You’re at your local bar’s trivia night, and the next question is about music. You knock back the rest of whatever light beer is on special and you tell your friends, “Don’t worry, guys, I got this!” Then the question is read: “Who is behind the Beatles as the second-biggest selling foreign act in the United States from the 2000s?” Celine Dion would certainly be a good guess, but you’d be wrong, because it’s another act from the country who brought us poutine and hockey. It’s Nickelback.
As much as the band is laughed at and mocked continuously, Chad Kroeger and company (seriously, does anyone know the names of the other dudes in Nickelback without Googling it?) have sold an astonishing 50 million albums worldwide and are the 11th-bestselling band in history. So how did they become so hated if they’re selling out stadiums? The bizarre turn has been close to 20 years in the making.
They sold out early on
Back in 1995, the rock music world was still mourning the loss of Kurt Cobain. At the same time, Nickelback started as a cover band called the Village Idiots in the small town of Hanna, Alberta, Canada. Considering the band’s name, you might think they were doing Village People covers with Chad Kroeger dressed up like a construction worker, but instead they were like most garage bands in the mid ’90s, playing Metallica songs.
Chad Kroeger soon decided to pen his own tunes — the band self-released an EP named Hesher in 1996, and an LP called Curb the same year. If you listen to tracks on both of these releases, you can pick up their harder rock influence. “Where” could have easily been on mid-90s Alternative radio, sandwiched between Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Bush’s “Swallowed.” However, once they scored a record deal in 1999, their sound gradually shifted toward more generic, radio-friendly pop music, with a distorted guitar riff here or there. They even went as far as putting their songs in goofy commercials for furniture companies based in the UK.
They signed with a heavy metal label when they’re clearly not heavy metal
Roadrunner Records was formed in 1980 as a label for the then emerging heavy metal genre. A decade later, that was still their bread and butter. Roadrunner Records pretty much held the contract for every band that graced a T-shirt on every single metalhead weed dealer from your high school in the late ’90s. Bands like Slipknot, Type O Negative, and Machinehead soon became labelmates with a little band from Canada called Nickelback who played Pearl Jam-esque music. You can argue that the band was heavier in their early days, but they weren’t releasing music like “Spit it Out.” In a 2012 interview with Bloomberg, Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake discussed why they signed with Roadrunner instead of a different label, stating, “They wanted it more than anyone else, and that was a good feeling. [Other places] felt like a sausage maker.”
Yet despite trying to maintain some credibility, Nickelback became the Oscar Mayer wieners of rock music, producing songs that are all filler and follow a similar formula that boy bands use: Release an upbeat song, release a ballad, and repeat.
They’ve been overexposed and overplayed for way too long
How many times have you heard Nickelback’s 2001 breakout hit, “How You Remind Me”? Probably a lot, because it was the most played song on the radio for the entire 2000s. Even if you don’t consider yourself a Nickelback fan, you most likely have the song stuck in your head just from us mentioning it. According to Billboard, the “signature song” for the band was played a whopping 1.2 million times from 2001 to 2009.
Considering that it’s still getting airplay on Adult Contemporary stations 16 years later, it might hit another 1.2 million plays by the time the 2010s are over. It’s not just “How You Remind Me,” but their other songs like “Photograph” are still somehow in heavy rotation more than a decade after their release.
Their lyrics used to be vague and interesting, now they’re straightforward, super-simple, misogynistic, and boring
We’re not going to say that early Nickelback lyrically was on par with wordsmiths like Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan, but they were at least halfway decent for the post-grunge genre.
Lyrics like, “I touch your hand, I touch your face, I think the fruit is rotten” from the band’s 2000 song, “Leader of Men” were soon replaced with, “I like your pants around your feet” from the 2003 song, “Figured You Out” and “Dirty little lady with the pretty pink thong” from 2008’s “Something in Your Mouth”. Spoiler alert: in that song they’re talking about what President Clinton got impeached over.
