MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 79: NICKELBACK

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be hated, disliked, or even universally panned, as a music artist. What goes through a bands’ mind (or a solo artist for that matter) if a lot of the publicity is negative, a lot of the reviews of their albums are negative, and just the vibe of the critics towards this artist/group is negative, full stop…can an artist/band still be impactful, influential, and the rest of it, in spite of that? Yes, if you’re reading between the lines here, and you’ve read the title of this blog, then you’d know which artist I’m about to delve into today. You guessed it, it’s about time, after 78 blogs, to tackle Nickelback as blog #79. And I know, it’s probably a long time coming for me to say my two cents worth about Chad Kroger and co. but here I am, around a couple of years after my first blog to talk about a band that quite possibly, alongside Creed (I dunno why though) are two of the most ‘hated’ bands of all time…ever. And what do I do with that information though- do I let this piece of knowledge (reliable or not), bias my own opinions of the band, and thus, sway this blog post altogether? Or should I just write about the band regardless, and form my own opinion, nevertheless? Nickelback have been singing and making music for quite some time- over 20 years in fact. Chad’s distinct voice and gravely texture to it, makes the band one of the most unique in modern music history- and maybe it’s because of this uniqueness that it seems like Nickelback’s talent, can be viewed by the public as fading away, in place of a band’s ‘brand’, for lack of a better term. Whatever the case of how the band got to be known by the public as one of the most hated bands (maybe not only in America but around the world too), what we know now is this- that Nickelback are hated for some reason, and that I was hesitant in writing this blog post, until now, of course. I mean, what do you write when you’re tackling a band that is unfortunately, universally disliked? Do you write anything? Nothing? Write, but then realise that you’re writing about something else entirely? Nickelback are indeed so much more than just a band to be ‘hated’, and as I’ve listened to them this past week and a bit, I’ve grown to appreciate Chad’s singing style, and writing style. This is a band that has soldiered on in spite of popular opinion; and have continued to weather the proverbial ‘storm’ which is their music career thus far. For a band to last this long in the music industry, let alone last this long in the music industry with a lot of ‘hate’, dislike, shade, and generalised panning, is nothing short of a miracle. It really is. Kudos and credit to Chad and the band for continuing to press on through these bouts of adversity, because if such hurling of insults happened to any other band, I’m not sure how they’d react. I mean, lets be honest right here. I’m not your average rock and roll fan. I like the odd occasional band here and there (Lifehouse, the Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Skillet, and now to some extent Creed), but I’m not into your heavy rock that Nickelback seems to ‘flirt’ with on occasion throughout their discography that I’ve listened to, this past week or so. Hearing them is like the mixing of radio friendly rock and the hardness of a band like Hoobastank or Evanescence (I mean, both Hoobastank and Evanescence are fine, it’s just that both these bands aren’t necessarily my go-to if I want to hear rock music). And that’s interesting and weird at the same time. And maybe it’s just the confusion that surrounds the band’s definite musical genre (Is it hard rock? Is it radio friendly rock?), or maybe it’s because of how Chad Kroger’s actual singing voice can seem a little jarring if you hear Nickelback on repeat for more than 30 minutes at a time. Needless to say, in spite of my own hesitation to announce the band as one of my favourites (rather, it’d be a band that I would thoroughly respect at the end of the day, but won’t necessarily seek them out later on for my general listening pleasure), Nickelback continue to sell, and for a band to be in 2021, still musically active…well, they must be doing something right, right?

