Morally Reprehensible

The other day, after I dropped Neptune off at preschool, I decided to go grocery shopping. I learned that 9:30AM is a very strange time to go grocery shopping, and nobody really goes shopping that early in the morning. I don’t know if it was due to the lack of other shoppers and similar ambient distractions, but the top 40 music they were piping in really caught my attention. Specifically the morally reprehensible lyrics to Nickleback’s “Rock Star.” It goes a little something like this:

I’m through with standing in line
to the clubs I’ll never get in
It’s like the bottom of the ninth
and I’m never gonna win
This life hasn’t turned out
quite the way I want it to be

(tell me what you want)

I want a brand new house
on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
for ten plus me

(yeah, so what you need)

I’ll need a, a credit card that’s got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet

(Been there done that)

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between cher and
James Dean is fine for me

(So how you gonna do it?)

I’m gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I’d even cut my hair and change my name

‘Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Livin’ in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We’ll all stay skinny cause we just won’t eat
And we’ll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger’s
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
with her bleach blonde hair
and well..
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free

(I’ll have the quesadilla… ha ha)

I’m gonna dress my ass
with the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
blow my money for me

(So how you gonna do it?)

I’m gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I’d even cut my hair
And change my name


I’m gonna sing those songs
that offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
from a Pez dispenser
Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip sync ’em every night so I don’t get ’em wrong


As I tried to find the Honeycomb cereal, I paused, listened carefully to a few verses and uttered “FUUUUUUUCK!” in total exasperation. The irony of my frustration was two-fold:

1) This song is idiotic. And I take personal offense to the stereotypical “Rock Star” lump being cast. Like only the douchebags that 1) like/identify with this song and 2) wrote it in the first place could possibly take this literally, or feel it contributes to our culture in any way.

2) This song came out in 2005. And it is so “timeless” that it continues to get played on the radio. That said, the next day I heard that “So What” song by Pink on the radio, and apparently 1 in 4 people’s dream job is being a rock star (confirmed by independent polls in The Gazette and BBC).

Anyway, it’s funny. Murray and I got into this heavy conversation a few days ago about music, and how music used to be a tradition, a reason for communion, whether to be spiritually or culturally enriched, to celebrate and belong. And one day, when they invented the record, I guess, and music could me easily commodified and sold, something disappeared. The art left and the business took over. Marketing replaced cultural identity. Now we have these very broad categories that require us to “buy into” them. I think the only vestigial element of spirituality in music remains at live shows: where people experience something together.

So my question, then, is when did it all go to shit? When was a song as comical as “Rock Star” meant to be taken seriously? Who decides? I guess we decide, you decide, the people decide.

But do they? Who decided to put that song on the radio, playing several Nickleback songs a day where as other bands – with potentially better songs – won’t ever be played. Aha! So we do not choose…marketing has determined the answer for us, has told us what to buy, what to identify with, who to be. Not free, but just subdued enough to keep society chugging along.

UPDATE: I can’t win this battle…the irony of music about music is bigger than I am.

14 Replies to “Morally Reprehensible”

  1. When my wife and I were in Canada last year I distinctly remember driving through Edmonton, making a joke about the “spiritual home of Nickelback” and turning on the radio to hear some woeful cock-rock tune – with a chorus like “PAAAAAIIIN… without love… PAAAAIIIN… can’t get enough…”. We were about to burst out laughing when we looked out the window and saw a woman in the car next to us – obviously tuned into the same station – belting out the vocals with dashboard-slapping passion.

    I guess if it works for some people…

  2. i was gonna say something about how nickelback is pretty bad but that it gets even worse; and i was gonna namedrop three days grace, but i didn’t because i didn’t wanna be a ‘hater’. but it does make this first guy’s post pretty funny…

    sidenote – i think it takes a real stretch of the imagination to argue that chad kroeger literally believes/agrees with the lyrics to all his songs. it seems like nickelback’s main goal is to sell a crapload of albums. the ‘message’ in the lyrics is comparatively irrelevant.

  3. like who listens to nickelback anyway..oh ya that lady in the car singing her head off…
    well i`m telling ye there`s nothing like sitting in your car and singing your head off to some crappy song…we do that all the time….what a laugh…and like supermarket that`s still beter than lift music.. i heard the cure once in the supermarket…wonder if they would be happy with that?
    but like somebody once said art and business don`t mix….
    i think these days everyone can listen to anything at any time they want when i`m shopping i always have my zen playing.
    just by chance the dears or on it….
    so nathalie didn`t you get like a free i-pod..;) yet?