Chad Kroeger writes formulaic, same-sounding songs on purpose
Nickelback Doesn’t Change
After their first massive hit, “How You Remind Me,” Chad Kroeger and company continued to write and release music that pretty much sounded the same. “How You Remind Me” and “Someday” sound so similar when played at the same time that it doesn’t even give you a headache. Try doing that with other stadium rock bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it would be like listening to a cat fight outside of a Chinese food restaurant. Music magazine NME described the Nickelback song formula back in 2005 as, ” … growly verse, KROQ-friendly chorus after approximately 24.6 seconds, average-Joe Frontman wailing like a seal-cub mid-cull.”
Nickelback is one of the biggest selling acts in the world, yet what makes them lose their credibility are their songs. Even pop singers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry switch up their sound from album to album, but not Nickelback. It’s like every year they’re partying like it’s 2002.
They groom tons of bands to sound exactly like them
Like a Canadian Lou Pearlman (minus the Ponzi schemes and dying-in-prison thing), Chad Kroeger and his cohorts have put together and signed multiple bands that sound very similar to Nickelback. It started with Theory of a Deadman. Another Canadian band that was signed to Kroeger’s label, 604 Records in 2002. Listen to Theory of a Deadman’s 2008 suburban strip club anthem, “Bad Girlfriend,” and you could swear it was Nickelback.
Kroeger also signed My Darkest Days and is even the force behind Carly Rae Jepsen and “Call Me Maybe”—a song that could have been released by Nickelback if you lowered the tempo and opened it up with a screaming guitar riff.
Chad Kroeger’s image is toxic for the band
Chad Kroeger is Nickelback, but he destroys any credibility the other musicians in the band have by his off-stage antics. Kroeger, whose legal name is Chad Turton (We guess he changed his last name to sound similar to the grocery store chain that would play his band’s music while people shop), was convicted of a DUI back in 2008 after being stopped by Canadian Mounties two years prior.
Kroeger is also known to exhibit some total frat moves that would have dudes at Kappa Sig in shock. According to an interview in Men’s Health in 2012, the Nickelback frontman once paid one of the band’s drum technicians to stick his penis into the blades of an electric fan for 600 deutschmarks.
Chad Kroeger married Avril Lavigne, because poseuring loves company
The Canadian power ballad couple got married in 2013, and Lavigne soon released the very Nickelback-sounding single “Let Me Go” featuring her new hubby that same year. The couple split in 2015, but they still remain close.
Lavigne even stood up to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, calling him a bully after he dissed her estranged hubby’s music and saying that his “jab at Nickelback” was in poor taste. Do you think during their marriage vows, both Lavigne and Kroeger promised to defend each other from the haters who make fun of each other’s music?
Nickelback – Edge Of A Revolution (Main Version)
In the 2014 song “Edge of a Revolution,” Kroeger calls the people of Wall Street “common thieves” and shouts simplistic lyrics that have been heard at liberal arts college demonstrations since the 1960s, such as, “We want change and how’re we gonna get there? Revolution.” Of course this song fell on deaf ears because they are literally one of the most corporate bands ever. Chad Kroeger is worth $60 million, and he’s complaining about the fat cats on Wall Street.
Yes, other larger mainstream bands have released political songs, and even entire albums, like Green Day with American Idiot. However Nickelback was never a political band. Where was their song when the war in Iraq started in 2003? That year, they released, “Feeling Way Too Damn Good” about hooking up with a girl in a hotel room.
They think they’re in on the joke and love to throw the trolling right back at the trolls
Nickelback thinks it’s absolutely hilarious that the entire internet says that they suck. Like a teenage boy with a “I Heart My Haters” snapback, the band claims that they’re in on the joke and that “nobody makes fun of them more than they do of each other.”
What exactly is the joke? Is the band engaging in some M. Night Shyamalan plot twist that, after close to two decades of producing the same type of music, they’re going to say it was a long art project to show how the masses will gobble up the same-sounding music over and over? We highly doubt that but, if they truly don’t take themselves seriously, why did their lawyers take down a site parodying their song, “Photograph” back in 2012? So much for stuff making them laugh. Apparently, that thing on Joey’s head was a fancy new hat he bought with fresh lawsuit money.