Whatever happened to all those rock bands that kinda sounded like Nickelback but weren't Nickelback?
Remember when rock and roll ruled the airwaves?
I'm not talking about The Rolling Stones or Motley Crue. I'm talking about that clean-cut modern rock from the beginning of the 2000s, when every rock band that popped up appeared to be just carbon copies of Nickelback. Rock had been heading in a more commercial direction for a long time, but 2005's All the Right Reasons was a special kind of basic and propelled the genre into a bottomless pit it never really crawled out from.
Panned by critics nationwide, rock and roll traditionalists used All the Right Reasons to lament the death of their favorite genre, but regardless, the project went 7x platinum in Canada, and dominated American radio for the entire year with songs like "Rockstar" and "Photograph." The album was one of the best selling projects of 2015, and equally stale acts followed in Nickelback's steps, from Lifehouse and Rob Thomas to Trapt and a genuinely awful band called Silvertide.
But when Nickelback announced that they'd be releasing new music this past Friday (they ended up releasing a horrendous cover of The Charlie Daniel's Band's "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"), the internet roasted them non-stop, showing that perhaps we have turned a corner as a society and that the world's most loved and hated band is no more than a meme in 2020.
Still, whatever happened to those bands that followed Nickelback's lead? Sure, they all kind of sucked, but a lot of them were actually better than the false prophet they blindly followed. Here are a few of those bands and what they're doing now.
Remember when Chris Daughtry was the most talked-about thing in music thanks to his surprise elimination from 2006's American Idol? He was a fan favorite, lauded for his belting technique and surprisingly versatile range. Within hours of his dismissal from American Idol, he was offered a frontman spot in the then-decently-relevant rock band Fuel. But Daughtry said nay and charted his own path. He soon formed his own band, and 2006's Daughtry became one of the most talked-about and fastest-selling rock albums in recent memory.
The project's lead single "It's Not Over" went platinum, pillaged every radio station, and snagged two Grammy nominations for "Best Rock Song" and "Best Rock Performance Given by a Duo or Group." The album itself was one of 2006's highest-selling efforts, but the critical response was mixed. Panned as "commercial" and "generic," Ken Barnes of USA Today referred to them as "FuelNickelStaindback," a fair assessment in hindsight. Remember that weird song they did about serial child abductors?
The band's sophomore effort Leave This Town would be even more popular, with their rock-ballad "Life After You," (a song Daughtry wrote with Chad Kroeger) once again dominating the charts and defining their legacy.
But slowly the band's popularity would disintegrate. Their third effort Break The Spell was their lowest charting album to date (despite being, actually, one of their best releases), and so their follow-up strove to be an album of pure pop-rock ballads to reignite their "Life After You" fanfare. 2013's Baptized, as a result, was the band's most cringe-worthy effort, with horrendous tracks like "Battleships" and "Waiting For Superman" forever sealing their fate as a corny, dated rock act.
As corny as they were, they're still better than Nickelback, because that Daughtry sure can sing.
3 Doors Down
Another vanilla rock effort of the early-aughts, the band's 2000 debut The Better Life remains their best selling record. It was one of 2000's best selling efforts and was certified 6x platinum in the United States. That's because "Kryptonite" was unlike anything they'd ever released before or ever would again. Featuring a splash of lo-fi, some hazy psychedelia on the vocals, and a driving chorus, the track remains a solid rock song.
But let's be honest, chances are that casual listeners knew that "Kryptonite" wasn't as prolific as their cheesy magnum opus "Here Without You." Released on their otherwise unmemorable sophomore effort Away From the Sun, the rock ballad represented a Nickelback-like shift the New York quartet would never bounce back from. Away From the Sun was significantly cleaner and more commercial than its predecessor, and "Here Without You" would become the perfect song to document the suppressed emotions of the early aughts.
Lyrics like "I'm here without you baby, but you're still with me in my dreams, and tonight girl, it's only you and me," would cause the group to be satirized for years to come. The group is still making music (they just released their sixth album back in 2016), but they have since dissolved into a watered-down rock act with nothing new to say.
With that said, "Kryptonite" very much still slaps, which I can't say for most of Nickelback's discography.
With a splash of Post-Grunge angst, Staind pretty much equated to a Nickelback with darker eyeliner.
