Nickelback / Hate To Love Film Review: A Deep Dive Into Fame, Criticism & Triumph

Hate to Love is an autobiographical documentary from Nickelback charting their progress both as a band and as individuals, from where it all started in Hanna, Canada, right up to the present and their Get Rollin’ tour. The film sets the scene with Nickelback’s dominance of the rock and Heavy Metal scene in the 2000s and asks the question, why, with all this fame, were they so hated? Were/are they formulaic? 

To answer the second question, sure, they are, but then again, how many bands aren’t? And with a title like Hate To Love, you just know this issue is going to be visited, revisited and thoroughly dealt with in this film, and it is.

Along with a whole load of other stuff.

And for me as a huge fan of Nickelback, I find the whole Nickelbashing thing a bit strange. But on the flip side, one of the more telling comments from this film is, “If you’re selling 50 million records and everyone hates you, you must be doing something right.”

And while I, for one, don’t need Ryan Reynolds to tell me that Nickelback is “fuckin’ amazing,” it was an especially nice touch right near the film’s beginning.

The film then zeroes in on Nickelback’s genesis. Cue lots of Canadian stock shots and family history at the beginning, which really sets the scene. There are some revealing, and for me, very unknown details about Mike and Chad Kroeger’s relationship and the dynamics between them. 

Without giving too much away, it’s really interesting. It lets you get to know them, really know them, and I learned things I certainly didn’t know anything about.

Ryan Peake talked about when he joined the band, and he really brings out the determination of the early days, the drive to get the crowd to like them. You must have wondered at their sheer drive when there’s actual footage of Nickelback playing to 10-20 people. Who would have thought? 

Really, who would have thought?

Hate To Love: Nickelback
Hate To Love: Nickelback

The interviews with the parents are heart-warming, showing us that typical, universal parent thing, unconditional love. Suitably mentioned also is the bank of Mum and Dad, which, on the face of it, is a potentially risky thing to do, opening them up to accusations of somehow not having worked for their success. 

That, though, would be a mistake, not least because Chad is at pains to assure that all debts were paid. But also, true or not, some of the Nickelback sponsorship loans may not all have been from grade-A lenders, giving our boys more than just a financial risk, and I’ll say no more than that.

While Nickelback’s line-up has been pretty stable over the years, with the exception of a singer who is seen of some seriously grainy early video footage, it’s the drummers that have been the only changes, and those changes have been remarkable in that they were unremarkable. No dramas, no fighting, no hostility. How often does that ever happen?

Then, with the band’s origins nailed, enter Roadrunner Records and the big next step. Here is where I found the band’s thoughts at the time really strange. 

Roadrunner Records was, and still is, a Metal label, and personally, I would have thought it would have been a good, ideal fit. That they sounded different to other bands on the label doesn’t mean they weren’t Metal. 

I mean, let’s face it: What exactly defines or excludes a band from being Heavy Metal? I’m sure we can stand in the pub and argue all night over what exactly makes a band Metal, but anyway, the band themselves felt that they didn’t feel that they fitted in. Personally, I found that bizarre, but that’s how they felt, and I wasn’t there. 

Hate To Love: Nickelback
Hate To Love: Nickelback

The next significant point in the film, and how could it not be, is How You Remind Me. The song gets a lot of dissection, and quite rightly so, as it did the band a lot of favours. 

Notwithstanding the years of work they had put in up to that point, they went from clubs to arenas on the back of one song. Sure, it happens, but not often. And let’s be clear, getting a massive endorsement from the record buying public is exactly what every band and artist is after, bar none. 

The Long Road hardly gets a mention, which is a shame, as I really liked the album, and Someday is absolutely one of my favourite Nickelback songs. But then we get to All The Right Reasons, which really gets the treatment, and with good reason.

It’s hard to overstate just how utterly entertaining Rock Star is, which, of course, is exactly what a band’s job is, so mission accomplished by an absolute country mile on this song. I loved the excerpts from the music video as well, with Billy Gibbons inclusion being a moment of pure genius. 

And more than that, this song, like many of Nickelback’s songs, simply speaks to us, to all of us, because it’s what we all want to be, even if just a little bit, or maybe a big bit. Their appeal is undeniable, and by this point, maybe they were making it seem a bit too easy to be this good.

Hard on the heels of the band’s huge success with All the Right Reasons came the hate. But why? I still don’t understand it, and really, what on earth did they do to deserve it? 

Sell loads of albums? Tour extensively? 

