The Nickelback Effect

by Nick Fone
Look at Chad's crotch. LOOK AT IT.

Look at Chad’s crotch. LOOK AT IT.

Thirteen years ago I (allegedly) stole my first piece of digital media – and I have been on the run ever since.

It was the dawn of the new millennium, and I had recently discovered the peer 2 peer file sharing program WinMX – the greatest piece of revolutionary software since Encarta95; no longer did I have to buy the corporate mix-tape that is “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. X” when all I really wanted was that one Meredith Brooks song.

And at only 45 minutes to download a 4mb song, I really was living the dream.

So where do you start when the world is your oyster? For me it was the glorious “Nickelback – How You Remind Me” – by perhaps one of the greatest easy listening rock bands ever to exist. Perhaps.


I know that it’s an audacious call to say that about a ridiculed band – but the downward trend in the Nickelback share price is just a by-product of the ridiculous music circlejerk culture we now live in; your music taste isn’t allowed to be too obvious. You can’t just listen to Top 40 lest pretentious assholes turn their twirly moustache up at you.

Fact: As vinyl sales have gone up, tolerance of “popular” music has gone down.

Of course this isn’t isolated solely to the misunderstood Nickelback; other massively popular bands have suffered the Nickelback effect: Mumford and Sons, Oasis and U2 have all fallen victim to the rejection that comes with mass success; destined to only ever play out of your non-judgemental headphones while you are alone in the dark wishing for the day this music will be acceptable at your BBQ again. We have an illogical feeling of responsibility when we play our music.

Why? Why do we feel such personal ownership about something we had no part in creating?

We have all been in the familiar situation where someone starts scrolling through our MP3 player and we feel very much naked on display, as though they are reading a novel we wrote or some piece of shitty artwork we have created. The air becomes thick with judgement. What if they get to Zager and Evans and still haven’t found anything worth playing?

And god help you if you only have that one popular song by that agreeable band when they have way better stuff that no one knows about – I mean, look here plebeian! Did you listen to track 7 of that lesser known album?! It just has deeper meaning mannnn! You gotta braaaanch out and expand your mind broooo!

So what the fuck is going on here?

First: Classic tallpoppy: people look at popular artists and they think – “this band isn’t good enough to have this level of success” so they start shitting on them more than they actually deserve to bring the average down. It is the same reason why the 1 to 10 voting scale doesn’t really work as a rational system (think IMDB); you get an un-proportionate number of ‘1’ and ‘10’ votes as people try to bring the rating down or up to the number “they” think it should be e.g. if people think something should be a 5, instead of the current 9 they will vote it a 1 to maximise their influence.

Nickelback is a respectable 6 who get a lot of 1’s.

Second: People tie obscurity closely to the façade where they believe they are a unique individual, the likes of which the world has never seen. And just like I tell everyone who thinks they are “unusual”, “weird”, and “different”, with a “wacky sense of humour ” who only their friends understand:

Look, you pretentious fuckwit whose name I have already forgotten – your stupid beige trilby doesn’t make you unique, I am sure I have met you before even though I know I haven’t, and just because someone enjoys a popular song by a popular band doesn’t mean they have no personality. Stop being an asshole.


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1 comment

Nick October 23, 2014 - 3:42 pm

Although I agree with you in principle, about tall poppies and the judgement of others, Nickelback isn’t such a good illustrative example.

Nickelback could be similar to the Mumfords, Oasis and U2 in that they have supporters rather than listeners – Perhaps they can fill stadia long after their music tops charts. Unlike those other acts, though, Nickelback maintains its appeal on the strength of one song you cited (two, if we’re being charitable and accept Rock Star).

A 6/10 grade is reasonable on the basis of the single Remind Me, which is straightforward anthemic rock. But every other Nickelback song sounds like an imitation of that hit, willed forward by AOR radio, who pummel it like white noise. Their publicity comes solely from being that shit band whose CD you bought from The Warehouse for $3.

A more talented group might bring out a definitive playlist and suffer from Second Album Syndrome. Nickelback came up with Remind Me at the tail end of the 90s, and should have been a one hit wonder, like Chumbawumba or the Crash Test Dummies. Yet, somehow they are still with us. Like gorse and herpes.


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