It’s a widely known fact that everyone hates Nickelback. It’s just an expectation at this point, a given in conversations about entertainment. If you make a joke about how bad Nickelback is, you will get laughs. While this seems to be common knowledge, though, I’ve always wondered why Nickelback? Why did this band of merry Canadian men get chosen for universal animosity? How did this quasi-angsty rock band become the butt of everyone’s jokes?
Basically, Nickelback seems like they wore out their welcome. The band busted out a bunch of recognizable top-10 hits (“How You Remind Me,” “Someday,” “Photograph,” “Far Away,” “Rockstar,” and “If Everyone Cared”) in the early 2000’s, and even became the 2nd best-selling foreign act of the decade (behind The Beatles). They were the top-selling rock band of the early 2000’s, but I guess after their third album people got tired of their schtick. Admittedly, they didn’t really adapt much, and their songs were pretty much all about the same thing. I will freely admit to using a number of Nickelback-related punchlines– truly, no one is innocent. The question still remains though: How, 11 years after their last mega-hit, is Nickelback still made fun of so much? I shared a few theories on air in my days as a radio DJ, and I decided that it was my journalistic duty to do some case studies.
Potential Nickelback Candidate: Pitbull
Similarities: Mr. Worldwide is a megastar in pop music, but to say his music isn’t formulaic would make you a liar. “Mr. Worldwide” “305” and “Dale” are included in every one of his songs. The beats are similar, and the topics of his songs are almost always girls and partying. Within five seconds of a song coming on, you know Pitbull is coming– and that isn’t necessarily a compliment. He has developed a signature sound, like Nickelback, and it hasn’t really ever changed.
Why He’s Not Nickelback: Honestly, Pitbull may come closest to achieving Nickelback status out of today’s modern artists– he does face a lot of criticism for not necessarily being super talented, and for producing the same song over and over again. But he knows his target audience, and puts out songs that are irresistibly catchy. He aims for dance bangers, and doesn’t usually miss. He’s operating in a different space than Nickelback was, without a false sense of meaning or purpose in his songs. Nickelback wanted to make you feel something, while Pitbull knows his only mission is to make you grab someone sexy and say “hey.”
Potential Nickelback Candidate: Liam Neeson
Similarities: Of course we are switching mediums on this one, but Liam Neeson (with the exception of roles in Schindler’s List and Star Wars) is in the running for the movie equivalent of Nickelback. He pretty much plays the same exact character in every movie, only the circumstances and supporting cast change. He is always the scrawny American with a lot of baggage and a strange accent that gets thrown into crazy, life-threatening situations. Every movie is basically a sequel to Taken.
Why He’s Not Nickelback: At this point, I fully believe that Liam Neeson would be the last surviving member of the human race in case of the apocalypse. He’s so convincing in his performances that I think he could hunt down terrorists, survive a plane crash in the middle of the wilderness, and beat Batman in a fight. He may have instilled fear in potential critics’ hearts to put himself out of that conversation. Or perhaps he’s just a phenomenal actor that has been unfortunately cast in a number of mediocre movies. Either way, he’s too much of a bad ass to be the punchline of so many jokes.
Potential Nickelback Candidate: Taylor Swift
Similarities: Though her sound has matured slightly as she’s gotten older, Taylor Swift has made a living of singing her way through break-ups for the last 10 years. It’s gotten to the point that people look at every new boyfriend in terms of potential Billboard hit material. How many times can we listen to Taylor Swift sing about how she’s heartbroken but moving on? (Apparently, a lot)
Why She’s Not Nickelback: This one is easy, if frustrating. Taylor Swift isn’t Nickelback because she’s a pretty, blonde, all-American treasure. She knows what sound will make her popular, and has hordes of young fans that will love her no matter what.
Honorable Mention: Nic Cage
Nicolas Cage, master of emotional outbursts, is the closest thing we have to Nickelback in American pop culture. He perhaps is the butt of more jokes than the Canadian rockers. However, I leave him as an honorable mention because 1) He can be referred to as Academy Award-Winning Actor Nicolas Cage, and 2) the disdain for Nic Cage is way easier to explain than Nickelback. Just watch The Knowing, Sorceror’s Apprentice, Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider 2, or Drive Angry, or pretty much any film he has made this millennium (minus National Treasure).
Looking at contemporaries that haven’t suffered the same abuse as Nickelback, the answer becomes a bit clearer. It seems like they got cocky, and felt like they didn’t need to change. They never got better. They tried to ride the wave of pseudo-punk rock that was so popular in the late-90’s and early-00’s forever. It was great for a couple songs, but when it boiled down to it, they were just a group of 30-something year old Canadian men singing in raspy voices about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. They forgot that, at some point, the music is about the people. Sometimes it seems unfair that they get bullied while others don’t, that they have taken a bullet for every artist that milks the pop-music factory for every penny they can. But this is just some of the funniest shit on the internet.
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