Nickelback’s latest single is called “Burn It to the Ground.” But the Canadian rockers have spent the past 10 months or so burning up — the charts and box offices — and scorching arenas around the world.
The quartet’s sixth album, “Dark Horse,” has gone double platinum in the U.S. since its November release. The first single, “Gotta Be Somebody,” hit No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while “Something in Your Mouth” topped the magazine’s Mainstream Rock survey.
And its shows for the first half of 2009 grossed more than $21 million in ticket sales.
This level of success is nothing new for Nickelback, of course. Since it began releasing albums in 1998, the group has sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and it’s U.S. sales figures are second only to The Beatles for a foreign act. But its four members — who did, after all, name the new album “Dark Horse” — are adamant that they don’t take all of this for granted.
“I honestly think that you have to keep winning your own fans with not just every album, but every song that you release,” says frontman Chad Kroeger, who founded Nickelback during 1995 in Hanna, Alberta. “If someone has just two good songs on an album, I would call that album a failure; those songs could be great, but as an album overall I think, ‘Why didn’t they write more songs that I like?’
“You just really have to keep that initial hunger that made some of your first songs your best songs and not lose that spirit.”
And his brother, bassist Mike Kroeger, says that standard is not established just by sales figures or record company expectations. “It’s self-imposed pressure from before we started selling records,” he explains. “It’s self-imposed pressure to do your best work.”
There’s certainly no argument that Nickelback has put that best foot forward for more than a decade now. Since its second album, “The State,” came out in 2000, it’s sold platinum or better on every release, with 2005’s “All the Right Reasons” rolling in at seven-times platinum after spending 110 consecutive weeks in the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 chart.
Then there’s the litany of songs that have kept Nickelback a fixture on a variety of radio formats, from rock to pop — Adult Contemporary — a list that includes “How You Remind Me,” “Someday,” “Photograph,” “Far Away,” “Too Bad” and “Rockstar.”
“Chad Kroeger, he’s got that thing about him; he knows what’s a good song and what’s not,” notes Jared Weeks of Saving Abel, the Mississippi band that’s been opening for Nickelback for most of its current tour. “Everybody knows that anything he puts out, people are going to be singing along to it in a week. That’s very cool.”
Is there a secret? “Well, I’m a Nickelback fan,” Kroeger, 34, says, “so I’m a pretty good judge of what a Nickelback fan’s going to like. I think I have the same taste as Nickelback fans, so if I like it and I dig it, I can be kind of confident the average Nickelback fan is going to enjoy it the same way.
“I think there’s a conception about the band that we just write these songs and construct them and they’re designed to force you to sing them while you sleep,” he adds with a laugh. “You can’t be that deliberate about it, really. That’s just trying to make the song the best you can be.”
There’s also, he notes, no such thing as one kind of Nickelback song, as the group has scored with hard rockers and ballads alike.
“We’re a rock band; that’s definitely part of it,” says guitarist Ryan Peake. “But we do like to write stuff that’s melodic and maybe a little more mellow.
“It’s nice to have both, and it’s nice to have both accepted by the fan base. We don’t like being stuck in one place, so it’s nice our fans actually accept what we’re doing. We feel we can write almost anything.”
Where Nickelback hasn’t gained widespread acceptance, however, is with critics. In those quarters, the band’s music is usually dismissed as lowest common denominator rock; some acknowledge its craft, but most consider it a style-over-substance situation.
Chad Kroeger says he and his bandmates “used to pay a little attention to that” early in the group’s career, but they’ve since resigned themselves to the fact that they’re “never gonna be critics’ darlings” — and only have to look out at a house full of fans to assuage themselves.
“I think even (the critics) have realized that they cannot convince anybody else to hate this band as much as they do,” Kroeger says, “because Nickelback has lots of fans, and they’re fans who buy our records and they go and watch us play live.
“And if you’re a member of Nickelback, you’re pretty happy with that. Our fans are great to us, and that’s better than anything the critics think, you know?”
Nickelback, Hinder, Papa Roach and Saving Abel perform at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 11-12) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $69.50 and $89.50 pavilion, $35 lawn with a $99 lawn four-pack. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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