About a week ago I saw a stupid headline somewhere on the Internet.
Irrelevant pop star Avril Lavigne was pretty ticked at millennial billionaire playboy and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Why? Because Mark was “bullying” her poor ex-husband’s band in a somewhat comical video advertising his home AI system:
(the actual dig comes in at around 1:10 in the video).
First of all, say what you will about Zuckerberg and his silly dad jokes – smart home AI is a cool technology with a ton of potential. But that’s not my point today.
So the Zuck has an opinion on Nickelback – is that really bullying? Can he not freely express that he thinks the band has no good songs without getting some kind of anti-bullying backlash? Tough to say, right?
So it really begs the question: Does Nickelback deserve the hate?
To answer this question, I decided to consult an expert.
Ryan McDonnell studies human psychology, reads a lot, and is a dear friend of mine. A little over a week ago, he was driving home from the gym when he was struck with the notion that he wanted to do something “novel.”
He wanted that something to come from outside of him that would shake him out of his comfort zone.
So he took a chance, and posted this status on Facebook:
Cool idea, right? By his own proclamation, Ryan listens to an enormous amount of music on a daily basis, so this was the perfect medium in which to make a novel change.
“Ideally I wanted to immerse myself in an interesting, musically unique band that would give me different styles and intricacies I could trace throughout their discography,” Ryan told me.
Sounds like a potentially fulfilling and fruitful experience.
“But fate had other plans,” he said, a week after he brought his idea to fruition.
The band his friends chose? Nickelback.
For those living under a rock, Nickelback has become a meme in the age of the Internet. They’re a near-universally hated post-grunge mainstream pop-rock group (whatever that means) fronted by Avril Lavigne’s now-ex husband Chad Kroeger, whose vocal style is a sort of gravely melodic yelling.
Let’s be fair, though: the band has won countless awards and landed over a dozen billboard smash hits. Some people really like these guys.
But Ryan wasn’t thrilled.
Despite that, he’s a man of his word, and when a comment for Nickelback got the most likes on his status, he dedicated a week of his life to the band.
“I usually listen to music when I’m wasting time on social media, eating breakfast, playing video games, and doing yoga. So fairly often,” Ryan told me, especially considering the amount of free time he has currently while on break from his university studies.
The challenge lasted from December 27th, 2016 til midnight this morning, January 3rd 2017. During that time, Ryan drove himself to near madness.
“Yeah, overall it was pretty maddening. I could not distinguish any kind of musical growth or decline in the chronology of their albums,” said McDonnell. “Starting with their 2001 album Silver Side Up until now all of their music becomes indistinguishably homogenous DouchebagCore.”
So how did this challenge work? Couldn’t Ryan just avoid music altogether? How does one force themself to consume music that they hate?
“It got harder and harder over time,” says McDonnell.
“I wasn’t expecting much from them to begin with, but as I listened I started to realize that it wasn’t going to get any better. My strategy was to listen to them whenever I was involved in an activity that I would usually play music during.
I eventually limited myself to one album a day to protect my sanity.”
And, ultimately, Ryan’s sanity remained intact. He actually came out on the other side of the challenge unchanged in any significant way.
“As time went on I started to get irritated because of my lack of musical options. I was straight up Jonesing for some Busdriver,” said McDonnell, whose music taste range from the ska stylings of Streetlight Manifesto to alt-rock Weezer to the more avant-garde hip hop like that of the aforementioned Busdriver, and everywhere in between.
But despite the irritation, his mood was not negatively impacted by the brief week of nonstop Nickelback. And even after hating the outcome of this initial challenge, he is not opposed to revisiting it.
“I’m optimistic about the idea of doing this again, but I’d have to set some new parameters to ensure that this tragedy doesn’t repeat itself.”
So did Ryan enjoy any aspect of this challenge? Surely there must have been at least one song he didn’t hate?
“I liked ‘Breathe’ because it had a neat guitar riff and Kroeger wasn’t singing about getting drunk or making thinly veiled references to oral sex. It sounds like Pearl Jam could’ve written it,” he said of the one good Nickelback song he discovered across 8 studio albums.
“My least favorite was ‘Something in Your Mouth,'” he said.
“Take a guess about what that one’s about.
Throughout the week I couldn’t stop from thinking about how Ms. Lavigne feels about the lyrical content of their music.”
When I told Ryan about the headline I had seen regarding bullying, he had only this to say:
“If that’s the case, then it seems like it’s only right that Chad Kroeger gives me his lunch money.”
So, after one week, 8 albums, and utter audio torture, I asked Ryan the all-important question. Does Nickelback deserve the hate?
“This experience taught me that first impressions are sometimes entirely accurate.
And yes, if anything, they deserve more hate.”
There you have it folks. Straight from the experts.