Hate To Love: Nickelback
Hate To Love: Nickelback

And while the band are candid throughout the film about how the sheer volume of vitriol hurt, which is utterly unsurprising, the reality on the ground, mega million album sales and sell out tours told a whole different story, a story that they sure as hell must have been doing something right.

The Nickelhate is treated brilliantly about halfway through the film by a hilarious sketch featuring Spiderman, which I absolutely loved. I have no idea where that came from, but I’m here to tell you that it’s brilliant.

And on the topic of brilliance, just listen to this band’s lyrics once more. Intricate doesn’t even come close. And despite Mike saying that sometimes it’s vacuous, I would respectfully disagree. Yes, sometimes their lyrics might be dumb, but as Mike said in the film, sometimes people like to hear that. 

And seriously, I think we can all say that we’ve heard and liked plenty of cool Metal songs that have less than Oxbridge-level lyrics in them, and they are no worse because of it. This reminds me that whatever Nickelback have ever done that they were criticised for, so has every other band. When you think of it that way, it made the hate they faced all the more baffling. 

The whole film is very, very personal and very revealing. In one sense, it isn’t Nickelback, it’s Chad, Mike, Ryan, the drummers. It’s them, and the one thing that unites them, that is Nickelback. 

And that’s what makes this film special, personal, intimate, authentic and genuine.

This film is minus a narrator, where almost all of the speaking is by the band themselves, and what struck me was that as much as it’s possible for a world class band, they’re actually ordinary people. And by that I mean that they’re fragile, vulnerable, unsure, just like you and me.

And if you want a lesson in mortality, in life coming at you from nowhere, that none of us remain Peter Pan young forever, there’s the story about Mike’s stroke. Mike Kroeger had a stroke? Who knew? I certainly wasn’t expecting that. 

Just as I wasn’t expecting to hear that Chad lost his voice and the band had to cancel concerts as a result and how it all raised real concerns about the band’s existence. And on the same topic, there were also Daniel’s health issues, which really lifted the lid on their physical fragility. 

But it also really brought home their sense of family, of belonging.

Hate To Love: Nickelback
Hate To Love: Nickelback

Another theme that’s absolutely front and centre is Chad being the band’s leader, the captain of the enterprise. Sure, Nickelback are not the first band to have a boss. You might even say it’s essential, but Chad really takes his shit seriously. You get the sense that if he could, he would solve all of the band’s problems himself, shoulder all of their burdens, just to keep them all together. 

Chad’s focus is also very apparent. The band is his life, and again, maybe that also is needed. But what’s touching is that the rest of the band acknowledges this and says that they worry about Chad because of it. A real musketeer spirit. 

Tellingly, Ryan says Nickelback isn’t the only thing in his life, but he doesn’t think that’s the case for Chad. I’m also not sure I’d ever want to get on the wrong side of Chad. Believe me, the things he’s done, he’s definitely badass.

And for me, as a Brit, I’m definitely liking the Birmingham footage. All due respect to that city’s musical heritage, but I gotta say, in the film, Nickelback make the place look really cool. Not only that but you’ll see it right here in this film, Nickelback quote Spinal Tap! Surely, all is now forgiven.

Then, suddenly, and how did that happen, Nickelback become elder statesmen within the world of rock music. Young one day, middle aged the next. I know exactly how that feels, and now Nickelback know how that feels. And I bet like me, they’re just as bewildered by the whole thing.

As the film progresses, the curve balls keep coming. Who on earth ever thought they’d see and hear a pirate version of Rock Star? Well, it happens right here, proving that sometimes, there really are moments when you can believe that your life is complete.

Towards the end of the film, there’s footage of the band making a very emotional return to Hanna. With a revisit to the lyrics of Photograph, I found it impossible to keep a dry eye. I was strongly reminded of another song that made a big impact on me: A Long Way From Home by Thunder.

And really, really, who knew that Nickelback would turn up at their home town and play a surprise gig that no one knew was coming? That’s amazing, that’s special, that’s real.

This film, then, is Nickelback telling an intimate story in their words, with their music. It’s very much a self-story. There’s no narrator, no external commentary, just them.

Chad’s final message is that he only hopes he’s made someone’s day just a little bit better. 

Chad, mate, mission so accomplished. 

I get it. One hundred per cent. And this May, I’ve already got my ticket. We’ll see you at the show.

Hate To Love - This film is Nickelback telling an intimate story in their words, with their music.
Hate To Love – This film is Nickelback telling an intimate story in their words, with their music.

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