Nickelback is well aware of how the public perceives them. “When it comes down to all the crap that we get, and we do get more than any band out there—I don’t know if anyone would ever contest that,” lead singer Chad Kroeger says halfway through Hate to Love: Nickelback, and he’s absolutely right. Whether or not they deserve the hate, Nickelback has been a punching musical bag for years, after their massive success in the early 2000s, leading to rock-radio dominance with songs like “How You Remind Me,” “Photograph,” and “Rockstar.” With the rise of social media dovetailing into the peak of their success, Nickelback became as much of a meme and an easy joke as one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century. As Nickelback’s Ryan Peake says, “nobody picks up a guitar to be in the most hated band in the world.”

Hate to Love: Nickelback, from director Leigh Brooks, however, probably isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about the Canadian rock band. If anything, the mentality in Hate to Love around Nickelback’s music generally boils down to “not everyone loves it, but the people who do really do,” and attempts to equate popularity to quality. Hate to Love is primarily a documentary for people who are already susceptible to want to know more about Nickelback—which, as the doc states, might be a dwindling number. Yet while Hate to Love: Nickelback might not make the viewer care about Nickelback the band, it does do a lovely job of making us care about these individual members and the family dynamic that Nickelback does have.

‘Hate to Love’ Doesn’t Do Enough to Investigate Nickelback

Brooks’ documentary follows the story of Nickelback, starting their early days in Hanna, Alberta, Canada, hustling to make their names known, to immediately being seen as outsiders as a rock band on a predominately metal label. But once Nickelback releases the song “How You Remind Me,” their freight train of success doesn’t slow down, as they soon have three songs in the top 10 and thus begins the journey of the remarkably popular band that no one seems willing to accept they like.

Nickelback’s rise to the top is relatively easy—at least the way Brooks depicts it—as once their name gets to the public, there’s no stopping the four Canadians. Thankfully, Brooks plays out their journey as a band fairly quickly, then focusing on the uprising against the band, and the band as a unit itself. Unfortunately, Nickelback’s discussion of how the world sees the band is fairly straightforward, as they basically have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like the same thing, with Brooks continuously reminding us that they might not be the most loved band, but they sure as hell are popular. This is a point that Hate to Love: Nickelback posits several times, including showing a clip from Once Upon a Deadpool, where Ryan Reynolds’ superhero has an entire monologue about Nickelback’s accomplishments.

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It’s sort of a shame that in dissecting the cultural response to Nickelback, Brooks only seems interested in Nickelback’s opinion and using archival footage of comments about Nickelback. This exploration of Nickelback would’ve been far more engrossing if it included outside opinions, potentially other artists who have toured with Nickelback, or even music journalists and historians who could contextualize this type of dissension between popularity and critical appreciation. Instead, the deepest insight we gain is a metaphor Kroeger makes about spaghetti, in which he states that he knows he makes great spaghetti, but it’s okay if other people don’t like it—he knows that it’s good.

‘Hate to Love’ Makes You Care About the Members of Nickelback

TIFF Toronto International Film Festival 2023
Image via TIFF

But where Hate to Love: Nickelback does succeed is when it looks at this band as a family, and not as musicians—particularly as it looks at each member’s struggles over their 20+ years together. For example, when the newest member of the band, drummer Daniel Adair, had trouble drumming at the same level of quality that he was known for, instead of accepting his resignation from the band, Kroeger refused and was determined to get him whatever help he needed to get his situation figured out. As we see the individual difficulties for these members, it’s how this group unites and helps each other that really stands out in Hate to Love. Brooks’ handling of the band isn’t going to convert Nickelback naysayers, but it’s hard to not watch this doc and not walk away admiring who they are.

Surprisingly, it’s Kroeger who receives the least amount of attention here, and while he does participate in the doc, it’s the other three members of the band who are the priority. In fact, most of what we learn about Kroeger comes from other family and friends discussing how he’s handled being the face of a band that isn’t well-regarded, his party behavior, his dedication as a songwriter, and his ability to talk his way out of pretty much anything.

As that face of the band, Hate to Love could’ve used more of Kroeger, as some of the best insights about the band understandably come from Nickelback’s leader. Kroeger’s insights about Nickelback are concise and intriguing, as he’s clearly dealt with the public’s view of the band and him, including the daunting magnifying glass he was put under after marrying Avril Lavigne. The interviews with Kroger are few and far between, and Hate to Love could’ve used a bit more of Nickelback’s lead presenting his outlook on the past few decades of the band’s evolution.

About halfway through Hate to Love: Nickelback, the band discusses some of their dumber lyrics in their sillier songs, calling it “vacuous, dumb shit,” and that “sometimes people want to hear that.” As a look at this maligned band, Brooks has basically given fans what they want: an assessment of the band that highlights why people should like them, as opposed to digging too deep into the criticisms and the band’s opinions, other than that people will like what they like, and that’s all there is to it. By the end of Hate to Love: Nickelback, it’ll be hard to hate these four guys, and in some ways, that’s sort of the point—putting a human face on a band that is often seen as little more than a meme. Hate to Love is a softball of a documentary—which isn’t a terrible thing—but this is also how you remind me of what this really could’ve been.

Rating: C+

The Big Picture

  • Hate to Love: Nickelback doesn’t delve deep into the cultural response to the band, focusing mainly on Nickelback’s own opinions and comments about themselves.
  • The documentary highlights the struggles and unity of the band members, showcasing their dedication to each other and their willingness to support one another through difficult times.
  • While the film may not change anyone’s negative opinion of Nickelback, it humanizes the band and challenges the perception that they are simply a meme, leaving viewers with a newfound admiration for the individuals behind the music.

Hate to Love: Nickelback premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

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