There are quite a fair number of bands out there, but none I reckon, more polarising than Nickelback. Originating in Los Angeles, the band have been a stellar act these past few decades, especially in the 2000s. Behind The Beatles, Nickelback are the second best-selling ‘foreign’ group in the U.S. during the 2000s decade (Nickelback are Canadian). They have sold over 50 million albums worldwide; and was listed by Billboard as #7 on the Billboard Top Artists of the Decade (2000s) chart, alongside Billboard also listing 4 albums from the band’s 2000s career as being some of the decade’s standouts. They’ve sold out stadiums and arenas around the world, and their page on Wikipedia detailing the list of awards and nominations received by the band (27 wins against 67 nominations) is by no means, an easy feat. The band have nonetheless made themselves known, and if anyone were alive and growing up in the 2000s (like me, who was a teenager during that decade), we could all hear Nickelback everywhere we went- Chad’s distinct vocals rang through the radio, as well as being background music at a shopping centre, music in the background of pubs, clubs and dance parties, in people’s houses, even in hotels. Nickelback’s music was popular during, dare I say, their most prolific decade, and a decade that defined their characteristics as a band, full stop? Nickelback was in all the spaces we all could think about, and as the years and decade rolled on, Nickelback’s exposure continued to grow. But even though Nickelback continued to sell album upon album, the band has been successful in another department- carving out a reputation, a not very good one at that, as being one of the most universally disliked bands in the world. Some people would even say the strong word ‘hate’ when talking about the band. I just recently googled Nickelback meme- just to see how the internet community have been responding to the group, and…well, let’s just say that when you do check out the google phrase ‘nickelback meme’, you’ll see what I mean- and it doesn’t look pretty. It’s almost as if the person’s dislike for Nickelback can be used as an icebreaker when you’re getting to know someone at a party (or even on a date). For someone can become comfortable with another as soon as they share a commonality of their dislike (or indifference) to Nickelback…when has hating a band been so ‘normal’? How has it become ‘common practice’ for Nickelback to be widely shaded and dissed at every turn they follow? Let me just say that I’m not necessarily advocating one way or the other- articles like meaww.com paint the picture of how the band became hated, and why it’s valid in various ways they explain in the article; while from my own personal experience upon hearing the band’s music, I’ve come to the conclusion that though the band seem to use generic music and lyrics that can seem a little cringe, the band still has merit and value in society as a whole. Regardless of whether you’re a Nickelback lover or hater; one cannot deny the band’s success, and that is something we can all unanimously agree upon.

‘…Yeah, I don’t know [why everyone hates Nickelback], I have a number of ways of looking at that. I think firstly, it’s sort of what happens when you become known by a lot of people; people feel like they’ve had enough and it’s time for you to move on, and they’re gonna be a part of what pushes you out of the lexicon. The reality is – in the beginning, you come out as an artist, as a musician, as a band, and frankly, nobody cares. So you’re fighting hard to do your thing, and you start to develop a very ground-level fanbase from nothing, you’re making your fans literally one at a time. And those fans, as they spread and as more come on board, it’s like a team, they’re cheering for you, they want you to succeed and move forward and do big things because they feel it and the other thing is that not enough people know about it. So they feel like on the inside – like it’s something really special that not everybody knows, and then as time goes on, hopefully, it’s either you do achieve some kind of success and get some notoriety, people know who you are…so what happens, it opens up to the broad mainstream, I guess, or whatever you call it, more and more people start to know about you. And before everybody knows you, the people that are pulling for you, they’re your cheerleaders, they’re behind you, there’s like an army of people that are supporting you. And I think they feel like you’re probably not going to make it, it’s like chances are that’s not gonna happen, so everyone loves an underdog, so they’re cheering for an underdog real hard, and then what happens is you break-through, and you’re not an underdog anymore. Now, you’re part of what’s getting shoved down everybody’s throats – because the industry does that. Then, those people that were there in the first place, they feel alienated because all of their friends who didn’t see it before; now they do, so it’s not special to them anymore. They’re like, ‘Woah, that sucks! I knew them before this when everything was brand-new and now everybody knows about it so it’s not special anymore.’ So that’s when your own hard-core fans kind-of turn on you. And the new fans are so fleeting, they come and go so quickly, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword because you lose all your hard-core fans, and all sorts of fans come and chase the hard-cores away. And when the heat wears out, the fairweather fans are gone too, so you have this situation, you know, some of your hard-core fans stay with you the whole time, and some of those fairweather fans turn into lifelong fans. But for the most part, those people want to see you go away. They’ve had enough, they feel like you’ve been forced on them, and that you’re redundant now – you’ve had a good run, and it’s time you get cut out of the picture…’

