G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Chuck Klosterman has a very Klosterman-ly piece up at Grantland in which he riffs on two of the most loathed bands in the world, Creed and Nickelback. It’s an entertaining piece – you’ll be pulled through it – but Klosterman never really comes to a conclusion about why these bands are so polarizing. The best Klosterman can muster is this:
The day before the New York show, Kroeger appeared on a Philadelphia radio station and was asked (of course) why people hate Nickelback so vehemently. “Because we’re not hipsters,” he replied. It’s a reasonable answer, but not really accurate — the only thing hipsters unilaterally loathe is other hipsters, so Nickelback’s shorthaired unhipness should theoretically play to their advantage. A better answer as to why people dislike Nickelback is tautological: They hate them because they hate them. Sometimes it’s fun to hate things arbitrarily, and Nickelback has become an acceptable thing to hate.
Klosterman’s answer looks like a cop-out. As I wrote, a very Klosterman-ly piece. And it’s not correct to say that hipsters hate other hipsters. Hipsters hate some other hipsters and like others. Either way, all hipsters are required to hate Nickelback. Perhaps in 20 years hipsters will begin liking Nickelback as the shine of the band - the most annoying quality a band can have, to a hipster – wears off.
The polarization of Nickelback and Creed is a theme that runs deep in America. Here we are talking about Girls while many more people enjoy NASCAR. Jonathan Franzen versus John Gresham. CNN versus right wing talk radio.
The knock on Creed/Nickelback is that they place their instruments and their rock personas before their nuanced lyrics. Their essence is too strong. Sort of like a double dose of Drakkar Noir.
There are a lot of music acts from overt bubble gum pop to music created by women to rap and hip hop which get free passes on this. The fan base isn’t held to a very high standard. But think of the ways in which these two dichotomous groups of music fans – the Creed/Nickelback fan versus the hipster – consumes music. The fans of the latter attend an event. They want to see a rock concert with these specific bands. There is no nuance about it. Compare that to the ideal hipster music experience. Hipster nirvana is being somewhere where music might happen to be playing and discovering the next band that everyone will be talking about. The hipster strategy is not far removed from your typical weekend rummage sale enthusiast. It’s all about value. The Nickelback/Creed fan is seen as purchasing something plastic at retail prices. The hipster believes he or she is purchasing a carved wooden prototype of the same item and at a cheaper price.