How Nickelback brings us together

In an era where musical sub-genres breed their own sub-genres, Nickelback are the one band that unites us


A funny thing happened on the way to Detroit’s Ford Field a few weeks ago. After the Lions scheduled Canadian rockers Nickelback to play the NFL team’s Thanksgiving halftime show, University of Michigan grad student Dennis Guttman started an online petition to have the band booted from the bill. More than 54,000 people have signed on.

It’s long been assumed that the source of Nickelback’s popularity was the American Midwest, where blue-collar workers can connect with the band’s brand of everyman post-grunge. But a month before they revolted in Detroit, sports fans in Manitoba—pretty much the Canadian equivalent of the American Midwest—were similarly freaked out at the thought of Nickelback giving a free concert at their resurrected Jets home opener last month, prompting past and present music critics for the Winnipeg Free Press to pen an open letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denouncing the choice.

The idea of ganging up on an easy target—say, a populist Canadian rock band with a well-worn reputation for raising the hackles of “serious” music fans the world over—seemingly feels good to music fans yearning for a collective experience. With pop culture having splintered into a thousand specialty channels and Tumblr pages, consensus is harder than ever to come by. These cases of betrayal from the band’s core audience were rare displays of decisive unison—evidence, perhaps, that despite today’s fragmentation, the one thing that brings us together is an unwavering belief that Nickelback suck.

That phrase should be familiar to anyone under 35, though it’s difficult to figure out how it became so widespread. Nickelback are one of the most innocuous bands out there; they play generic modern rock, rarely talk trash and have no political leanings. The most objectively obnoxious thing about them is singer Chad Kroeger’s hair. It seems people hate them for simply having the temerity to exist.

And yet, though few admit to actually liking the band, Nickeback have thrived, selling almost 50 million albums in an era where major labels were suing their own customers. They’ve amassed a following that ignores both the critics and the reality that vast amounts of music can be obtained for free via illegal downloading. The band’s anthemic tales of broken homes and rock star excess paint a world that’s both relatable and aspirational. In short, Nickelback are easy and reliable, the musical equivalent of a kick in the crotch: lowbrow and undignified, but sometimes it just gets the job done.

But, 15 years after the release of Nickelback’s first album, this wellspring of unwavering support seems to have run dry. No one is standing up to wave the flag for the band anymore. Perhaps it’s that identifying with four guys who clearly sit with the one per cent financially, if not spiritually, has become a tough pill to swallow; in the era of Occupy, Nickelback’s songs about hardship feel like pandering, and their songs about excess like gloating.


Of course, Nickelback aren’t stupid. They get that people are feeling betrayed and desperate for something to rally around, and they intend to make themselves that thing. Their new single “When We Stand Together” positions the band as one of the few cultural touchstones left, implying through the refrain, “That’s when we all win,” that those shared experiences make us better people. The accompanying music video takes this sentiment one step further, splicing in images of the downtrodden unified through the majesty of the band’s latest mid-tempo rocker. But if the events of the last few weeks are any indication, while Nickelback are capable of engendering unity, the band might not be happy with which side of the issue they end up on.


How Nickelback brings us together

  1. So, 54,000 people signed the petition? I say, so what. There are MILLIONS of fans from all over the world holding that flag high & waving it proudly for Nickelback. Some of us just might not be as vocal as the jump on the bandwagon, because they think it’s cool, haters. Have those 54,000 people listened to all the songs on all the albums or seen them live in concert? Obviously not because they put on one hell of a show!
    4 consecutive multi – platinum albums, sold out concerts, highest rated rock act on Billboard Artists of the Decade for 2000 – 2009, People’s Choice Award for favorite band, Juno Awards etc., & Nickelback sucks? I think not!

    • Brilliantly said Cheryl!

    • What a joke, Nickelback is probably one of the worst pop-rock bands to come out of Canada in a long time. Such an embarrassment.

    • I think a good portion of people, probably more than those who oppose them, would say that the fact Nickelback has won Juno awards would be a discredit to the Juno awards.

    • Too bad for you that you have terrible taste in music.

  2. Nickelback’s first album is still one of my top ten albums of all time. If you haven’t listened to it front to back, you’re missing out.
    I haven’t really loved much of what they’ve put out after that, but clearly 49 999 999 million others have found something they’d like to spend their disposable income on.

  3. maybe Sgwgw should move to the States and watch a bunch of 65 yr olds in several bands give a show, hahaha!

  4. Nice article. Although I have to admit that my life is a Nickelback-free zone. Ever since I saw a dude at the gym mouthing “this is how you remind me” I knew this band sucked hard. That was like a decade ago and they haven’t proved me wrong yet. Nickelback is the soundtrack for the wrong type of white person. You know the type, they drink Coors Light and wear Ed Hardy clothing.

  5. You folks are joking right?

    With all the excellent Canadian music out there…you write an article about one of Canada’s worst ever bands? Wow…

  6. This is a common phenomenen with successful music acts.  At first they are praised, then after they achieve superstar status they are derided.  If they can hang in a little longer then they become legends.  Elton John, Eric Clapton, The Guess Who, Aerosmith, and on and on, have all had similar career paths.

  7. Look up embarrassing in the dictionary and you will see Nickleback.  Yes.  A true embarrassment to Canada.  

  8. Perhaps Nickelback should do a promotional campaign for the oilsands?

  9. I can’t figure out why this band is such a target for animosity. I’m not a fan, but I’m not going to dictate to others what their musical choice should be. There’s much worse out there; can anyone say “Drake”?

    As to the uproar over the half-time shows: who goes to a football game for those? They’re a nice bonus if you like the act, but if not, go to the concession stands or the washroom…

  10. Add me to the list of people who don’t understand the absolute visceral hatred for Nickelback.  Sure, they’re hardly rock geniuses, but the anti-Nickelback reaction is much less rational than the pro-Nickelback reaction, imho, and I don’t even think the pro-Nickelback reaction is all that rational.

    Regardless, they don’t have much to worry about.  Their last 4 albums each sold over 5 million copies, with their 2005 album selling over 11 million copies.  Nickelback are like fellow Canucks Justin Beiber and Celine Dion.  They seem somehow capable of inspiring an absolutely irrational level of disdain from some people, while simultaneously selling millions and millions of records every year.  I’d almost feel bad for them if they weren’t capable of wallpapering their homes with platinum records.

    • A group of people dont like the band, ok, each to their own. But to cause a shit storm on the internet and pettition to recruit more trolls in just childish and pathetic…. don’t like the act then go to the bar or something. I cant stand Justin Bieber so should I start a pettition to ban him from performing in the UK, probably not because Im not that childish!

  11. The fact that Nickelback have been around 15 years says something about their durability. If everybody could crank out hits over a long period of time, I think everybody would do it. It sure beats working in a factory. 

  12. Everytime I hear a Nickelback number I am thinking this is the same song over and over again ,performed by a singer who sounds horribly constipated and that screaming at the top of his voice is not helping either.

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