On Day Two of The Nickelback Challenge, I woke after a few hours of fitful sleep and troubled dreams. The sun shone brightly outside, but there was darkness in my heart. The Challenge had gotten the better of me, but I was not about to admit defeat. I decided to double-down on my Labatt consumption and get started.
5. ALL THE RIGHT REASONS (2005)
My first song of Day Two was “Follow You Home” (which, coming from Nickelback, sounds like more of a threat than a promise), off of their fifth album All the Right Reasons. In it, Chad Kroeger attempts to woo his lady (I originally typed this as “woe his lady” – which might actually be more accurate) by giving her some rather impressive titles: Mississippi Princess, California Queen and (my personal favorite) Duchess of Detroit – none of which, to the best of my knowledge, are listed in Burke’s Peerage.
Shortly thereafter, we come to “Photograph.” Although we have it to thank for inspiring at least one great parody song, this is really where Nickelback started to go off the rails, lyrically speaking. As I mentioned in Part II, somewhere along the line, Nickelback made the decision (which, let’s be honest, many bands do) to seek a more mainstream audience, so it would seem that they started to write more emotively in the hopes of attracting more female fans. “Photograph” is by far one of the most obvious and egregious examples of this pandering to the fairer gender in Nickelback’s discography – I know this because no straight man in the history of the universe has ever thought to himself, “Man, I really wish someone would write a rock song about sitting in your bedroom and looking at old high school photo albums!” (Incidentally, a warning for our viewers at home: If you ever watch the music video, I will warn you that rocking out on the windshield of your pickup is a really good way to break it.)
The schmaltz-fest continues a few tracks later with “Far Away,” another ridiculously cheesy track that I found exceptionally hard to handle at ten in the morning, even with the aid of my watery beer. The band does try to redeem some of their hard rock street cred with “Side of a Bullet,” their tribute to fallen Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. However, even this song includes references to Chad crying at home and asking “Why could you be so full of hate?” (a decidedly un-rock query)… so yeah – still not very hardcore, especially they follow it up with the whiny ode-to-life, “If Everyone Cared.”
All The Right Reasons ends with “Rockstar,” where the band, in addition to racking up a ton of celebrity cameos for their music video, ponders the cost of fame and whether or not sacrificing your creative integrity is really worth it. Given how little they had to start with, I’d say it was a fair trade.
Beers Consumed: 2
6. DARK HORSE (2009)
Dark Horse opens with the song “Something In Your Mouth”… yeah, I’ll give you guys a few moments to snicker over that.
But Nickelback won’t be so crass as to make the song into a metaphor for fellatio, would they? Oh yeah… yeah, they would. Later in the album, Nickelback ups the ante with “Shakin Hands,” a song about hookers that includes some Nickelback’s best lyrics to date: “She’d even break a promise in the promised land” (Israel and the PLO have been doing that for years, so no biggie) and “she rocks it like the naughty wicked witch of the west“… which is I’m sure is exactly what Frank Baum had in mind.
In the song “S.E.X.”, we learn that SEX is actually an acronym (“S for simplicity, E is for the ecstasy, X just marks the spot“) – who knew! Chad then goes on to postulate that “Sex is always the answer, it’s never a question” – a profound statement, but one that I can’t help but disagree with. Sex may be the answer sometimes, but I’m sure it’s been asked as a question at least once or twice.
At the end of Dark Horse, we come to the tracks that you’ve probably heard off this album: “If Today Was Your Last Day” and “This Afternoon.” “If Today Was Your Last Day” is predictably forgettable screed about the importance of YOLO’ing. The music video for the song was apparently filmed in a lightbulb factory, so that’s cool. I can tell you one thing, though – if today were MY last day, I sure as hell would not be listening to Nickelback.
