“Nickelback” — even the name of the band sets people’s teeth on edge. Today, this popular Canadian rock band is better known for the mass hatred they inspire than their music. But why do some people hate Nickelback so very much? Depending on your musical preferences this question could seem fairly obvious, however, the band’s meme-status cannot simply be blamed on the tides of taste turning on their music genre (Creed certainly doesn’t get as much online hate). Nor can it be entirely blamed on their raspy-voiced frontman Chad Kroeger’s prominent (and some might say "super creepy") goatee and his yellow-blond ramen-esque mop of curls. The intense, viral dislike of the band formed in 1995 may date farther back than we think.
According to The Observer, the trend started when Nickelback signed with their first major label, Roadrunner Records. Nickelback didn’t quite fit into the cadre of bands already represented by the extreme metal label in 1999. Nickelback was mocked by the metal community, and blamed for ruining the label and the purity of the “culture” surrounding it. Roadrunner featured and promoted Nickelback before hard core bands such as Slipknot, Nightwish, and Machinehead which only stoked fans' anger and made Nickelback look like Top 40, watered-down rock by comparison. NPR's All Songs Considered blog explains that the band’s “overexposure” in the early 2000s may have helped them achieve today's musical pariah status.
Nickelback is still perhaps best known for their 2001 hit “How You Remind Me,” though they have gone on to be wildly successful — releasing eight studio albums and selling over 50 million records worldwide. Popular songs such as "Photograph," "Far Away," and "Someday" dominated radio waves over their decade of prominence (and may even lurk in your CD collection from middle school). Their commercial success, however, does not translate into critical success.
One study found that as the band's popularity grew, so did the number of negative music reviews. Salli Anttonen, a student at The University of Eastern Finland, examined the negative feedback from the Finnish media from 2000 through 2014, in an attempt to pinpoint exactly why Nickelback is so widely hated. She posits in her paper that it all boils down to issues of authenticity and sincerity. Anttonen concludes that "Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something... They follow genre expectations too well, which is seen as empty imitation.” However, Antonnen notes that they do not follow these genre rules quite well enough — and their fluidity is read as “commercial tactics and as a lack of a stable and sincere identity.”
Nickelback holds the distinguished honor of being voted the “second worst band of the ‘90s” according to a Rolling Stone Reader’s Poll. BuzzFeed named Nickelback's 2006 hit single "Rockstar" the second worst song ever written (Limp Bizkit's “Nookie” took first place). In 2008, "Rockstar" was licensed to be used in a British furniture commercial, and their sell-out reputation only worsened. One Nickel-critic even began a crowdfunded petition called "Don't Let Nickel Back" (of course) vying for the band to never play another show in London.
It is not a matter of their music being simply generic. Some Nickelback critics even claim that their hit songs are self-plagiarizing, utilizing the same structure repeatedly. The hilarious similarities are highlighted in many a YouTube mashup:
One of the first instances of Nickelback hatred going viral occurred in 2010. A Facebook group called "Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?" with the name of the band notably misspelled, was started as a joke. The page quickly beat out Nickelback's own Facebook fanpage with over 1.5 million likes, and took Nickelback trolling to a whole new level. Since then Nickelback has become a source of some of our most beloved memes and ultimate insults. No one wants their name put in front of the phrase "likes Nickelback."
It is almost too easy to hate Nickelback today. The negative opinion is so popular that there is no pushback, and little fear of offending someone's musical taste. The internet is a divisive place, but this one thing has helped strangers find common ground and brought people together. And isn't that what it's all about? Coming together as one... to make fun of Nickelback?