Imagine what it would be like to be blessed with everything, including a bank balance big enough to keep Iceland afloat, Italian sports cars in the garage, high-profile fanboys like Coldplay's Chris Martin, and a dong that would by all accounts impress Uncle Milty. And then think what it would be like to have the world hate you.
Actually, suggesting that every human being on the planet not named Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow can't stand Chad Kroeger is an exaggeration. Even if they won't confess to it in polite company, plenty of people obviously love Nickelback.
First among them are the six or so survivors who still have jobs at the band's record label. That Nickelback turns everything it touches into seven-times platinum is the only thing separating the staff of EMI Canada from a job at the Costco deli counter. And let's not forget the great unwashed. Nickelback's last three albums—Silver Side Up (2001), The Long Road (2003), and All the Right Reasons (2005)—moved an eye-popping total of 24 million units, doubly impressive considering nine of 10 music fans now shop exclusively on LimeWire.
And despite this, if you believe the rock 'n' roll cognoscenti, Kroeger ranks only just below George Bush, Ted Nugent, and Carrot Top as the planet's number-one pariah. No wonder Nickelback called its about-to-be-released sixth album The Dark Horse. The odds of the record not being one of the most shit-upon releases of 2008 are indeed long enough to scare off even the most reckless of Vegas frequent flyers.
What's puzzling is why Nickelback has become so despised. Chad Kroeger certainly has his faults, not the least of which is that for years his hair looked like a one-man tribute to the Cowardly Lion. Then there's the reality that the band's brand of radio-ready alt-rock makes post-Cobain pretenders like Live and Bush sound like the Butthole Surfers on Scratch Acid. And for the love of God, if you were loaded enough to live anywhere, would you build your rock-star dream home in Langley? Evidently, you can take the hick out of Hannah, Alberta, but you can't take Hannah out of the hick.
But forget hating on Kroeger, which is like kicking the Grade Five kid no one likes square in the nutty buddies. What gets lost in the story of Nickelback is that the band started out every bit as indie as the acts Pitchfork shits its American Apparel britches for. You want DIY? That would be self-releasing your own records and then working tirelessly to ensure that someone other than your Aunt Myrtle actually listens to them.
Back in the Kraft Dinner years, rather than banging small-town strippers until 4 a.m. in a Moose Jaw Motel 6, the band committed to getting up early and hounding radio programmers across the continent for airplay. It toured relentlessly, hitting every small-town hellhole in Canada, knowing that if you impress 30 kids the first time, the next visit there might be 60.
And it embraced rock 'n' roll when that was career suicide. Hands up if you remember seeing Nickelback at the Starfish Room back in the day, packing the place when the rest of the world was dancing in baggy pants to Felix da Housecat.
For those reasons alone, Kroeger deserves some respect.
At the risk of being banned from Zulu Records for life, I'll even argue that "How You Remind Me" is one of the greatest songs to ever come out of these rain-soaked parts.
Actually, while we're making confessions, back in '97, I did a Local Motion on Nickelback for the Straight. Talk to enough people in the business, and you build up a pretty good bullshit detector. Kroeger was polite, engaging, grateful, amped about talking music, and totally into rolling the dice on rock 'n' roll. In an industry filled with truly loathsome creatures, he was impossible to dislike. In some very small way, then, I'm partly responsible for the rise of Nickelback. Feel free to hate me.