Day 6

How Nickelback became the internet's most-hated band

On Friday, the Alberta-born band released a new single — a heavy metal cover of The Charlie Daniels Band hit The Devil Went Down To Georgia. When the band teased the release earlier this week, social media users got their shots in.

'Even if you don't like them, you probably have an opinion on them,' says journalist Sage Lazzaro

Canadian band Nickelback, featuring (from left) front man Chad Kroeger, guitarist Ryan Peake, drummer Daniel Adair and bassist Mike Kroeger, have long been an internet joke. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nickelback is undeniably one of the internet's favourite musical punching bags — and when the band teased an announcement this week, social media users got their shots in.

"People were coming out in full force with the jokes," said internet culture journalist Sage Lazzaro.

"I saw things along the lines of, 'This will definitely scare coronavirus away,' or 'Please, Nickelback, what are you doing? We can't take anymore in 2020.'"

On Friday, the Alberta-born band released a new single — a heavy metal cover of The Charlie Daniels Band hit The Devil Went Down To Georgia.

Indeed, the internet "memeification" of Nickelback has made it almost shameful to be a fan of the band. 

But with sold out shows at Madison Square Garden, a handful of number one singles and albums, and being one of the best-selling groups of the 2000s, it hasn't affected their success.

"A lot of times when people don't like a band, they just don't listen to them and they just kind of fade out of existence, or only fans pay attention to them," Lazzaro explained on Day 6.

"But Nickelback has kind of become a cultural phenomenon where even if you don't like them, you probably have an opinion on them."

'The band that ruined Roadrunner Records'

According to Lazzaro, who wrote about the band's meme status in 2016, the hatred began well before social media made it easy to share hot takes on music.

In 1999, the band signed a deal with Roadrunner Records, a label known for its heavy metal bands. 

"As early as 2000, underground heavy metal fans were calling Nickelback the band that ruined Roadrunner Records," she explained. "So the people who were supposed to be their first fans kind of hated the band from the jump."

Sage Lazzaro is an internet culture journalist for publications including Wired and VICE. (Submitted by Sage Lazzaro)

Then came a Comedy Central ad featuring a clip from their news show, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. In it, comedian Brian Posehn, responding to a question about a study that tied violent lyrics to violent behaviour, said: "No one talks about the studies that show that bad music makes people violent, but listening to Nickelback makes me want to kill Nickelback."

"Plenty of similar jokes have come out about other bands like Creed, for example, but this one was broadcast over and over on national TV for months," Lazzaro said.

WATCH | Lizzo plays Jam or Not a Jam with a Nickelback song

Lizzo Reminds Us of Why We Should Love Nickelback

4 years ago
Duration 1:08
Lizzo Reminds Us of Why We Should Love Nickelback

Later, the band's hit Rockstar, about the materialistic and misogynistic desires of wannabe rock stars, cemented the group as wannabes, she added.

Offline to online

When social media networks began to gain steam, the jokes about Nickelback grew as well. 

One Facebook group asked whether a picture of a pickle could get more likes than Nickelback. A crowdfunding campaign sought to raise $1,000 to keep Nickelback out of London, U.K.

It even became a popular insult to say someone likes Nickelback. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a graphic about Ted Cruz's love of the band went viral.

"Internet culture, I think, was one of the pivotal parts that took this notion that people had about Nickelback and started putting it in writing to just pop up on your social media feed over and over again — and with that, it it made it even more difficult for anyone to like Nickelback," Lazzaro said. 

According to Lazzaro, without the notoriety the internet has offered them, Nickelback could have a hard time staying relevant. (Mike Windle/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

In recent years, Nickelback has gotten in on the joke, responding to critics on social media with snarky replies, Lazzaro adds.

Ultimately, she believes that the band's internet fame, for better or worse, could be what keeps them going.

"If it weren't for this kind of spotlight — this ironic spotlight — on Nickelback, it's a band that may have faded away a long time ago," she said.

"They're able to stay relevant, not even as much because of their music, but because of their role in internet culture, and the culture more broadly, as a meme."

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin.

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