What If Nickelback Is Actually Good & We're All Jerks?

Mark Davis/Getty Images
Mark Davis/Getty Images

To most music fans with curious ears and open hearts, the multiplatinum-selling, arena-touring, Avril Lavigne-marrying Canadian rock group Nickelback sucks. Largely referred to as the world’s most hated band, the Alberta boys who gave us the undeniable hits “Photograph,” “How You Remind Me” and “Rockstar” are almost universally mocked. Imagine our surprise when Smashing Pumpkins frontman William “Don’t you dare call him Billy, he’s a grown-ass man now” Corgan appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience to talk about how much he loves Nickelback...sort of. He told Rogan of the band:

“I don’t know enough about their world, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong if that’s who you want to be. Pop is predicated on satisfying. I’ve said many times pop is porn. It’s porn, they want to get you off. It’s just how they’re going to get you off. I’m not that concerned with getting you off, I’m just not.”


He did add that Mr. Nickel himself, singer Chad Kroeger is “an incredible songwriter.” Real recognize real? Honestly if Corgan thinks there’s some magic in the soul of a man who once sang “I’m like a pony in my own rodeo” earnestly, there’s gotta be some gold in the Nickelback repertoire. So, we here at TrackRecord decided to question the status quo and give real credence to the thought: Is there merit to Nickelback? Are we all sheepish jerks?

Frida Garza, Senior Staff Writer: I think we can agree that making fun of Nickelback is overdone and that the Canadian rock band have serious chops. Corgan does say, “I don’t know enough about their world, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong if that’s who you want to be,” which feels like then he’s walking it back, relegating them again to guilty pleasure status. Which fits, I guess, with his argument that listening to pop music is like watching porn. I think more than one TR staffer would argue that Nickelback is a legitimately good band.


Shawn Cooke, Staff Writer: I think Nickelback will never not be a guilty pleasure, based on their reputation and that even as a Nickelback concertgoer, I can admit that when they’re bad...they’re BAD.

David Turner, Senior Staff Writer: I’ve never been to a Nickelback concert, but I wouldn’t call them bad at all. There is way too much emotional catharsis to be had for them to be considered bad.


Frida: Can you give some examples of them being bad?

Shawn: They have a song called “Something In Your Mouth.”

Frida: What about “Animals”? It’s a terrible song that I am listening to now.

Shawn: “Edge of A Revolution”?

Frida: For the record, “Edge of a Revolution” has 12 million views on YouTube. It is so bad. Was this their treatise on media privacy?


Shawn: The interviews around that song were fucking hilarious. Chad has no idea what he was revolutionizing against.

Frida: I kind of love the video because they are playing to a classroom full of kids that look like the kids from School of Rock when they don’t like Jack Black yet, but even more pissed.


David: I love all major label alt-rock that is raging against the MACHINE.

Frida: Corgan’s comments touch on the ubiquitous idea that we should feel guilty for liking pop music, or music that evokes some kind of emotion, and Nickelback falls into that category. I disagree that Nickelback always evokes a strong emotion or when they do, that it is always a pleasurable one. Sometimes the emotion I feel when I listen to Nickelback is wanting to immediately take a shower. “How You Remind Me” can be a real tearjerker sometimes, though.


David: Tear jerker?

Frida: More important, pop music is fine and likening it to porn cheapens the whole experience...wait, you don’t like “How You Remind Me?”


David: Nah, it’s a classic, but always feels more BIG and EMOTIONAL than “crying,” but that might just be me.

Frida: You’re right. Not “crying,” but you feel “moved.”

Shawn: “Someday” is also an incredible song. I’d also like to pose the ongoing theory that Taylor Swift could sing some Nickelback songs and make them No. 1 singles, very related to the idea that Chad could’ve been a HUGE country star if he left the band. He has written for Keith Urban.


Frida: Go on...

Shawn: He doesn’t have the knack for detail or turn of phase like Taylor, but some of these songs could work, structurally: “Someday,” or “Gotta Be Somebody.”