  4. Aaaahh! Yes I just got my second free iPod and am now faced with the dilemma of not having any music (that I want to listen to) on it. I often get asked (in interviews and generally): “What are you listening to?” and I am always dumb for an answer. I usually answer, darkly: “I hate music.” Which makes me a hater, which I also hate. Anyway, this new iPod is very sexy and I want to start using it so I’ve been thinking a lot about what is it that I “hate” and what I “want” from music. I think I may just ask my 16-year-old niece to put all her music on my iPod and take it from there. I think I just need to escape the culture of indie rock into someplace completely different.

  5. like u must have the coolist niece in the world to be able to download her music…I`m mean don`t they like listen to high school musical or something?
    can u imagine what neptune will be listening too at that age?
    just put al your old lp`s on there:)
    the next time u get asked “What are you listening to?” just say well to u…….
    u don`t have to escape ,,there`s like so many good indy out there….and before u get sucked into the apple world there are loads of other ways to synchronize…

  6. I apologise for coming across as a “hater”, but the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible for me – as a person who considers music such an integral and important part of their emotional make-up – to get into the head-space of someone who is happy to listen to commercial garbage.

    I accept that there are a significant amount of people out there who enjoy that sort of music, and I’m sure that they would consider my tastes as “trash” – but I know I’m right 😉

    And for the record, I’m a car-singer from way back. I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve driven past me and seen me mouthing “Our money is elastic”… Cue clip from the start of “Office Space”.

  7. I’m still reeling from the comment about ‘Edmonton as the spiritual home of Nickelback’; SHEEESH! Yes there is a proliferation of ‘rock-star’ songs of late in current rotation…I hear 3 lately, not that I listen to the crap-commercial stations much. My all-time fav is Joe Walsh’s ‘Life’s Been Good’. I for one though, take encouragement from a band that can rhyme ‘tassels’ and ‘assholes’, and feel there is hope for my lyrics….

  8. Last week Thanksgiving day Or Boxing day to be exact , My wife and my self attended dinner across the street at our neighbors house. We did not know them to well but they seemed cool and they have booth cam to see my band a few times so I assumed that they had descent taste in music ?
    We thought it could be a strange white trash american style dinner when they asked us to bring the vegi plate and potato. .. They also invited a few of there coworker that were all around 19 and staunch Christians .. Just before we sat down to The red headed kid named Freedom really his name was freedom picked up the guitar and started right into a NICKLEBACK song , about 10 seconds into it my neighbor yelped out ” Guess you did not see the NO NICKLEBACK Sign on the door when you came in.” Needless to say I love my neighbors now and it only takes a terrible band like , well you know to bring us closer.

  9. Stay on the moral high ground in your music,
    so you can always be proud of what The Dears
    represent. Most famous artists weren’t famous in their lifetime…but left a lasting legacy of exceptional ,ground- breaking art. It’s your choice.
    Then again you can always produce a fine jingle to pay the rent under a pseudonym.

  10. I’m not even remotely trying to be a Nickelback-apologist, but I’m pretty sure that song is supposed to be satiric (or, at the very least, sarcastic).

    At least, I’m pretty sure it is.

    Otherwise, yeah, total indictment on society and all that.

  11. Whoa whoa whoa!! jwillis – I wasn’t referring to Edmonton as the spiritual home of Nickleback – I was referring to all of Canada, just in the sense that the States has adopted them as their own even though they’re originally from *insert town and province here*. At least that’s how it seems they’re marketed outside of the US and Canada. In much the same way as we Aussies do with Russell Crowe (New Zealand born), Naomi Watts (England born) and Mel Gibson (USA born).

    I wouldn’t dream of saying such things about Edmonton – I have good friends there.

  12. Surely it was never intended to be taken seriously..? Ironic? Just a bit of fun? Je Suis un Rock Star… Totally agree that daytime radio tends to feed a controlled stream of the same music at everybody but here in the UK we do have respite from that on Radio 1 in the evenings, which is a very good thing! Don’t let it get you down Natalia!

  13. Hey Mikey: no problemo…my faux indignity has been assuaged!!! (I’ll tell my wife to stop driving and lipsynching to ‘that band’ as well;-) We are both juiced for the Dears appearance here in Edmonchuk next week!!!! Our first viewing of this great band. Thank the dear sweet baby Jasus for them….

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