What Happens When You Actually Listen to a Nickelback Album Front-to-Back?
Hating Nickelback is reflexive for many of us. It's become one of those comforting mass-culture validations, like praising the Dalai Lama or distrusting people with Hotmail accounts.
This groupthink methodology has an obvious flaw: The conclusions, though potentially valid, are also quite empty. I've never actually listened to a Nickelback album. I can name only two of their songs at most. Yet I loathe them down to my very marrow.
It occurred to me recently that the loathing I feel for Nickelback isn't really mine; it's secondhand loathing, a meme borrowed from surrogates and thought-leaders who've actually had to suffer through a Nickelback concert or album. Having acknowledged this, I find that my reflexive hatred of all things Nickelback feels cold and illusory. I no longer derive pleasure from it.
I must earn my Nickelback hatred the only sensible way: By listening to a Nickelback album. So into the breach we go.
NICKELBACK INTAKE TRIAL (10/20/10)
Time: 11:54 a.m.
Items: MacBook, illicitly downloaded CD copy of 2005's All the Right Reasons (the band's highest-selling album), Kleenex (unscented), amyl nitrate "poppers" (4-pack).
11:55: Insert CD into computer. MacBook asks me whether I'd like to download the album onto my iTunes library. Choking down a small amount of bile, I swiftly hit the "No" button and get busy Nickelbackin'.
11:56: Amid a flurry of high-hats and machine gun percussion, the album's opening track, "Follow You Home," fills my ear buds. Not horrible. Sort of Metallica-esque. It seems to be a song about stalking a noncompliant woman. Ooh-rah.
12:01: Track 2: "Fight for All the Wrong Reasons." On this one, lead singer Chad Kroeger sings about getting over a contentious romance: "Guess it wasn't / Wasn't meant to be" and so on. Sounds like James Hatfield with a nasal infection. I soldier on.
12:05: "Photograph" is next. Listening to this song is like confronting a childhood tormentor. Truly horrendous. I remember it vaguely from some lame mid-decade TV commercial — maybe Budweiser or T-Mobile. In fact, that's when I really started hating Nickelback. Jesus, what a breakthrough!
12:09: My face starts to itch slightly on "Animals." Ow, the banal sex metaphors — they sting!
12:14: Are we really only five songs in? This one is called "Savin' Me" and it's quintessentially Nickelback — an artless mix of sentimentality, self-pity, and stage rage. I imagine it being played at after-school progressive Christian activity groups. The horror.
12:18: The next few songs come on like a painful cramping episode. Time slows. Shakes. Hallucinations. On a track called "Next Contestant," Kroeger imagines himself as a seething young man who impotently watches other men grope his girlfriend. I try to imagine Leonard Cohen singing it, and briefly black out.
12:30: Like a capsule of smelling salts, the following lyric snaps me back to lucidness: "If they loved like you and me / Imagine what the world could be." Actually, that's a very nice sentiment. So pure. So hopeful. I'm floating now. Up, up, into a cherry ice cream sky. Whee!
12:34: Another stalking song: "Someone That You're With." Nickelback has sold 21 million albums in the United States, mostly by singing about stalking. That means something.
12:38: Finally, the omega of Nickelback hate: "Rock Star," a pseudo-country toe-tapper about the narcotic pitfalls of fame. It's sort of like a Toby Keith song, but with less of Toby's trademark subtlety and impressionism. With lyrics about "drug dealers on speed dial," it's an attempt at withering sarcasm, I imagine — but then why did Nickelback star-fuck Pam Anderson and a bunch of other real-life celebrities in the music video? The answer: Because they're Nickelback.
12:42: Record ends. I, too, have now been to the bottom of every bottle. Nickelback hatred: validated.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.