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A Scientific Explanation for Why Everyone Hates Nickelback

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Nickelback is a band that everyone loves to hate. Saying that someone likes the Canadian rockers is a terrible insult, even though the band manages to sell millions of albums around the world. What’s with all the shade? 

One Finnish researcher tried to get to the bottom of why music critics love to hate on Nickelback. Her study in Metal Music Studies, beautifully titled “‘Hypocritical Bullshit Performed Through Gritted Teeth’: Authenticity Discourses in Nickelback’s Album Reviews in Finnish Media,” argues that it’s a matter of authenticity. Critics don’t see Nickelback as genuine. 

Salli Anttonen of the University of Eastern Finland examined reviews from Finnish music media published between 2000 and 2014, finding that in many ways, the band has been stymied by its mainstream popularity.

Critics have attacked Nickelback for being too calculated in their artistic approach, she writes, citing some of the harsher reviews:

"Their songs are ‘optimally safe’, where ‘everything is up to par with the requirements of the genre’, and which create ‘an illusion of hard rock’ (Ojala 2002). The music is described as being ‘fake’ (Riikonen 2012), ‘forced’ (Hilden 2011) and ‘performed through gritted teeth’ (Riikonen 2012). Van der San (2011) claims that Nickelback is ‘calculatingly hit-focused’; Ojala accuses them of ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ (2003). Overall, the descriptions imply that the songs are not genuine self-expression written willingly, but instead forced and made for commercial reasons."

They’re also a little too similar to beloved bands like Nirvana, and they aren’t perceived as adding anything original to the formula, instead cranking out hits that might be described as grunge-light. “The hope and memory of grunge can be seen to be soiled in the worst kind of way in the hands of bands such as Nickelback, who represent everything grunge was against, not least of all commercialism,” Anttonen writes. The band’s very success undermines its ability to borrow from grunge and metal, because there’s nothing metal about a song your mom listens to on the radio—“horrifying radio rock,” as one critic called Nickelback in 2005. We might accept the mass appeal in a Katy Perry song, but people expect more artistic purity from non-mainstream genres like metal. 

Not to mention, they’re boring. The similarities between Nickelback and older bands makes their music predictable, and as such, bland. No one feels like Nickelback—or its members—are dangerous. When they try to be edgy, they come off as trying too hard. They may sing about drinking hard, but the public doesn’t see Nickelback’s members living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. (One critic blasted them for singing about drinking without ever drinking on stage.) This adds to the band’s image as “fake,” sanitized, and commercialized. 

And maybe, it’s because they appeal to women, a little. One critic’s review lists fans at a Nickelback concert as “panicky little girls, tough guys in print T-shirts and leather jackets bought from supermarkets, sturdy and bald men, and preteens with their parents,” Anttonen summarizes. As another Nickelback scholar has observed, “the teenage girl is the most contemptible fan of all, and the mere suggestion that a band is popular with ‘the girlies’ may suffice to conjure the whiff of artistic failure.” The band’s sentimental lyrics put them squarely in the “girly” camp—which critics dismiss as non-serious (see: Taylor Swift, One Direction, “crazy” female Beatles fans). 

This study is just focused on reviews in the Finnish press, but the anti-Nickelback quips don’t sound much different from any criticism in the U.S. In short, here is why you hate Nickelback, according to Anttonen: 

Nickelback is too much of everything to be enough of something. They follow genre expectations too well, which is seen as empty imitation, but also not well enough, which is read as commercial tactics and as a lack of a stable and sincere identity.

When you look at it that way, it’s hard not to feel bad for Chad Kroeger. 

[h/t Buzzfeed]

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Look Up! The Lyrid Meteor Shower Arrives Saturday Night
Scott Butner, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Scott Butner, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning, but this weekend, look up and you might see several of them. Between 11:59 p.m. on April 21 and dawn on Sunday, April 22, the Lyrid meteor shower will peak over the Northern Hemisphere. Make some time for the celestial show and you'll see a shooting star streaking across the night sky every few minutes. Here is everything you need to know.

WHAT IS THE LYRID METEOR SHOWER?

Every 415.5 years, the comet Thatcher circles the Sun in a highly eccentric orbit shaped almost like a cat's eye. At its farthest from the Sun, it's billions of miles from Pluto; at its nearest, it swings between the Earth and Mars. (The last time it was near the Earth was in 1861, and it won't be that close again until 2280.) That's quite a journey, and more pressingly, quite a variation in temperature. The closer it gets to the Sun, the more debris it sheds. That debris is what you're seeing when you see a meteor shower: dust-sized particles slamming into the Earth's atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. In a competition between the two, the Earth is going to win, and "shooting stars" are the result of energy released as the particles are vaporized.

The comet was spotted on April 4, 1861 by A.E. Thatcher, an amateur skywatcher in New York City, earning him kudos from the noted astronomer Sir John Herschel. Clues to the comet's discovery are in its astronomical designation, C/1861 G1. The "C" means it's a long-period comet with an orbit of more than 200 years; "G" stands for the first half of April, and the "1" indicates it was the first comet discovered in that timeframe.

Sightings of the Lyrid meteor shower—named after Lyra, the constellation it appears to originate from—are much older; the first record dates to 7th-century BCE China.

HOW CAN I SEE IT?

Saturday night marks a first quarter Moon (visually half the Moon), which by midnight will have set below the horizon, so it won't wash out the night sky. That's great news—you can expect to see 20 meteors per hour. You're going to need to get away from local light pollution and find truly dark skies, and to completely avoid smartphones, flashlights, car headlights, or dome lights. The goal is to let your eyes adjust totally to the darkness: Find your viewing area, lay out your blanket, lay down, look up, and wait. In an hour, you'll be able to see the night sky with great—and if you've never done this before, surprising—clarity. Don't touch the smartphone or you'll undo all your hard ocular work.

Where is the nearest dark sky to where you live? You can find out on the Dark Site Finder map. And because the shower peaks on a Saturday night, your local astronomy club is very likely going to have an event to celebrate the Lyrids. Looking for a local club? Sky & Telescope has you covered.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON UP THERE?

You don't need a telescope to see a meteor shower, but if you bring one, aim it south to find Jupiter. It's the bright, unblinking spot in the sky. With a telescope, you should be able to make out its stripes. Those five stars surrounding it are the constellation Libra. You'll notice also four tiny points of light nearby. Those are the Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. When Galileo discovered those moons in 1610, he was able to prove the Copernican model of heliocentricity: that the Earth goes around the Sun.

THERE'S BAD WEATHER HERE! WHAT DO I DO?

First: Don't panic. The shower peaks on the early morning of the 22nd. But it doesn't end that day. You can try again on the 23rd and 24th, though the numbers of meteors will likely diminish. The Lyrids will be back next year, and the year after, and so on. But if you are eager for another show, on May 6, the Eta Aquariids will be at their strongest. The night sky always delivers.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
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iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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