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Leave Nickelback alone! Why our hatred of the inoffensive Canadian rock band makes no sense

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pineapple on pizza. Wearing socks to bed. The word “moist”. Listening to Nickelback. This is just a small selection of relatively harmless things that people make a great performative show of hating, just because everybody else does the same thing.

The thing that puzzles me about all of the above isn’t so much the hatred itself – dislike what you want, all the more Hawaiian pizza for the rest of us – but rather the lack of rationale behind it. Aside from a few sweeping statements (too lame, too cheesy, too manufactured, too whatever) I’ve yet to hear many decent arguments that dig any deeper.

In my mind Nickelback are a quite-literally-fine, broadly inoffensive band who have been lucky enough to land a handful of incredibly catchy hits along the way, and yet you would think people were talking about the Antichrist.

I have had enough of the disrespect. Leave my harmless sweet princes and their well-kept goatees alone!

This phenomenon is now the subject of a new documentary Hate to Love, which shows the band moping about their nasty detractors.

Though even my sympathy for Nickelback does admittedly have its limits – 50 million album sales worldwide and six Grammy nominations does tend to take the edge off some people being a bit mean about your music – I’ve still never really understood why they attract such vicious levels of ire when far, far worse bands get away scot-free.

I’m not about to sit here defending every second of their back catalogue to date – their music leaves me feeling too ambivalent for that – I will say that the hits officially slap, and anybody who pretends otherwise is simply too cowardly to admit that they’re just being a bit of a snob.

If you’re in any doubt at all about this, I’d encourage you to pay closer attention next time Chad Kroeger’s opening “neeerghhhh” of How You Remind Me pops up at karaoke.

The urge to screech along with the boys is irresistible, every single lyric effortlessly imprinted on your brain whether you like it or not. Like Rockstar, like Animals, like Photograph, it is undeniably a stone-cold banger.

So, why the almost universal disdain? Well, as with a lot of things, blame the internet; specifically, the very particular brand of ironic snark that ruled it back in the days when Twitter was still 1) called Twitter 2) actually a source of huge fun, and not overrun by bots advertising all manner of sordid wares in their bios.

There was a time when it felt like Nickelback were the butt of virtually every musical joke. Memorably, an 2010 online petition attracted over 2 million votes when it pitted the band in a popularity contest against a pickle (spoiler: the pickle won).

Foo Fighters (who, real talk, make fairly similar music but get a free credibility pass on account of Grohl being ‘the drummer from Nirvana’) were once forced to disown a fake Dave Grohl Twitter account with a penchant for slagging off the Canadian rockers: "If you play a Nickelback song backwards you'll hear messages from the devil,” read one zinger. “Even worse, if you play it forwards, you'll hear Nickelback."

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At one point, a Canadian police force apologised after joking about their new policy of punishing drink-drivers by playing them the band’s 2001 album Silver Side Up. "Now, now, no need to thank us, we figure if you are foolish enough to get behind the wheel after drinking then a little Chad Kroeger and the boys is the perfect gift for you,” they wrote in a much-shared social media post.

Sure, Nickelback’s heavily commercial stadium rock, which takes the vague gravel of the Nineties subgenre of grunge, but casts aside the majority of its grit, isn’t for everyone. Lyrics such as “I'll have the quesadilla, haha!” (Rockstar) and “Humpty Dumpty, do your thing/Daddy’s gonna buy you a diamond ring” (Must Be Nice) are hardly a shoo-in for the Pulitzer Prize, but is that the worst thing in the world?

If it’s any consolation, the renaissance may already be underway. Lewis Capaldi has already got the memo, and brought out Kroeger last year at a Toronto gig for a number of Nickelback covers. SZA – who infamously declared: “they rock! That shit is bomb!” – is also a fan.

Capaldi and SZA have the right idea, and I’m on board, too. Why must everything be miserable, serious and dour in order to be considered authentic, after all? It’s just no fun.

Personally, I’ll take Chad Kroeger and his gravelly one-liners about playing baseball in the bathtub over yet another earnest old rocker necking Merlot and warbling on about his divorce atop earnestly authentic indie rock, any day of the week.

Hate to Love: Nickelback is in cinemas March 27 and 30