Big-Selling Artists And The Critics Who Despise Them

The AP examines the phenomenon of “critic-proof” bands: those that are drawn and quartered by music writers and “cool kids” alike (hitting close to home?), yet go on to sell millions of records and play to sold out arenas. Call it “The Nickelback Effect.”

Yet these acts have sold millions upon millions of albums. So are the critics wrong? Do music buyers have bad taste? Is this karmic payback to all the haters?

“There are some bands that, let’s face it, are critic-proof,” said Nathan Brackett, a senior editor at Rolling Stone. “Just like there are some movies that are critic-proof. Nobody is really reading the reviews for `Norbit,’ you know? And nobody’s reading Nickelback reviews either.”

That might be a good thing. Nickelback’s “All the Right Reasons,” which debuted at No. 1 on the charts in the fall of 2005 and was still number 16 this week, was called “hard-rock ridiculousness” by The New York Times and “unspeakably awful” by Allmusic.com. Even the late Nirvana frontman and grunge icon Kurt Cobain would disapprove, suggested Rolling Stone, which called the disc “so depressing, you’re almost glad Kurt’s not around to hear it.”

So who’s buying? Ladies, a Blender editor says it’s all your fault.

Post-grunge outfits like Nickelback and Hinder continue to be popular ? or wreak havoc, whatever your opinion ? in part because they appeal to the estrogen set, said Craig Marks, editor in chief of Blender magazine. A “slightly hipper band” will sell more albums to guys than girls, he said.

When “teenage girls or tween girls like an artist, that’s often a sign that … the artist isn’t cool,” said Marks, who also gives Spears as an example. “You know, `My little sister likes them.'”

Add to that the geographical bias of insular, coast-based music writers, and you have yourself a self-perpetuating circle of “cool.”

Often, bands that are popular in places like Wisconsin get dissed by snobs on the coasts. “There’s a real danger with … writers being in their kind of music-critic clique, you know, in either New York or L.A. or San Francisco, and kind of ignoring these bands just because all the critics they know and all the kind of so-called cool kids are ignoring these bands,” Brackett said.

He points out that classic acts like Led Zeppelin, the Doors and
Billy Joel were at first ignored by critics. Then again, he said, “there are a lot of times when music critics are right.”

Well we weren’t really writing (or alive) when those particular acts launched their debuts, but we invite you to set the record straight; which acts in recent memory proved the critics and bloggers wrong? But we aren’t done with The Nickelback Effect just yet; to the insufferable post-grunge pretenders, the article adds Hinder, Black Eyed Peas, and Britney Shears to their list of slam-proof record sellers. Who else fits the bill?

Tags: Nickelback