Frida: “How You Remind Me” could be a Taylor song:

It’s not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story
This time I’m mistaken
For handing you
A heart worth breaking
And I’ve been wrong
I’ve been down
Into the bottom of every bottle
These five words in my head
Are we having fun yet?


Shawn: Everything about it except “bottom of every bottle.”

David: It could be a T Swizzle song, those are large emotional gestures.

Frida: People are embarrassed about liking Taylor Swift, too, though. Is listening to big, emotional music inherently embarrassing? Whether its Chad or Taylor?


Shawn: Chad is way more embarrassing.

David: Big, emotional music is good. That’s why Corgan is kind of right. Porn might be an off word but people love feeeeeeling things.


Frida: It’s actually a pretty harmful argument when you think of what Corgan’s saying: that deriving pleasure from solitary activities and getting in touch with the big emotions we’re talking is something to do behind closed doors.

Frida: When “Photograph” comes on at a bar I feel like more than likely everyone actually gets into it. Cheesy pop music is best when shared.


Shawn: Corgan is all about big emotions, too! But he does seem to imply “Yeah, what I’m doing is above all this.”

Frida: There is some big emotion music that also bills itself as super smart, so the gap between Smashing Pumpkins and Nickelback is not that big.


Maria Sherman, Managing Editor: Nickelback is an interesting band because of the largely accepted notion that Nickelback is bad when maybe the conversation is more, like, Nickelback is cheesy? They have so many massive hits; they’re the kind of band that even if you’ve invested no time or money in them, you know multiple choruses across actual decades. “Photograph” is 12 years old and has inspired memes way after its heyday.

David: That’s a good point.

Maria: Critical and cultural consensus often conflates ideas of good and bad. People love Nickelback songs. Why is Nickelback so easy to hate? Should we rebrand Nickelback? An ironic appreciation that eventually develops into “Oh god, these songs are actually great?”


Frida: I guess I want to define what good and bad means here. We’re basically asking do they make good music or bad music, but does “good” mean “enjoyable”? A lot of people enjoy Nickelback, as their sales and streams show. Does “good” mean well-made, like, technically, very good music? The answer would still be yes, because these are songs that adhere to the formulas we know and use for pop and alt-rock music. Still, a lot of people say Nickelback is bad, so what does “bad” mean?

Shawn: I think it’s definitely more about cultural consensus and general dishonesty than what’s actually good or bad. Eight out of ten people who insist they hate Nickelback don’t really hate Nickelback.


David: Nickelback hate is very meme-y to me.

Frida: Right! It’s a funny joke that you can easily join in on and feel like you’re a part of the conversation.


David: “Were Nickelback The First Meme Band?”

Frida: Pretty sure that’d be Smash Mouth.

Maria: As much as I would love to get into the politics of taste (and memes) maybe a simpler question is—does Nickelback deserve to be considered “the world’s most hated band”? As a quick aside I remember reading the 5 seconds of summer Rolling Stone cover story, those boys wrote with Chad and said he would eat like five chicken tenders and a caesar salad everyday. He googles “hot girls dancing” for porn purposes. Maybe he deserves to be the most hated person.


David: Yeah, maybe.

Frida: My knee-jerk reaction is there’s not much that separates Nickelback from the rest of the alt-rock that plays on the radio (back when alt-rock was on the radio) but I’d say many of those bands are better, like Audioslave. I think what makes them so hated is that they don’t seem fazed by any of the hate. They are unwavering in the belief that they’re a great band and need to keep making music. They are unwavering in the belief that they’re a great band and need to keep making music.


Shawn: Nickelback have learned to laugh at themselves!

Maria: For the record, my vote for worst band ever would be like, Hinder. Something still in the alt-radio rock fam but sleazier music. Maybe Trapt?


Frida: Finger eleven.

Shawn: I nominate Buckcherry.

David: Shinedown = BAD.

Frida: But Nickelback paved the way for Post Malone. The end.

Senior Writer, Jezebel

Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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