Ask a person on the street who their most hated music act is, and there’s a good chance the answer will be “Nickelback.” The Canadian post-grunge act is notorious for playing a derivative take on end-of-the-millennium rock, full of clichés and light on substance, heavy on soundalike songs and lyrics like “How did our eyes get so red/ What the hell was on Joey’s head?”
Nickelback may take a lot of flack for being generic and boring, not to mention offensive to women and people who think Pearl Jam’s Ten didn’t really need to be improved upon. But the seemingly permanent backlash against them among a certain type of person—not to mention the staggering-by-current-standards record sales accompanying said disdain—raises a question: How did another band that specializes in cookie-cutter take on an important American genre not only avoid such great backlash, but receive great acclaim? They may have won Album Of The Year at this year’s Grammys for their megaselling Babel, but Mumford & Sons are proving themselves to be the Nickelback of folk.
In 2001—on September 11!—Nickelback released its third album, Silver Side Up, which spawned the monster hit “How You Remind Me.” That ballad topped Billboard‘s year-end Hot 100 for 2002, and it’s easy to see why: The U.S. was desperate for a return to normalcy, and a bland rehashing of the relatively calm ’90s provided some sonic comfort. The production was glossy, sterile, and so heavily compressed that it turned a pop song into an aggressive rock ballad. “How You Remind Me” runs down a lovers’ quarrel, and is filled with references to drinking away the woes amid introspection—well, as much introspection as could come from frontman Chad Kroeger, who admits in the song’s opening line that he “never made it as a wise man.”) Silver Side Up has gone eight times platinum since its release.
But Kroeger is smarter than he gives himself credit. After the success of “How You Remind Me,” he and his band decided it was in their best interest to write it again. A two-year period during which the band changed the lyrics around and moved a chord here and there resulted in “Someday,” from their fourth album The Long Road. While stating that it is the “same song” as its megaselling predecessor may seem exaggerated, intrepid online listeners have provided evidence: Playing both songs at the same time reveals that they perfectly match up. [...]