Despite mildly enjoying all the Nickelback I’ve ever heard (for those of you scoring at home, that’s “How You Remind Me,” “Photograph,” and “Rock Star”), I most assuredly will not be joining millions of others in buying the band’s new album, Dark House, when it comes out this Tuesday. Actually, I could get that shit or free. So let me say this: Unless work requires it, I will not be listening to the new Nickelback album.
Historically, the members of Nickelback and their fans respond to that kind of critical antipathy with accusations of snobbery. Considering that I like what I’ve heard from the band and still have no desire to hear more from them, is “snobbery” a fair label for my position?
Maybe. Trying to puzzle out the answer to that question makes me feel like I’m stuck inside a mind maze. Full of simplistic lyrics about relationships, partying, and aspirational fantasies, set to catchy melodies and lite-metal motifs, Nickelback tracks strike me as the musical equivalent of beef jerky — marginally enjoyable, momentarily satisfying, fundamentally gross. And like beef jerky, Nickelback doesn’t add anything valuable to my life.
Yet I like Journey. What gives?
Maybe, unlike with Nickelback, it’s simply that enough time has passed for me to enjoy Journey in a manner that doesn’t make me feel as if I’m endorsing the values the band espouses — crass pandering, an aura of smug masculinity, poofy hair. All of which is to say that I enjoy Journey ironically. Yet when I listen to “Ask the Lonely” or “Wheel in the Sky” there aren’t quotation marks around my enjoyment. But Journey or AC/DC or Van Halen or countless other non-vital bands with worldviews similar to Nickelback are comfortable for me to consume in a way that the chartbusting Canadian quartet is not.
Perhaps my real problem with Nickelback is that when I see those four hosers, and I imagine their fans, they seem so different from me. And not only because Chad Kroeger admitted to putting his pecker in his mouth. I know people who like the bands I mentioned above. Sure, maybe those people enjoy them from the same ironic cultural vantage point as I do, but there’s something in that music that speaks to us. I don’t know one Nickelback fan.
Maybe an example will help illustrate what I mean. (And I’m not talking about auto-fellatio.) It took me a couple minutes to realize that the thing on the cover of Dark Horse is a big-ass belt buckle (I think). I am relatively unfamiliar with large belt buckles. Nickelback obviously assumed that the people buying the album are into large belt buckles and the cultural meaning behind them. You know, cowboys, dudes from Jackass, and whatnot. That stuff is wasted on me. Basically, I’m living in a different world than the band and its fans, one where the assumptions and iconography don’t fly.
That may be an unfair attitude. But is it snobbish? As a reference point, here are some other things I’m not interested in:
Chain restaurants. NASCAR. College sports.
And here are a couple facts about my family:
My grandmother is illiterate and worked for decades in an industrial Laundromat. My brother works in the train yard for the Canadian National Railroad.
Is using my family to prove that I’m not a cultural snob a pathetic attempt at blatant pandering? Ask Nickelback. They seem to have a handle on that sort of thing.
Listen: Nickelback, “Gotta Be Somebody”
Watch: Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger talking about “Gotta Be Somebody”