Frankly, I’ve never understood why Nickelback has become such a lightning rod for haters. And not just a little hate; it’s like all the hate in the rock’n’roll universe is focussed on them and what they do.
Why? You may not like their music or image, but they’re a very competent, steady rock band that knows what their fans want do their best to deliver. In the process, they’ve sold tens of millions of records grossed hundreds of millions in concert receipts. They’re no worse than most of their peers–and honestly, they’re better at what they do than 90% of them.
What, then, is the source of this hate? Let’s ask science. This is from Mental Floss. Note the name of this paper:
Nickelback is a band that everyone loves to hate. Saying that someone likes the Canadian rockers is a terrible insult, even though the band manages to sell millions of albums around the world. What’s with all the shade?
One Finnish researcher tried to get to the bottom of why music critics love to hate on Nickelback. Her study in Metal Music Studies, beautifully titled “‘Hypocritical Bullshit Performed Through Gritted Teeth’: Authenticity Discourses in Nickelback’s Album Reviews in Finnish Media,” argues that it’s a matter of authenticity. Critics don’t see Nickelback as genuine.
Salli Anttonen of the University of Eastern Finland examined reviews from Finnish music media published between 2000 and 2014, finding that in many ways, the band has been stymied by its mainstream popularity.
Critics have attacked Nickelback for being too calculated in their artistic approach, she writes, citing some of the harsher reviews:
“Their songs are ‘optimally safe’, where ‘everything is up to par with the requirements of the genre’, and which create ‘an illusion of hard rock’ (Ojala 2002). The music is described as being ‘fake’ (Riikonen 2012), ‘forced’ (Hilden 2011) and ‘performed through gritted teeth’ (Riikonen 2012). Van der San (2011) claims that Nickelback is ‘calculatingly hit-focused’; Ojala accuses them of ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ (2003). Overall, the descriptions imply that the songs are not genuine self-expression written willingly, but instead forced and made for commercial reasons.”