President Nickelback

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3A couple years ago, horrified at the thought Nickelback, (aka “The Worst Rock Band in the World”*) would touch down in the United Kingdom, a guy started a petition to keep them out. Now it’s Donald Trump. Similarities abound.

Those of you who have either never heard of Nickelback or been exposed to one of their “songs” are the lucky ones. Kind of like what happens when you Google “Rick Santorum”, the “Nickelback” search field is populated with unflattering references. A review in The Guardian says, “Canadian rockers Nickelback aren’t universally popular. Some 55,000 American football fans once signed a petition to attempt to stop them playing at half time. A dating website has voted their music the No 1 “musical turn-off”. In a particularly low moment, Nickelback haters set up a Facebook page to demonstrate that a pickled cucumber could get more fans. … Their lyrics flirt with misogyny, and women are routinely depicted as ‘naughty’ or strippers. You become thankful for small mercies, like when Kroeger tells a ‘dirty little lady with the pretty pink thong’ that she ‘looks much cuter with something in your mouth”, it turns out he’s referring to her thumb’.”

Other classic Nickelback anthems: “Something In Your Mouth,” “I’d Come for You,” and “S.E.X.”

And now the Brits, the people who taught us our manners if you believe “Masterpiece Theater” are debating whether to ban … the President of the United States from soiling Jolly Olde with his Nickelbackian presence. Specifically, the House of Commons had a very long and loud set-to over the weekend about rescinding an invitation conservative, pro-Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May extended seven days after His Orangeness was in office.

Said The Guardian, “The debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, was prompted by the petition signed by 1.8m people saying Trump should be denied a state visit and it was opened by the Labour MP Paul Flynn who, in a wide-ranging attack, described Trump’s intellect as ‘protozoan’.” And, “… Flynn said that only two US presidents had been accorded a state visit to Britain in more than half a century and it was ‘completely unprecedented’ that Trump had been issued his within seven days of his presidency. Flynn – who started the debate because he is on the petitions committee – said Trump would hardly be silenced by the invitation being rescinded, accusing him of a ‘ceaseless incontinence of free speech’. Asked by Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party, if Trump’s views on climate science should also be taken into account, Flynn responded that the president had shown ‘cavernous depths of scientific ignorance’ on the issue.”

Damn, but the Brits get off some good lines.

The expectation is that one way or another, with The Queen or without her, Trump will land in Britain sometime later this year, if only because pro-Brexit conservatives need to firm up their economic bona fides with someone, now that they’ve pissed off most of the rest of the European Union. (It has not escaped notice that The Queen has previously hosted the likes of Nicolae Ceausescu, a dictator of Stalinesque depravity),

But Trump will go to Britain because … also like Nickelback, which has sold over 50 million records and will be the opening night act at the Minnesota State Fair the summer … Trump is popular with “a small majority”, (key word: “majority”) of Brits, people, surveys show, convinced open border immigration is polluting the essence of Britain.

My point here is, I guess, limited and obvious. No matter how reviled by wordsmith music critics, an act like Nickelback is giving an enormous audience exactly what it wants, which is, as I always like to say, The First Rule Of Show Biz. The crassness of it, the swinish vulgarity of it, the shameless artlessness of it, the misogyny, the … well, you can fill in the rest … is not only not off-putting to the ears and minds of Nickelback’s fans … it is damn near exactly what they want, and have wanted now for 22 years.

People proud of their cultured tastes, people whose critical antennae are tuned to discern unimaginative pandering in guitar licks and drumming, and irony-free lechery in lyrics, could do worse than keep Nickelback’s enduring commercial success in mind as they calculate Trump’s “inevitable” implosion.

Now, to the best of my knowledge Nickelback has not been fed life-saving loans by Russian gangster/oligarchs or colluded with a murderous dictator to undermine the popularity of a better band, like say Pearl Jam. Nor are currently under investigation by the FBI. So the comparison falls apart on that score.