Maybe I need to make a confession about this blog post, and Nickelback in general. I…haven’t actually been listening to much of the band to be honest. I mean, I have here and there, and I have heard enough of the songs to formulate my own opinion of them (they are most certainly not the most hated band, or at least shouldn’t be, as they do deliver good songs here and there that are earworms and that mean something to someone), but I haven’t actually listened day in and day out to the band over this past week in preparation for this blog post. Maybe it’s because I have listened to a lot of rock bands previously that I have written about in this blog series- from Creed, The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry and needtobreathe, to Skillet, Switchfoot, Lifehouse, U2, Evanescence, Train, Hoobastank, Hanson and Alanis Morissette, that I’ve been very, very hesitant to listen to Nickelback longer than I believe that I need to. I’ve listened to enough to know that while they are in fact not my favourite group- yes, I enjoy Creed much more than Chad Kroger & co.; Nickelback as a band ought to be more respected than they currently are. But then I also know that from listening to what I did this past week or so, I was getting a little ‘fatigued’ by the end of it all- all I wanted to be honest, was to fast-forward to me writing this blog so that I can move on to something else…and maybe, if that was really how I felt about this blog as a whole, then maybe, this band isn’t as inventive or even as enjoyable as I initially thought of them to be? They shouldn’t be the most-hated group ever, nor should their music be declared the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe someone in the middle, right?

Immediately when I think about Nickelback, I think about the song ‘Far Away’- it was the first song I heard from the band in the mid-2000s, and still is the song that I feel is one of the most radio-friendliest songs they’ve created, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ‘Far Away’ was a song that I heard and listened to before I even knew about the band, and so, such a song has been very nostalgic for me over the years. It is a reminder that sometimes the song can be impactful to someone even if the artist isn’t known by them, and in the case of Nickelback, ‘Far Away’, and more recently the songs ‘How You Remind Me’, ‘If Everyone Cared’, and ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’; have been the songs that I’ve gravitated towards throughout this last week when hearing the band on Spotify, not constantly as I’ve done a lot of time before when hearing other bands, but just listening on and off. Maybe I’m just rock-music fatigued, and maybe, my blog writing today won’t be as soundly written or even ‘expertly’ choreographed…and maybe that’s a good thing. Because in and of itself, one cannot deny Nickelback’s impact over the decades. And just because someone like me, may not resonate with the music as much as the next guy, doesn’t mean the music is bad. It does mean however, that Nickelback’s music may not be my cup-o-tea at this point in time, and that’s certainly ok.

Nickelback’s music has been on the radio for donkey’s years, and I mean that, quite literally. Ever since I can remember, I’ve known of a band with a front-man with a questionable voice (I didn’t know it was Nickelback, back then, all I knew, was that it was a band who’s lead singer has an odd singing voice)…even now, I reckon the band’s trademark, doesn’t come from the songs they sing and the meanings behind them, but rather, from Chad’s unique voice and singing ability, alone. Everyone would instantly recognise Nickelback by Chad’s voice, rather than the songs that the band are ultimately famous for- and that can either be taken as a compliment or a criticism whichever way you look at it, but at the end the day, Nickelback have a unique sound, and one that has drawn just as much fans as they have drawn ‘haters’. They’ve certainly delivered in terms of songs that are as much meaningful, as they are catchy and downright radio-friendly/pop. ‘Far Away’, the first song from the band that I have heard, released in 2005, and speaks about being in love with a certain someone no matter what- that through the difficulties and the uncertain times, your love for someone can either blossom and shine through, or retreat and come under tension. We can often take for granted the people we love, and so ‘Far Away’ communicates this very fact- that being far away from someone and in a long-distance relationship, will either bring out the best in people in relationships, or help them realise that separation and parting ways is maybe the better outcome. ‘How You Remind Me’, the band’s most famous hit from 2001, was released on the album Silver Side Up on September 11th. The song’s commercial and critical acclaim has often been attributed to the significance of the day, and how many people have used ‘How You Remind Me’ as an anthem of love lost, and perspective gained through the harrowing events of such a fateful day, while ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’, a song I initially heard way back in 2013 by a cover artist on youtube, is about never giving up on life- living each moment like our last, and being reminded to always live our lives to the full, that if today was our last day, how would we be remembered, and what would we want others to say about us when they do talk about us after we’re gone.

