"Nobody picks up a guitar to be the most hated band in the world." Nickelback: Hate To Love isn't likely to win over the haters, but does shine a light on why you should never bet against one of rock's most surprising underdogs

Our take on Nickelback's interesting - if hardly explosive - new documentary

Nickelback live
(Image: © Press/Nickelback Hate To Love)

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Depending on who you ask, Nickelback are either the biggest punchline in rock, or one of the genre's most criminally misjudged bands. Over 20 years on from bursting into the big leagues with Silver Side Up and inescapable mega-single How You Remind Me, new documentary Nickelback: Hate To Love explores not only how the band became so massive, but why there was so much vitriol pointed towards them in the first place. 

But with direct involvement and endorsement from Nickelback themselves, there's no denying that Hate To Love is fluffy at best when it comes to assessing the merits of the band's output. But equally, the documentary isn't necessarily designed to lay out an argument against the vitriol so much as offer an overview of their story that might just challenge a few preconceived notions. 

Clips of figures ranging from comedian Brian Posehn to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong - himself no stranger to accusations of selling out - making fun of the band show just how much anti-Nickelback sentiment pervaded into popular culture, while YouTube clips and memes flesh out how it changed as technology developed and social media took over. 

To their credit, when the band are talking about their personal response to the backlash, they lend a sense that they were taking their stones with good humour.
"Complaints about Nickelback aren't unusual," admits bassist Mike Kroeger. "Their songs are formulaic... But sometimes I think people want to hear vacuous, dumb shit."

 "I play Nickelback songs to Nickelback fans. They want to hear Nickelback songs and I want to sing them," admits vocalist Chad Kroeger. "I don't have to go and try to win over somebody who doesn't like my band. That sounds like some very strange form of torture - for both of us."

But amidst this optimism comes some reminders that discourse - whether online or in media - has its effects. Band members admit the levels of hate directed at them were particularly difficult for Chad, who for all intents and purposes was the face of the group and would sometimes be heckled in the street. More troublingly, it is revealed that the band's children were subject to bullying in school as a result of the rhetoric too. "Everybody hated the band, so everyone hated us," explains Mike's son Dawson. 

At the same time, Hate To Love isn't trying to turn itself into a "woe is us" sympathy piece. If anything, it plays out like a Hollywood perfect rags-to-riches narrative; a bunch of music-loving delinquents from a backwoods Canadian town - Chad admitting to troubles with the law including a stint in juvenile detention for breaking and entering his school - becoming one of the best-selling rock acts of the new millennium. 

The early days are treating with a sense of tough-it-out workmanship, the band touring in a run-down van and plunging themselves into debt as they took loans from friends and to pursue their dreams, literally driving around dropping promos to record stores and DJs. 

The decision to sign with Roadrunner Records is still treated with a level of surprise even 25 years on. Both by the band themselves, guitarist Ryan Peake admitting "joining a metal label was strange", and by industry professionals, former Roadrunner A&R rep Monte Conner admitting that in 1999 the label's biggest signing was Slipknot and he "doesn't think Slipknot loved the fact Nickelback came in". 

Equally, Conner is effusive about what signing Nickelback actually meant to Roadrunner in the long-run. "Metal fans don't realise what a great thing Nickelback was for them," he explains. "They don't understand that Nickelback's success helped keep the lights on and keep Roadrunner, Roadrunner."

The efforts pay off when the band release Silver Side Up in 2001 and single How You Remind Me reaches an almost unprecedented level of ubiquity - a statistic claims that at one point, the single would start playing every 3.2 minutes in the US. 

There are wobbles as the band recount some disappointment around the band's second record The Long Road failing to match its predecessor's commercial success and the departure of drummer Ryan Vikedal, but ultimately they come out on top with 2005's All The Right Reasons turning them into one of rock's best-selling acts. 

Along the way we get interviews with fans that flesh out what Nickelback mean to them, as well as some endorsements from the likes of Billy Corgan and Ryan Reynolds, including a clip of Reynolds going off against the Nickelback hate for a scene in the Deadpool sequel. 

Early on, guitarist Ryan Peake admits that "nobody picks up a guitar to be the most hated band in the world". Hate To Love certainly shows both sides of the coin, ending on a high note as Nickelback find some viral success on TikTok thanks to a sea shanty-style cover of Rockstar, with some distance capturing the "wait, Nickelback are actually good!" sentiment that has trickled into discourse in recent years. 

It's not likely to change the minds of any haters, but for anyone interested in how a band from the backwoods of Canada became one of rock's best-selling acts, Nickelback: Hate To Love is a good reminder of just how many years and how much work went into turning the band into a breakout success. 

And if it does convert a few new fans? All the better: in a rock and metal landscape where the discussion around future headliners has heated up with bands like Ghost, Sleep Token and Bring Me The Horizon stepping up, Nickelback have quietly been waiting in the wings all along.

Nickelback: Hate To Love is out in cinemas on March 27 and 30. The band are on tour from April 6 - visit their official website for the full list of dates.

Nickelback: Hate To Love poster

(Image credit: Press/Nickelback Hate To Love)
Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.