The Bottom 40: #5

Nickelback - Rock Star

5. Nickelback, Rock Star

There’s some intense cynicism at work in Nickelback’s 2006 ode to fame, though the earnest yet wildly popular Canadians are so humorless that it’s unclear how much of their hatred is intentional.

Despite all reason, Nickelback became big rock stars in the fall of 2001 when How You Remind Me bulldozed its way onto radio. By the time Rock Star was released in late 2006, the group already had twelve other hits, nearly half of which had topped the dreadful Mainstream Rock Chart.

If I walked into a deli and the man behind the counter sang me a song about how one day he wanted to be a delicatessen, I might be amused, if not baffled. I might also be annoyed, and I’d definitely start getting my sandwiches elsewhere if he kept it up.  So I truly can’t explain the popularity of this song, wherein a big rock star sings about how he wants to become a big rock star.

Is it autobiographical?  Ironic?  Sneering?  It’s never clear, because the band, and Kroeger in particular, sounds exactly the same as they do on every other Nickelback song.  How can he be kidding when he’s singing with the exact same frowny croak that made How You Remind Me and Photograph so popular?  At least when Gwen Stefani sang about wanting to be a rich girl you got the sense that she was a deranged kook singing in character.  She also made the point that money wasn’t everything, a point which Kroeger doesn’t get.

Rock Star is the sound of a wealthy, humorless man makes fun of poor people for not being as wealthy as he is.  Ha ha, Chad Kroeger is saying. My name’s Chad Kroeger and I have a giant bathroom and do lots of drugs and I was on MTV Cribs once and I’ve got so much money that even my skeezy ass can get some action on a plane.

Right around the first time Rock Star hit radio, the housing market crashed and millions of Americans watched helplessly as their homes and jobs started disappearing.  When the was inexplicably re-released ten months later, things were even worse, so the cynicism—and people’s mindless embrace of it—seemed particularly nasty.  Songs like this are all too common in mainstream hip-hop, where divas namedrop shoe brands and rappers brag about how many millionaires they can squeeze at one banquette.  But rock stars are, generally, supposed to be a little classier than that.


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