x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

When it comes to Nickelback, critics are a dime a dozen

Are the band really as bad as people say? They give the fans what they want but the critics are constantly deriding them.

Nickelback are performing as part of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix celebrations.
Nickelback are performing as part of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix celebrations.

All sorts of accusations have been levelled at Nickelback by critics and hipsters, the chief being that they are destroying rock music.

This is an utter fallacy of course, but let me first indulge the haters for a little while.

They charge the group with having no artistic integrity and of pandering to their fans instead.

Even if that was true, so what? Since when has that been the price of entry for rock stardom?

If we held everyone to that standard, then why isn’t everyone holding pitchforks and chasing Bon Jovi or Aerosmith out of town?

Another charge: Nickelback’s music is derivative, rehashing the worst aspects of the now-forgotten grunge genre.

Well, I totally agree the guys are no Nirvana, but if we are going to start throwing terms such as “derivative” about, then we should also apply that same blood-curdling hatred to the plethora of pop stars being churned out of talent shows on our television every day.

No, the Nickelback attacks are not solely due to their uninspiring middle-of-the-road music.

Instead, they are the result of the kind of anger spasms rock critics and hipsters occasionally have when the world fails to match the view from their designer rims.

A lot of times, the common folk do actually pay attention to the critics, and acts from Elvis Costello to Florence + the Machine can become big stars.

In other times, the critics get it so wrong they indulge in frenzied rewriting of history to be on the right side of public opinion.

Look back only 15 years ago and musicians such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen were derided as has-beens in need of immediate retirement; now you can’t hear these old boys sing over the shrieking five-star reviews for each new album.

Don’t get it twisted: I am not comparing Nickelback with His Bobness or The Boss. However, what they have in common is their middle-aged fan base remaining agile enough to buy both CDs and attend concerts while most indie music fans are busy illegally downloading the latest “groundbreaking” artist.

The elitism and snobbery of rock critics and hipsters have always been around since the days of The Beatles (just ask the poor Monkees). Sometimes the critics and hipsters win and we are influenced, while at other times they are trampled by the millions of fans scurrying for the tickets to the latest most-hated band.

Nickelback are merely another chapter in the continuing musical culture wars.

 

Saeed Saeed is a reporter for The National’s Arts&Life section

sasaeed@thenational.ae