The bands critics love to hate
Few bands inspire such intense hatred as Nickelback. The post-grunge Alberta quartet has been trashed, bashed and hated on by countless critics, music snobs and other like-minded souls.
william b. Plowman/associated press
Few bands inspire such intense hatred as Nickelback.
The post-grunge Alberta quartet has been trashed, bashed and hated on by countless critics, music snobs and other like-minded souls. So have much-maligned acts like Hinder, a rock band from Oklahoma; the Grammy-winning Black Eyed Peas, who have spawned infectious rap hits My Humps and Don’t Phunk With My Heart; and Britney Spears, who in her heyday ruled radio but was condemned for everything from her voice to not writing her own songs.
Yet these acts have sold millions upon millions of albums. So are the critics wrong? Do music buyers have bad taste? Is this karmic payback to all the haters?
“There are some bands that, let’s face it, are critic-proof,” Nathan Brackett, a senior editor at Rolling Stone, said. “Just like there are some movies that are critic-proof. Nobody is really reading the reviews for Norbit, you know? And nobody’s reading Nickelback reviews either.”
That might be a good thing. Nickelback’s All The Right Reasons, which debuted at No. 1 on the charts in the fall of 2005 and was still number 16 this week, was called “hard-rock ridiculousness” by the New York Times and “unspeakably awful” by Allmusic.com.
Young people who “are introduced to these bands on the radio, they don’t have a lot of baggage,” Brackett said. “A lot of kids don’t care if an act, you know, kind of took their guitar sound from some other band.”
Post-grunge outfits like Nickelback and Hinder continue to be popular in part because they appeal to the estrogen set, said Craig Marks, editor in chief of Blender magazine. A “slightly hipper band” will sell more albums to guys than girls, he said.
“They’re selling a lot of records to very casual music fans who don’t buy a lot of CDs,” Marks said. “When you’re selling five million albums like Nickelback or 2 1/2 million like Hinder, and especially when you’re making your mark with big ballads that are kind of wedding songs, then you’re selling records to both males and females. And that’s often how you get from selling 1 1/2 million records to selling four or five million records.”
When “teenage girls or tween girls like an artist, that’s often a sign that ... the artist isn’t cool,” said Marks, who also gives Spears as an example. “You know, ‘My little sister likes them.’“
Advertisements, music reviews and fashion trends tell us that “cool” is an edgy rapper, an up-and-coming hipster band or a British chanteuse like Amy Winehouse. Cool is not Nickelback or the Black Eyed Peas. They’re not so uncool that they’re cool, like Fountains Of Wayne.
They’re just, in a word, uncool.