‘Someday’ was another song that was in circulation on a Nickelback Spotify playlist that I was listening to this last week or so, and while for me this song in and of itself sounds very similar musically to ‘How You Remind Me’, ‘Someday’ still has its good points and merits- the song itself is about trying to move on from a relationship but then realising that maybe someday, it could be as what it once was before, and so, there’s this hesitancy and tension about whether to make a relationship work or not; while the 2005 song ‘Photograph’ is arguably one of the most nostalgic songs I’ve heard, from any band, in quite some time. The song itself is all about reviewing memories and harkening back to olden times and reflecting on decisions that got us to where we are at the moment, understanding that in order to move forward and become better versions of ourselves that we long to be, we may have to say goodbye to some things of the past that could be holding us back, from our dreams, from what we may think God wants us to become. One of the most enjoyable songs I’ve heard from Nickelback, period; the band recorded a new version of the song in 2020, as part of a visual ad campaign for the Google Photos brand, with some lyrics changed to suit 2020 as opposed to 2005 when the song originally released…which makes Nickelback interestingly enough, smarter than what we may often give them credit for. As lead singer Chad Kroger imparts to us, ‘…it’s just nostalgia [the song], growing up in a small town, and you can’t go back to your childhood. Saying goodbye to friends that you’ve drifted away from, where you grew up, where you went to school, who you hung out with and the dumb stuff you used to do as a kid, the first love – all of those things. Everyone has one or two of those memories that they are fond of, so this song is really just the bridge for all that…’ ‘Savin’ Me’ is Nickelback’s attempt (I think) at a religious-esque song, as the track implies a persona at the brink, crying on something (or someone) to save him from the desolateness he feels, while ‘Rockstar’ is a confronting song about poking fun at the Rockstar lifestyle that people in the music industry want to strive to be a part of, as we understand through this song that maybe, just maybe, this way of living life, can be superlative, at the end of the day. ‘If Everyone Cared’ is another one of the songs from Nickelback that I heard when I was younger (dunno where though, maybe the radio), and is a song that gives major nostalgic value whenever I hear it- and as I hear the message of the song, it’s no wonder why it was resonating with me- the song encourages us all to actually care about the other person, because, as according to the lyrics, ‘…if everyone cared and nobody cried, if everyone loved and nobody lied, if everyone shared and swallowed their pride, then we’d see the day when nobody died…’ The band continue to present to people, hard-hitting songs of hope and encouragement, and while at times, their musical structure can seem a little too radio-friendly at times, their passion, zeal and earnestness cannot be called into question. ‘Gotta Be Somebody’, when I heard it this past week, would have to be one of the band’s most radio-friendly tracks, ever (not necessarily a bad thing), as the song itself delivers lyric-wise to encourage us all that there’s someone for us out there. Everyone is searching for love, and if not love, at least friendship with people and a sense of camaraderie or even a sense of community with people. This song reminds us all that we all belong- to our families, to a group of people out there, to our future spouse, we matter to people, and as we realise that we aren’t necessarily as alone as we may think, then we can move forward in life with eager anticipation and expectation, with hopefully this song becoming a motivator in the process.

‘This Afternoon’, from 2008’s Dark Horse (as with also ‘Gotta Be Somebody’ and ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’), is the band’s attempt at trying to do a country-esque song, and while the band themselves sound much better doing their natural genre of rock, than country; it nevertheless is good experimentation for the band to undertake something so out-of-the-box that all you can do is just listen to the track, because it’s so different. The song, as rootsy and country as it is, was inspired by Chad Kroger’s own life- ‘…it’s a good rock-and-roll version of [Garth Brooks’] ‘Friends in Low Places’. Anyone who’s ever had roommates, or more than a couple, will relate to this song. I used to have four roommates. We all lived in this house. It was a bunch of drunken kids, barely getting by, trying to find money for beer. Food was low on the priority list. So it’s a song about trying to get by and having the best times – ever…’; while songs like ‘I’d Come For You’, ‘Never Gonna Be Alone’, ‘Shakin’ Hands’ and ‘What Are You Waiting For’ are some of Nickelback’s lesser-known songs, but still songs nonetheless that have become fan-favourites amongst Nickelback enthusiasts over the years. ‘I’d Come For You’ shows a persona declaring their commitment to another person- declaring that he’d come for her in any circumstance, reminding us all that there ought to be relationships out there, where either person involved, is willing to do whatever it takes to help another person, even if it could be at the detriment of the persona themselves. ‘Never Gonna Be Alone’ is presented as an acoustically driven track, where the persona vows to his friend/lover that in their time of need, they will never be left alone, while ‘Shakin’ Hands’ shows the inward turmoil of the persona in the song, where they are attracted to someone who moved ahead in life, by doing much more than just shaking hands, but realise that they themselves feel guilty for even being attracted to someone who got ahead in life by doing questionable things. ‘What Are You Waiting For?’ features on Nickelback’s 2014 album No Fixed Address, and showcases Chad Kroger & co. delivering a powerful motivational message of chasing your dreams. As Chad puts it, ‘…getting a job is safe. Chasing your dreams is dangerous. If this song is the motivational push for just one person to say, ‘OK, that’s it. I have to leave this mundane nine-to-five job behind me and I’m gonna go and pursue my lifelong dream and I’m not gonna stop until I get there,’ then I’ve achieved what I set out to do…’

