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Nickelback: The defining artist of our age

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Just yesterday, while walking down a dusty deserted corridor in the depths of Skoglund, my ears were assailed by a sound I can only describe as if one forced a cat to chain smoke 12 cigarettes a day for many years, then stepped on its tail.

That is to say, I heard Chad Kroeger’s voice. But before I could make my quick exit, something peculiar became apparent. This was no original tune, but a psychotic mashup cooked up in the mind of a meth-head with split-personality disorder.

I heard the banal vocals of Rockstar roughly layered over the equally vapid beat of fellow grunge-lord Post Malone’s hit homonymic song, “Rockstar.”

I paused, frozen with incredulity, listening to each artist trade-off droning about their conspicuously similar fantasies of celebrity. I found myself standing on my own head, looking up at the floor, while my hands clutched the ceiling. For my world turned upside down as I finally realized the sheer genius of it all.

In listening, I found an unexpected emotion, nostalgia, arising as I felt the steady bass inexorably pushing my focus along, even while I vainly struggled to cling to the effervescent unreality of Chad Kroeger’s lyrics.

Contrary to what must be your first impression, this nostalgia was not caused by a sudden recollection of my little known past as a world-famous musician. It was the product of Nickelback’s brilliance in creating a prodigiously trite song designed to react violently in the socio-cultural milieu the way lithium reacts in water.

So we can thank Chad Kroeger and the rest of Nickelback for giving us a glorious empty anthem.” Adam Kaiser ’19

As one can guess, the song is not actually simple lifestyle porn, but a parody of the Sisyphean chase of happiness through earthly riches and fame; and when heard in the context of our world overcome by absurdity and nihilism – it generates a state of alienation between the listener and the song (hence why Nickelback is the most popularly hated band of all time).

This is no less than a concentrated dose of the daily existential despair that constantly weighs upon us in our lovely post-modern epoch. This alienation is too much to bear, so it inspires revolt within us. The revolt is the reflexive negation of our initial reaction of disgust.

This negation of the negative gives birth to the ironic pleasure we get from listening to it. Why else do we all know every single word? Still, irony is never the product of real satisfaction; it’s only the consolation prize given in the absence of true joy.

So we settle into an emotional equilibrium of nostalgia, nostalgia for the chimeric promise of finding bliss within the confines of this material world. We can thank Chad Kroeger and the rest of Nickelback for giving us a glorious empty anthem, an impotent soundtrack for our increasingly desperate attempts to plug the blooming hole of despair at the heart of modernity itself.

kaiser2@stolaf.edu