But … writing about Nickelback’s success for The New Yorker, Ian Crouch concluded by saying, “… to be hated is to be something. And to be hated by an army of anxious, élitist, Pitchfork-reading coastal snobs may be enough of a foundation on which to build an enduring fan base in the shrunken marketplace of the digital age. I think that [lead singer Chad] Kroeger is probably right that the haters have made Nickelback stronger, in that they have given what had been a bland, soft-metal, post-grunge band the outsider, bad-ass edge that it had always projected but never earned. As an old saying goes, ‘To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction’.”

Make of that what you will.

*An “alternative fact”.


Haunted by Nickelback

Lambert_to_the_Slaughteri don’t really know anything about Nickelback, but Google is convinced I do.

If you are as uninformed (not to mention as culturally deprived) as I am, Nickelback, “… a bunch of fatuous frat boys” to quote one reviewer, has earned a reputation as “the worst band in the world”. Says Steven Hyden at Grantland, “After forcibly ingesting The Best of Nickelback Volume 1 for professional (or perhaps sadomasochistic) purposes, I can affirm from personal experience that this band’s music sucks. (Or, more accurately, suuucks.)4 Nickelback distills every cliché about bad white-guy durr music in a convenient one-stop package — the vocals bellow like an excavator tongue-kissing a gravel pit and the riffs sputter like amplified lit farts.”

So in other words … really bad.

Personally, I’m not aware of ever hearing one note of any of Nickelback’s (allegedly) turgid, derivative anthems. Although something loud and horrible was playing at a trucker bar in Ajo, Arizona last winter. All I know is that Nickelback’s name comes up every time a conversation turns to “really shitty music”.

So a couple months ago I’m over at MPR interviewing The Current’s program director, Jim McGuinn, and as a way of wrapping up I ask him if there’s any band who’ll probably never get airtime on his eclectic pop music station? As he mulls his choices I tossed out Nickelback’s name, to which he laughed and said, “only in some highly ironic context.”

With that, I go home, open Google Docs and transcribe my interview with McGuinn, including the line about Nickelback, which is then published at MinnPost.

That’s the beginning. middle and end of my interest in Nickelback. But it’s only the beginning of what Google believes is a ravenous hunger on my part for all things Nickel and Backy, because within days, and ever since, whenever I open Google on my Google Nexus 5 phone I’m greeted by breaking news, gossip and marketing touts about … Nickelback. Nickelback tour dates. Nickelback set lists. Nickelback-licensed emesis bags.

Clearly, Google’s algorithms are convinced I’m a Nickelback fetishist. The kind of sad, pathetic bastard who’ll buy one ticket to a Nickelback show, (because what Nickelback fan could ever get a date?), park himself in the front row and yell himself hoarse demanding a 20-minute guitar solo off their greatest hit … assuming I knew the title of even one of their (alleged) songs … much less their greatest “hit”.

And that’s Google’s interpretation of my cultural interests it is sending to me. I can only wonder what impression of me the uber Cloud is peddling to the multitude of social and commercial interests tapping Google’s servers for access to the highly-sought-after 63 year-old white male suburbanite power washing his driveway while listening to Nickelback demographic. The way this is going, I truly expect Christmas-season discount offers for Nickelback hoodies, framed/concert-used Nickelback guitar picks and Nickelback-sanctioned douche bags, (since “douche bag” and “Nickelback” seem to be synonymous among the pop music cognoscenti.)

As much as I tell myself to laugh it off — and ignore the taunts of buddies to whom I’ve told this story — the experience only aggravates my aggravation at the cyber monitoring, analyzing and “repurposing” of my private information. Looked at through another lens, I cannot imagine hooking myself up to an iWatch or cloud-based health-monitoring system, or, were I not married, disgorging every quirk, kink and appetite of my personality into some on-line dating site, which as “60 Minutes” recently showed, is then harvested by literally hundreds of parasitic re-sellers.

It’s bad enough that I know about my issues with powdered wigs and mink whips. i don’t need offers from Amazon and The Smitten Kitten.

But hey, rock on, Nickelback.