Formed in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1995, the group's seven albums dabbled in nu-metal and grunge without ever losing that clean-cut commercial sound. "It's Been Awhile," and "Outside," the softest tracks off their 5x platinum sophomore album Break The Cycle, remain their most popular singles and transformed the band from a potential metal act into angsty post-grunge balladeers.
"So Far Away," another rock ballad, was by far the most popular single from the band's fourth (and surprisingly heavy) record, 14 Shades of Grey; and Chapter V, the band's most pop-focused, commercially accessible record, spawned three moderately successful singles, two of which were also ballads. While the band's mainstream status slowly started to fade after Chapter V's success, the group actually made some of their best music once the spotlight drifted away.
2008's Illusion of Progress was critically admired for its versatility as it incorporated blues, country, and fresh optimism. "Most of all, the music packs as much a punch as ever–and more variety," wrote The Boston Globe. "Staind sometimes departs from its rock-metal power ballads for tunes that suggest Pink Floyd...and even Brit band Oasis."
The band's final self-titled album came on the eve of an awkward break-up, but the record was obsessed with snapping necks, and in turn was the band's heaviest record to date, devoid of any cheesy ballads, and indicative of the superb metal band they could have been had fame not boxed them in.
With all that said, Aaron Lewis, who is now killing it as a country singer, was always a far better songwriter than Chad Kroeger. Traversing topics like mental illness, addiction, fatherhood, and finding one's self, Staind covered topics far darker than anything the suppressed 2000s was willing to discuss. Cheesy ballads aside, deep down the quartet always knew how to truly rock.
Theory of a Deadman
It's impossible to speak on Nickelback's legacy without talking about TOAD. As the first band to sign with Chad Kroeger's label 604 Records, Theory of a Deadman emerged with a self-titled debut that sounded so much like Nickelback that people actually thought it was a Chad Kroeger's side project. It might as well have been, 6 out of the 10 songs on TOADS debut were penned by Kroeger himself, and frontman Tyler Connolly had just as gruff a vocal style. "If we do, we do," Connolly told The Oklahoman when asked if he thinks his band sounds like Nickelback.
For their sophomore effort, the band sought to quell any comparisons to their label head, and for Gasoline they collaborated with Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde in the hopes of distinguishing themselves and creating a conceptual record that "would involve several guest players of Wylde's stature." But after the musicians had been assembled, the label "footed the bill," hoping the sessions would create a "batch of new songs." So TOAD headed back to the drawing board.
Still, Gasoline was more multifaceted than its predecessor and incorporated blues and country along with its post-grunge commercial sound, but the Nickelback comparisons remained. So for their third, and heaviest, record, TOAD creatively pushed themselves and created some memorable moments as a result.
"By the Way," which actually featured backing vocals from Chris Daughtry, was surprisingly heavy and satisfying, but ballads like "All or Nothing" and "Not Meant to Be" still reeked of Nickelback's cheesy ethos. But then came "Hate My Life," a disgruntled track about a blue collared grunt who hates, well, pretty much everything. The song was kitschy, but fun in a gross, misogynistic kind of way. The single was moderately successful, and the band had latched on to their niche.
Their fourth effort, "The Truth Is…" leaned fully into TOAD's new aesthetic of being the soundtrack to angry white trash. The album's lead single "Lowlife" is practically "Hate My Life" part 2, and the project's title track is an ode to crazy ex-girlfriends who lie about everything, driven solely by a quirky ukulele. Of course, making white trash music means you were inevitably going to be offensive:"I like her so much better when she's down on her knees," Connolly croons on "B*tch Came Back." "'Cause when she's in my face that's when I'm starting to see / That all my friends are laughing thinking that we be wrong / Well she's so f*cking stupid that she's singing along."
Of course, the vibe behind The Truth Is… never had any true staying power considering how derogatory it was, and it faded into obscurity as quickly as it emerged. So TOAD returned to alt-metal in 2014 and released Savages, their best and heaviest work. But the damage had already been done, and they still felt and sounded like a dated rock act of yesteryear. So they went pop with 2017's Wake Up Call and have since continued down that path to make more inspiring tunes.
"I think the #MeToo movement is so large and powerful," Connolly told Popdust in an exclusive interview, "and it's fantastic that women are gaining strength and [fighting] for equality. Being an all-male band, I think for us to support that is what we're looking to do." For that sentiment alone, they remain exponentially better than the band that birthed them.
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