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This Academic Figured Out Why So Many Critics Hate Nickelback

Prepare for some Nickeldiscourse.

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Salli Anttonen is a doctoral student researching the concept of authenticity in music. She wondered why so many music critics hate Nickelback. "They were a good case in point because they are so widely accused of lacking authenticity," she said.

Salli Anttonen

Anttonen, who is pursuing a PhD in cultural studies at the University of Eastern Finland, analyzed reviews of Nickelback in Finnish media between 2000 and 2014. She wanted to understand why critics question the authenticity of the band's music, and why the press and others love to hate these four incredibly handsome gentlemen from Alberta.

"Critics are really enthusiastic about the hatred," Antonnen told BuzzFeed Canada. "I wanted to know: What is it about this one specific band that creates that?"

The result of her research is the wonderfully titled paper, "'Hypocritical Bullshit Performed Through Gritted Teeth': Authenticity Discourses in Nickelback's Album Reviews in Finnish Media." It was published in Metal Music Studies, an academic journal that you now know exists.

One thing Anttonen noticed is that earlier reviews of the band were not as negative. The more successful the band became, the more critics delighted in hating on it.

"It became a phenomenon where the journalists were using the same [reasons] to bash them, and almost making an art out of ridiculing them," she said.

The reason, according to her, is that rock critics see themselves as the protectors and arbiters of authenticity and originality. Hating on Nickelback is a way to assert their authority. So the more success the band has on the charts, the more critics feel emboldened to dismiss Nickelback as inauthentic commercial crap.

Anttonen said the hate for Nickelback among critics is "not about the sound, but what values are attached to the sounds." She wrote that "by nullifying Nickelback’s authenticity, critics are actually authenticating themselves."

Salli Anttonen

Some reviewers praised the band's catchy melodies and riffs — only to then cite the music's mass appeal as the problem.

"The fact that the compositions suit the radio charts is a problem [for critics]," Anttonen said. "So then [the songs] are not authentic self expression, or have been made with commercial purposes in mind, rather than expressing your deepest emotions."

Along with calling Nickelback too commercial, critics love to dismiss the band's music and live act as boring. One Finnish writer called the group "the epitome of edgeless rock who has wiped heavy music clean of all rebellion, passion, sense of danger and edge."

Salli Anttonen

Other choice insults from reviewers included Nickelback being called the "fucking H&M's Black Label Society" and singer Chad Kroeger being referred to as "ramen-Jesus," thanks to the curly long hair he used to have.

Finnish reviews have described Nickelback and/or its music as "forced" and being "hypocritical bullshit performed through gritted teeth." One reviewer said the band is "calculatingly hit-focused" while another chided them for "laughing all the way to the bank."

One concert review focused on the fact that the band has tons of songs about alcohol, and yet lead singer Chad Kroeger didn't drink any on stage.

Cindy Ord / Getty Images

"Also, Jesus suffered for us, so did Hetfield [sic] — take a sip," wrote the reviewer, citing the lead singer of Metallica who was known for drinking beer during concerts.

In the end, Anttonen writes, Nickelback just can't win.

"Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something. They follow genre expectations too well, which is seen as empty imitation, but also not well enough, which is read as commercial tactics and as a lack of a stable and sincere identity."

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