You know how you can hear a song, years upon years ago, and maybe only hear it once, and then years later, hear it again and instantly know that this song is from your past (even if you don’t know what the song is)? That’s exactly how it was when I heard the song ‘When We Stand Together’. It’s a recent one from the band (2011), as we see Chad and co. provide a song about standing together in unity for something; and coming together as a people with a certain commonality, as this song drives home the importance of community and coming together to fight for a common cause. ‘Lullaby’, also from the same album as ‘When We Stand Together’, was also a song that sounded familiar to me when I heard it initially; and is a track that challenges us all to push through just one more day, as we face adversity head-on and understand that often the only way forward through life’s difficulties is one step in front of the other. The song itself is based upon an experience from Chad Kroger’s childhood- one time both Chad and his brother Mike found their babysitter crying, because of news of her boyfriend dying in a motorcycle incident. ‘Lullaby’ is a reminder for us to draw upon the things that we know that will soothe us during times of difficulty, and to move forward as gracious and introspectively as possible, in delicate situations that often require hard-hitting outcomes, and thus, hard work that comes along with that.

One of the most successful Canadian rock bands, ever; Nickelback and their music has found a new appreciation with myself- with songs like ‘Photograph’, ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’, ‘Savin’ Me’ and ‘Gotta Be Somebody’, to name a few. While the band themselves haven’t really made much of an impact on the radio, post-2014, (they did release a 2017 album Feed the Machine that unfortunately didn’t really chart that much on the radio stations), Nickelback nonetheless, is such a band where you know a few songs here and there, on the radio or such. And after listening to the band within the last week…I definitely need a break. But what I will say is this, that a band that has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, has something going for them. Frankly, the universal hatred against the band need not to be even discussed about- I found nothing wrong with Nickelback when I was listening, and maybe, just maybe, a lot of the hatred could be because these people have nothing better to do, or they just don’t like the style of Chad’s singing. Whatever the case, we know that both Nickelback and Creed are the two most ‘hated’ bands in history, but since undertaking both Creed and Nickelback, back-to-back; I find both these bands emotive and poignant, heartfelt, and challenging. Nickelback’s journey from ‘How You Remind Me’ to now, is a unique and storied one, but even though the public aren’t fully on board with this band yet, Chad and co. still create encouraging songs. Yes, Chad’s vocals can leave much to be desired, but that’s not really the point. Nickelback still have hits, and it is in these timely hits that I can respect such a group as this. Will there be another ‘Photograph’ or ‘How You Remind Me’ in the future? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact of the matter remains, that Nickelback’s presence in the music community all these years, has reminded me this one thing- that people can enjoy Nickelback, but they can also enjoy opera singers like Jackie Evancho or Josh Groban too. I’ve come to enjoy Nickelback more than I initially thought I was gonna, and maybe, hopefully, people can see past all the memes and hateful comments made at the band’s expense, and really understand their music and their heart for people to have meaningful connections with others.

Does Nickelback make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Photograph’, ‘How You Remind Me’, ‘Rockstar’, or ‘If Everyone Cared’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.