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My theory about Nickelback

Cowboy Hat

Now that the kind folks from the Vancouver Olympic committee have once again forced them down our collective throats during the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics, I was reminded to share my theory about Nickelback. Does Nickelback warrant a theory? You bet. Since they are one of Canada’s biggest entertainment industry exports, I think we deserve all the attempts at an explanation we can get.

Let me start off by stating my theory: I think Nickelback is a country band. There. It’s a simple theory – I’m basically positing that we’ve all been herded down the wooden path of believing they’re hard rock, post-grunge, whatever; but really, they’re a country band from Hanna, Alberta, a hamlet of 2,800 inhabitants deep in the Canadian prairies. Two and a half hours from Calgary, three hours from Red Deer and about 5 hours from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Hanna is literally in the middle of nowhere. The Canadian heartland.

Now, since Nickelback is already apparently the most hated band ever, I’m not going to spend a tremendous amount of time trying to prove that I’m right. But I will suggest you watch some of these Youtube clips (most of which can – conveniently – not be embedded in other websites at the request of EMI Canada, Nickelback’s record label – because, you know, why would you encourage free online marketing for your band?).

In each case, try to notice and imagine the following (apart from Chad Kroeger’s Albrecht Dürer hair, of course, which you’ll notice whether you want to or not):

Cowboy hats and boots are in evidence, however fleetingly, everywhere. Band members other than Chad Kroeger have very neat, heartland cowboy hair styles. There are a lot of pickup trucks and Jeeps. The choruses all sound like modern country music (which, as we all know, sounds like 70s/80s mainstream rock). Every time a chorus comes on, try to imagine away the crunchy distorted guitar chords, and instead think about how it would sound if it were played with acoustically strummed guitars and fiddles and/or pedal steel guitars. Notice the really skilled close harmony singing in many of the choruses. It sounds just like Big & Rich or Rascal Flatts.

So here are the video links:

  • Photograph (A party on the back of a pickup truck: ’nuff said.)
  • Far Away (What’s with the sleeveless shirt? More pickup trucks here. And what possessed 17 million people to watch this on Youtube?)
  • Someday (She drives a giant SUV with New York plates, and the streets of New York are totally empty; it’s a kind of hick town fantasy of what the big city’s like.)
  • Never Again (Cowboy hat at 0:07.)
  • Never Gonna Be Alone (Close harmony singing in the chorus, sounds just like Rascal Flatts.)
  • If Today Was Your Last Day (see above)

Now please excuse me while I go and find something light to listen to, something that’s not depressing and where the lead singer doesn’t sound terminally constipated. If I have to watch one more depressing video about breakups, deaths or accidents I’ll throw myself in front of a bus. Do people actually like this kind of music?

For some much-needed lightness, you might want to watch this version of Photograph, which made me laugh out loud. It’s a bit long, but it’s definitely the right idea.

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