pixies' Frank Black and Tom Petty, but neither of them will ever be mistaken for sex symbols. But that also never got in the way of our fandom. Why does a band "suck hard" to some, but makes others overcome with bliss during "Rock Star"? The idea that they are some sort of corporate rock product is kind of false. For every Nickelback, there are a thousand bands signed to a major label that sound just like Nickelback. By the time you finish reading this sentence, the ink will be drying on another contract.
Something pulled Nickelback over that last hurdle to superstardom, but what was it? They make serviceable rock and roll for people who never asked for anything else. They aren't seeking social change or political alliances in their music.Just as Radiohead and the Foo Fighters have put out material that satisfied their fans, so has Nickelback. We equate Nickelback with country's Rascal Flatts. Nickelback are the Rascal Flatts of rock music and vice versa. Both have a dedicated lighter-waving fanbase and a group of pitchfork-wielding detractors across the aisle ready to pounce - and are so insulated by both the adoration of their fans and the size of their bankbooks that they could give a shit what Joe Hipster thinks. With Seether and Saving Abel, 6 p.m. tonight at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. Sold out.