When Nickelback took to the stage in Detroit Thursday afternoon during the Lions’ Thanksgiving game, they were greeted by a lukewarm mixture of cheering, polite golf clapping and a few jeers. And they were probably relieved because it could have gone worse — much worse.
After the announcement that the Canadian pop-rock band would be performing at Ford Field during halftime, the decision was met with massive outrage among Detroit fans through a “No Nickelback” petition. In the weeks leading up to the game, 55,000 people put their names on the petition, asking the NFL to choose a different halftime act, condemning Nickeback as mainstream, corporate rock.
“Detroit is home to so many great musicians and they chose Nickelback?” the petition read, which was started by a University of Michigan grad student.
What is it about Nickelback that has attracted this viscious criticism and vocal hatred? The sentiment is anything but new: Nickelback has long been cited as “The Band You Love to Hate.” In an age that values all that is indie and underground, perhaps it is the chart-topping success of the band’s mass appeal. Or it might be the non-hardcore sound of a band that claims to play rock music. It could even be the Nickelback fans themselves: stereotyped as unsophisticated in class and music taste.
To the band’s credit, the hatred has not hampered its success. Even its newest album, “Here and Now,” is set for a No. 2 debut on U.S. album charts. Nor has the criticism dampened its upbeat enthusiasm. Band members were in good spirits and even lingered for half an hour after their sound check Wednesday to sign autographs for fans, Mark Elias, the volunteer coordinator for the halftime show, told USA Today.
On top of that, they weren’t even being paid. Nickelback’s Thanksgiving performance was to benefit an education campaign by the United Way, including the band’s own “Nickelback Gives a Quarter Back” pledge, donating 25 cents for each person who volunteers as a tutor.
Nickelback responded to the outrage with humor. When Funny or Die, the brainchild site of Will Ferrell, approached them to make a video making fun of the situation and themselves, the band agreed. It may not have been enough to change minds, but it surely won some points with the pop-culture savvy.
I am not a Nickelback fan, and had I been going to the game, I would have probably been disappointed by the NFL’s decision as well. But I have to admire the members for maintaining their composure onstage Thursday.