The music video for “This Afternoon” piqued my interest, though. In it, a group of nerds kidnaps a band to play at their house party. Much to their chagrin, however, they discover that the band they’ve kidnapped is Nickelback. Ohhhh Nickelback – getting no love, even in their own videos. NB goes on to play a song that inexplicably sounds more like Kid Rock than Creed, while surrounded by a bevy of hot chicks in bikinis. Shrewd move, Chad! If you want to keep a male blogger engaged with his research material, a music video that features guys judging a bikini contest is never a bad choice. If only they had thought of this sooner!
Beers Consumed: 4
7. HERE AND NOW (2011)
Shortly before starting in on my final album, I had a brief interruption to my two-day bender of auditory self-flagellation when one of my friends came by for a mandatory welfare check to make sure that I hadn’t slit my wrists or died of alcohol poisoning. She had offered to come by earlier, but I didn’t think it made sense for anyone else to suffer with me longer than absolutely necessarily. More importantly, I assumed (I think quite rightly) that the only thing more boring than actually listening to Nickelback would be to watch someone else listen to Nickelback.
In case you’ve been having trouble picturing this process, let me give you a quick overview (I’m totally padding this section because my notes on Here and Now are pretty sparse): being a considerate fellow (and not wanting my neighbors to judge me), I opted to listen all of these songs with headphones. So, to an observer such as my friend, all you would’ve seen is a man staring at his computer, occasionally typing and frequently muttering and cursing under his breath. FOR SEVEN HOURS. Every time a song ended, I’d flip over to the Nickelback Wikipedia discography, look up the next song, then search for it on YouTube and start the abuse all over again.
If you want a frame of reference for what this is like, I can only think of one good example: Go to the store and buy 80 packets of Ramen. Now go home, and boil water and cook each packet, one at a time, for seven hours. Then take notes on how each cooking experience differed from the last. That’s it.
Here and Now, is pretty dull, even by Nickelback standards. Maybe I was just too giddy at the thought of actually being done with the challenge, but I only bothered to write notes on a couple of the tracks. The second track on the album is entitled, “Bottoms Up”, which, surprisingly, is not actually about sex. Here and Now also features the emo-fest “Lullaby”, accompanied by a super-depressing music video and a Chad’s new haircut.
The rest of the album is pretty dull, and sounds like Chad’s been listening to a lot of Daughtry albums (so he could court Avril Lavigne, perhaps). This trend continues with their last video, “Trying Not To Love You”, which features a double-dose of Jason Alexander. (Why, Jason, why?!)
Beers Consumed: 6
And with that, I was done. Daydrunk, mentally exhausted, and hating my life. But I was done. I had completed The Nickelback Challenge.
So, what did I learn? In the last few weeks, as I’ve attempted to recover from my ordeal, I’ve pondered this question. And the answer is – not very much. I expected The Challenge to be horrible and ear-shatteringly painful; instead, I was rewarded with seven hours of tedium and few deep insights.
I do think I can try to answer the question that prompted this article, though. Why do we hate Nickelback so much? It’s not because of how bad they are. The same era that spawned Nickelback also spawned Creed and Staind – both bands that are actually MORE obnoxious than Nickelback, which is saying something. But no one talks about them, anymore. Why? Because they went away. Only Nickelback has staying power. Nickelback is like the blood diamonds of the music world: Awful, but indestructible.
That capacity to endure is why we hate Nickelback, I think – they’re relentless in their mediocrity – which forces us to deal with them again and again. While hipsters like to talk about retaining purity of artistic vision and not “jumping the shark,” Nickelback is content to churn out the same boring crap year in and year out because it sells, and they’re not above changing their style to suit the tastes of their fans.
But what I think people find even more galling than Nickelback themselves is their fans. There are people out there who eat this shit up. With the exception of Curb, all of these albums have gone Platinum or better and the band consistently fills arenas all over North America – which means there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who listen to “Something In Your Mouth” and think “Fuck yeah! This shit rocks!” These are the people who keep Nickelback on the air, interrupting our attempts to sneak in a listen to that new Rihanna track on Top 40 Radio. They’re to blame.
But at least we know Rahm Emanuel’s not one of them.