Overthinking Nickelback

Published by Lemex in the blog Lemex's Blog. Views: 436

[This is a repost of an article I wrote for another forum - quotes used are for criticism purposes and fall under 'fair use'.']

Alexander Pope once wrote:

and in honour of Miss Lavigne's engagement to Nickelback frount man Chad Kroeger I will try to critique as best I can Nickelback's most famous song ‘How You Remind Me’. I will try my best not to tire your Patience or your Sense (with the latter, I don't think I could do that!)

This is the song that introduced me to Nickelback's music, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. This being so, it has a certain place in my head, and after so many years and so many rounds of alcohol to try and force it out this song for some reason sticks. So, without further stalling, here I start to dive into the poetry of Nickelback:

The song opens with a chord and the first line so it deserves special attention, since this is the line that is to open the thesis of the song. There isn't even a flashy intro to welcome the listener in, the song just starts with a chord and the song. The opening line being, of course:

My first reaction to this is just 'Wow'. Has there ever been a more clear statement that you have nothing new, interesting or original to say with your song. With this one line Kroeger brings into question why the song even exists. Why, if he is not wise and has nothing to say, is he saying anything at all?

At first glance this line is to indicate that the singer is down on his luck and has little else to hope for, but closer inspection (i.e. a single inspection) reveals something much deeper. Why did he not succeed as a bum? Was it because of some moral obligation? Is the narrator of the song (probably Kroeger himself) dealing with some sort of higher, ethical struggle? Would this mean that, since he cannot be wise, he has something modest to say?


Also, what does this line even mean? Does Kroeger wear sunglasses indoors, walk around with a guide dog even though he doesn't need one? With this he is potentially depriving someone who really needs a guide dog of a guide dog, which makes him a bit of an asshole.

... what?

Ah! Now we get somewhere. Kroeger presumably here comparing himself to the Troubadour poets of the 12th and 13th centuries, of whom the most famous was of course Dante Alighieri, with his book La Vita Nouva in which ... wait a minute. The structure of this stanza is a bit confused. The singer is down on his luck, being a bit of a jerk by presumably keeping a guide dog without any need, and then someone comes along and 'reminds' him of who he is? Well, who are you?

This is where the first verse ends and the chorus begins. And the chorus begins with:

What the hell is this? Aside from a shitty attempt to rhyme 'sorry' with 'story'. You know, Chad, you don't have to force a rhyme. This is actually a pretty tell-tale sign of a shitty song writer because to accommodate the feminine rhyme you have the line 'I was waiting on a different story' which is terrible. And what 'story' are you talking about? House of Leaves? Pride and Prejudice?

Wait wait wait. Wait. This time you are mistaken about how someone reminds you of how you are not a wise man or a bum, except you are not a bum or a wise man, you are only emulating those life styles and I the listener don't know who you even are, even though that's the point of the entire song. This song is structurally coming apart and it's only into the first time this chorus is played.

This line deserves close attention because it is clearly a cry for help. Except not in the way our friend, whoever he is, probably Kroeger himself, intended. The obvious message in this line is that the narrator of the song is abusing drink because of - actually, what the hell is this chorus even about? - but with the word 'every' Kroeger is implying that he's drank every bottle. Not every bottle he could find, but every bottle ever. Which means Kroeger has the most serious drinking problem in human history. He is drinking more than the average human could possibly handle. Which sounds like more of a boast, but a really pathetic kind of boast, making him, again, seem like a bit of an asshole.

Know what exactly? This is the problem with the song, there is constant references to ... something, how he is reminded of himself, but what that thing is I wish i could tell you.

In translation: 'I am an asshole'.

At this point I honestly began to consider a smarter, more metaphysical side to this song. Maybe it's the song itself that reminds him of who he really is? But that would require some sophistication on the park of Nickelback that I just can't accept.

The chorus here kicks in again and shatters this idea that Nickelback could maybe write an intelligent metaphysical song with the line 'This time I'm mistaken'. Not only does this ruin the last chance to save the song, but with it's repetition implies that Kroeger is wrong a lot of the time - so his 'this time' is only passing off guilt. Which, again, makes him sort of an asshole.

This is essentially the end of the song, but there is this interesting bit near the end:

Read this in your most monotone voice and you'll see just why this part of the song blows so much chunks. It sounds like a computer is stuck on two words and just randomly pumping them out in what just happens to be a sequence. It doesn't feel like anyone actually wrote this, more that it was compiled by computer, from a collection of rubbish lines. The song has no connectivity, and breaks apart within the first half a minute.

This isn't exactly helped with the really boring riffs and sequences of the guitar. The drums seem too artificially timed, in order to produce the most 'rock'-like effect. Almost as if Nickelback is saying 'yeah, we have guitars and drums and such, we are a rock band, listen to us'. This is made really sad by the fact that the track is devoid of any passion, even the moments in the song that push Chad's vocals really leave me cold and uninterested. It's like they are emulating a band that is emulating Pearl Jam.

The lyrics of this song really suck juice, and I honestly can't understand how they could be this bad. There is just no consistency, nothing is solid, and in the end it just comes across as a song written to sound like a rock song, rather than being an actual rock song. Now a lot of good rock songs don't need to make sense, or need to have real lyrics (look at The Melvins and see a masterclass of songs written just to sound good and mean nothing) but 'How You Remind Me' was a song that sounds like it was written to have a meaning, to sound like a guy down on his luck and singing about it. This song was clearly written to be part of, or at least be an echo of, the Grunge tradition, instead it just comes off as a bad song because the lyrics are so awful. Whatever meaning it should have had is now lost under a sea of stupid.

Site used:

  • maidahl
  • Lemex
  • Still Life
  • Lemex
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