10 Songs That’ll Make You (Yes, Even You) Rethink Nickelback

Canadian rock icons Nickelback have maintained a steadfast following since they broke big two decades ago. While they have endeared themselves to their fans with bristling anthems like “Burn It to the Ground” and “Animals,” as well as nostalgic tracks such as “Photograph,” “How You Remind Me,” and “These Days,” the quartet has delved into other lyrical and musical territory.

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We understand the many strong opinions out there about them, so here is a list of 10 Nickelback tracks that will surprise you and perhaps make you see and hear them differently. If you’re already a fan, you’ll just appreciate them more. If you’re not a fan…come on, you know you want to be!

1. Too Bad” (2001)

The second single off their breakthrough album, Silver Side Up, this melancholic tune focuses on coping with parental abandonment; in this case, by a father. The lyrics were inspired by frontman Chad Kroeger’s real-life relationship with his dad, and you can hear the genuine emotion in his voice. The slower, downbeat verses expressing sorrow are contrasted by faster choruses that declare disappointment over what could have been. That emotional dissonance is underscored by what sound like forward and backward guitar solos dueling in the mid-section.

2. Never Again” (2001)

Another single cut from Silver Side Up, this intense rocker details harsh domestic violence as an alcoholic man routinely beats his wife, while their helpless son wishes he could do something and rise up against him. In the end, she gets a gun…and we know it won’t end well. The troubling tune siphons the rage and turbulent emotions felt by the son as he feels powerless to stop the brutality at home.

3. Side of a Bullet” (2005)

This raw, aggro track from the mega-selling All the Right Reasons record was inspired by the murder of Pantera and Damageplan guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott at a club show on December 8, 2004. He was a friend to the band, even soloing on their metallicized cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”. Throughout the song Kroeger rails against God for letting the assassin pull the trigger, but it’s little consolation in the face of a senseless killing by a deranged fan. Drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott allowed Nickelback to incorporate unused guitar bits by his late brother into a 24-second solo break in the song.

4. Just to Get High” (2008)

Sure, there have been a lot of songs about watching a friend grapple with drug abuse. What makes “Just to Get High” click is how the forlorn, ethereal verses—outside observations about a man succumbing to his addictions and committing progressively worse crimes—lead into revved up choruses where his best friend expresses anger and frustration over his choices. There’s a gritty intensity to this track from the Mutt Lange-produced Dark Horse, as it’s inspired by real-life circumstances outside of the band. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a ripping guitar solo.

5. Feed the Machine” (2017)

Nickelback are not a political animal, but the title track to their ninth studio album portrays a leader of dubious morality forcing conformity onto the masses, and how those cogs in his machine feel. The video features a mother and young daughter, among others, who battle with fascist stormtroopers in a futuristic dystopian society. The song is less about politics and more about the cult of personality.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger Wrote for Other Artists]

6. Home” (2017)

One could view this deep cut as a variation on the rock star as absentee partner, or as a cautionary tale about a person unwilling to compromise in their relationship and thus winding up alone. As the lyrics of this subdued electric ballad point out, it’s a literal look-in-the-mirror moment after what sounds like betrayal in the first verse. Relationships are about compromise and being able to fix problems—but only if you’re willing to do the work.

7. The Betrayal (Act I)” (2017)

This is an outlier even on this list. This beautiful instrumental features elegant acoustic guitar from Nickelback’s Ryan Peake, who composes and performs the piece. You can even sense a touch of classic metal influence underneath in the well-orchestrated tableau. It’s a great way to close out the heavy Feed the Machine album and showcases an entirely different side to Peake’s playing. More, please.

8. Rockstar Sea Shanty” (2021)

Having already delivered a tongue-in-cheek look into the “Rockstar” aspirations of ordinary people, the band showcased their sense of humor by teaming up with The Lottery Winners. Initially the British indie-pop group did their own sea shanty take on this famous song, but when it blew up on TikTok the boys from Canada added their own vocals to a full-length version of the tune. (Along with dressing up as fishermen and sailors for Tik Tok.) We didn’t see any of that coming.

9. Standing in the Dark” (2022)

While Kroeger has showcased his alpha front on songs like “Animals” and “Next Contestant,” this poppier track reveals a more sensitive and very vulnerable romantic side than even on some of the band’s ballads. Thank God you found me / Because I’m broken and handing you my heart. The song has a fluid, lilting effect that washes over you and lingers long after it’s done.

10. Steel Still Rusts” (2022)

Kroeger’s ballad from the Get Rollin’ album was inspired by the experiences of their first bodyguard who enlisted in the Marines. He grappled with overseas conflicts and missed key family moments at home. In the song, after dealing with military service in a foreign land and the loss of many friends to war, the protagonist faces disillusionment and disorientation upon returning to civilian life. These are among the most poignant lyrics Kroeger has penned.

Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

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