Music History

How Did Nickelback Become the Whipping Boys of Rock?

I’ve never understood the amount of hate and ridicule foisted upon Nickelback. Sure, they may not be to everyone’s taste, but isn’t the amount of animus directed toward them irrationally disproportionate? Surely there are worse bands out there (cf. Creed, Brokencyde, Limp Bizkit).

When news that a PEI police detachment was prepared to audio waterboard drunk drivers by playing them Nickelback’s Silver Side Up album, the bashing escalated once again. I was on CJOB in Winnipeg trying to explain the phenomenon. And then today The Guardian tries to get to the bottom of the issue.

‘We will catch you. On top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a year’s driving suspension, we will also provide you with a bonus gift of playing the office’s copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail.” This is how cops in far-flung Kensington, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, are disincentivising drunk drivers this Christmas – by threatening them with a blast of Chad Kroeger’s band’s 2001 drive-schlock classic album Silver Side Up,according to their Facebook page.

They’re not even the first police force to engage in these Chadist hate crimes. From the photograph meme (in which strange pictures are Photoshopped into a frame held by Kroeger in that song’s video) to parody songs, bashing the ’Back has long since become a sport. Not that the band have always taken it lying down. When Brighton rock duo Royal Blood tweeted a Nickelback gag in October, the Canadians hit back with: “Nickelback jokes are like @royalblooduk, they were a lot cooler a couple years ago.”

You can read the rest of the article, but the headline is misleading. No definitive answer is provided.

Anyone want to weigh in with a serious answer?  And it’s not good enough to say that they suck.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38398 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

11 thoughts on “How Did Nickelback Become the Whipping Boys of Rock?

  • I’ve never understood why they were the most hated band in rock either. I mean, I don’t like them but I’d rather hear Nickelback than those bands that you listed. I think there’s a few reasons why people mock this band:

    1) Didn’t Chad Kroeger do an interview once where he said he came up with a “formula” to write a hit song (or something along those lines)? I remember people being upset at his blatant “we want to be rich and famous” attitude at the time.
    2) Talk about being overplayed, man, Nickelback was thrust upon us at every turn. You couldn’t listen to the Edge 15 years ago for more than a couple hours without hearing them. It was too much.
    3 ) Their singles were similar. When Someday was released, one of the DJ’s on the Edge played it at the same time as How You Remind Me. They were almost exactly the same.

    Or maybe it was just because of Chad Kroeger’s hair, who knows.

  • I think there are two elements at play here. First they are Canadian and made it big in the States, that’s a huge no-no, look at all the hate Barenaked Ladies took after being the dolls of Canadaian with the release of Gordon, then success in the USA, brought out the haters. Secondly, the redundancy of their music, while it doesn’t seem to effect bands like AC/DC it sure does for Nickelback. I still remember hearing this for the first time: and thought it was quite shameful that they were so derivative. As they grew bigger in popularity, they didn’t help their cause, IMO with the a song like Rockstar, it played into their fan base and they loved it, but the song drew the ire of people that didn’t like the band. But then again, I’m not a fan of theirs, nor am I a hater, it’s just indifference to me. Similar to a Miley Cyrus record, I know it exists, but it doesn’t really matter.

  • Lazy hack technique for coming up with ideas. Chad is a dick and he digs it. That’s plenty.

  • I’ve read that many hate Nickelback because the band is “wishy-washy” when it comes to a musical style. Funny thing, though, no one seems to rag on other musical groups who also experiment with different sounds and genres (ie. Zac Brown Band, Disturbed, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and countless others).

    Personally, I applaud bands who stretch their sound into new genres. Including Nickelback.

  • Nickelback contains all the elements that people hate about modern pop country music:

    Image over substance
    Repetitive and formulaic song structure
    Derivative lyrical content
    Heavy-handed production
    Autotuned vocals
    An overall corporate vibe

    I think the work that best describes Nickelback is “inauthentic”. They’re phony, and people are aware of that, even if they can’t quite put their finger on why they feel that way.

  • I agree with what Blake says.
    Personally, I don’t like Bon Jovi either for the same reasons. Each album sounds the same with only slight shifts in sound and lyrics.
    Most rock bands have a shelf life of 2 to 3 albums anyway.
    Unless they try to drastically experiment with a different sound.
    U2 and Madonna are examples of moderate to good success with changing their “sound” as they went along.
    People love to hate Rush both in Canada and US, but I’ve been a fan since 1980,
    but they had some crappy albums/music directions as well. But in the end, they are very talented musicians who lasted 40 years!

  • I’m not a fan, although I have liked a few of their tunes, and I love the video for one of their songs that shows each person on the street with a digital clock over their heads, showing how much longer they have to live. I thought that was brilliant.

    For me it’s mostly the subject matter of Kroeger’s songs. How many times can you listen to songs that are basically about going to a bar, getting drunk, getting into a fight, and then picking up some skank to take home for the night? It just becomes tiresome after a while, and does not relate to my own life, so there is nothing in it for me. The old morning show on 102.1 hit me the same way, and caused me to quit listening altogether for quite a few years. Thank God you finally brought in something new, and good!

  • They are laughing all the way to the bank!

  • Nickelback better than Limp Bizkit? It’s still the cool guy thing to hate LB? I saw them live and they put a show on that Nickelback couldn’t even dream about putting on. If you can’t see why Nickelback is an embarrassment to music then you are blind my friend.

  • I have no answer to provide. I was living in Calgary when they started to get some success and at first everyone LOVED them. I remember them playing a concert here and tickets sold out incredibly fast. Everyone was raving about them. And then within a few years everyone hated them and radio stations would brag “we don’t play Nickelback”.

    I find Nickelback boring for the same reason I find lots of bands boring. It feels so safe – so carefully engineered to be edgy and angsty but not so edgy and angsty that it might actually offend anyone and risk not getting played on mainstream rock radio stations. Because of that, I find it hard to have a strong opinion about them at all – I never thought they deserved the praise or the contempt they received.


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