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Leave Nickelback Alone

They’re constantly labeled as one of the worst bands of all time — but nobody can actually name a reason why

The concept of a Nickelback fan is a fantasy used to make us feel better about ourselves. We imagine this person as the embodiment of the normie — a person who turns up the stereo as “Photograph” comes on the radio on their drive to Friday night dinner at their hometown Applebee’s, where upon arrival they’ll order a draft Budweiser and a riblet platter. And they’ll really, authentically enjoy it. 

But in some place deep in your heart, don’t you wish this could be you?

Let go of the need to deny yourself of the enjoyment of common pleasures. It’s liberating. Nickelback is, in fact, a perfectly decent band to listen to. 

I listen to them often — “Photograph” is among my most-played songs on Spotify. I’ve never understood why the band is used as a scapegoat for poor taste everywhere — hating Nickelback is an entirely mainstream opinion, despite them being an entirely mainstream band. In order to be mainstream, someone must actually like them, and considering that they’ve sold over 50 million albums, presumably someone does. 

Still, it seems more commonly acceptable to say that Nickelback is a terrible band than it is to admit that they’re a catchy group playing up middle-of-the-road rock angst with universal themes of nostalgia and relationship woes. 

I notoriously have a soft spot for bands widely considered “bad,” like Insane Clown Posse and Limp Bizkit, and maybe this defense of Nickelback will similarly read as me playing devil’s advocate. Like Insane Clown Posse and Limp Bizkit, Nickelback has somehow maintained relevance, airplay (at least in Limp Bizkit’s case) and profitability. But what separates Nickelback from the former bands is that Insane Clown Posse and Limp Bizkit have distinctly unlikeable qualities to them. Disliking rap-rock and clown paint could reasonably be explained as a matter of personal preference. With Nickelback, however, the hatred is entirely unwarranted. 

Nickelback is barely distinguishable. They’re an unusually gimmick-less group of men who seemingly shop at J.C. Penney. You could put a thousand rock songs from 2000 to 2010 into a computer and you’d receive an A.I.-generated simulacrum of a Nickelback song. Maybe that itself is why people find it so easy to identify it as bad: It’s only marginally identifiable. But is there actually anything wrong with that? 

More recently, liking Nickelback has been used to reference the type of white person who loves cops and is vehemently committed to the concept that “all lives matter.” And while I understand this association between generic whiteness and blindness of systemic racism, it’s not entirely fair to throw Nickelback into the mix. 

Nickelback, in fact, made a statement in support of the fight for racial justice on June 1st, while other bands of their generation posted only black tiles. Their statement doesn’t mean they deserve praise, but, at very least, it should separate them from the strange connotation they have with white supremacists in people’s minds. 

Ultimately, then, what bugs me about the Nickelback hatred is that it’s all a lie. People fucking love Nickelback. If you really put your guard down for a minute and listened to Nickelback without pretense, you’d at least think they were… fine? 

A Finnish study once attempted to understand why Nickelback was so generally disliked by analyzing music criticism of the band and discovered that critics found them to be “optimally safe” but insincere, and that the band created music calculated toward profitability. That might be true. Maybe Nickelback was genetically engineered to be likable. The thing is, if it all was some big scheme, it worked — for every person who claims to hate Nickelback, there are five people who will happily listen to “How You Remind Me,” blissfully unconcerned.