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I Watched The Nickelback Documentary, And I Just Don’t Get Why People Hate This Band

 Chad Kroeger in Hate To Love: Nickelback
Chad Kroeger in Hate To Love: Nickelback

The guys in Nickelback just seem really nice. They’re Canadian, which I’m sure is a factor. But as you watch the new documentary Hate To Love: Nickelback, it’s nearly impossible to find a reason to dislike these guys. They’re workaholic musicians who constantly write songs and tour for their faithful followers. Lead singer and chief songwriter Chad Kroeger comes off as the group’s “bad boy,” and it’s basically because he still likes to party while the rest of the guys are happily married fathers. The most mean-spirited thing Chad does in the documentary – which world premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival – is get upset when haters drive by and make fun of him for being in Nickelback. If that’s the price of Kroeger’s success, I’d say he’s doing just fine.

Not that Hate To Love is a warts-and-all telling of the Nickelback story. Director Leigh Brooks told the TIFF crowd that he didn’t start off with any intention of doing a Nickelback documentary. He’d been hired to capture some videos of the band for a separate project, but then just kept filming and following the band mates on assorted tours. Six years later, and with the full support of the band, Brooks emerged with an incredibly polite, superficial, and overly kind portrait (sorry, photograph) of a rock outfit that’s managed to hang around since 1995.

There’s a moment when Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake cracks a joke that the band is receiving a lifetime achievement award for “never really leaving.” And that’s true. Nickelback started out in 1995 in Hanna, Alberta. They were a cover band (dubbed Village Idiots) that evolved into a hard rock unit. They contributed one of the most memorable superhero songs of the 2000s. They’ve sold more than 50 million albums. They’ve racked up more than 25 chart-topping singles. And they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

But you probably best know them for a series of viral TikToks using the band’s music or the memes created around Chad Kroeger holding a picture frame.

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Leigh Brooks dubs Nickelback a band that people love to hate. Or hate to love. I’m not sure that either is true. Like the documentary, Nickelback just seem to be… there. Their music is perfectly fine. Some songs are even really good. I knew nothing about Nickelback before watching the documentary, and absolutely nothing I learned surprised me. The band’s journey is straight out of the Rock ‘n Roll playbook. Extensive touring. Borrowing money from their grandma to produce an album. A big break on a label that didn’t quite know how to handle them. And finally, a series of radio hits with “How You Remind Me” and “Hero,” which made them overnight sensations.

But there’s no real drama in Hate To Love: Nickelback, no horrifying skeletons in this band’s closet. If such controversy exists, Leigh Brooks avoided it. There’s passing mention of Chad Kroeger’s two-year marriage to Avril Lavigne, but no specific detail. When the band broke up with original drummer Ryan Vikedal, the documentary spends a decent chunk having Ryan Peake tell the story of going over to Vikedal’s house to apologize, and ensure that they’d remain friends. Again, really nice.

Nickelback may feel like the butt of a few jokes. Blake Shelton pokes fun of them on The Voice, and fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds makes sure that they are showcased in his Deadpool franchise (though he’s really sticking up for them). At the end of the day, Nickelback remains a successful rock band made up of really nice guys, which allows them to have the last laugh.