Friday, December 18th, 2015

AMNESTY 2015: Nickelback – She Keeps Me Up

He’s got the moves like…Jagger?


Crystal Leww: “She Keeps Me Up” is disco-tinged, funky, catchy, and by Nickelback. A band so derided for its use of formula has become, a decade and a half later, quite innovative, keeping up with the sounds of pop music. This belongs on a playlist with songs by good Maroon 5, good Jason Derulo, good Bruno Mars, and good Daft Punk. Nickelback have a lot of self-awareness about their jokey status, certainly a lot more than most “indie” bands, rappers, or DJ producer types. “She Keeps Me Up” is not trying to hide the fact that it’s a song about cocaine disguised as sexual innuendo, as though “right here on the counter” is better about sex than drugs. It’s corny, and yes, creepy when dudes talk about drugs in a sexual way, but as a work of art, a departure from the past, and a statement about what the fuck poptimism in 2015 even really means, this is e v e r y t h i n g.


Brad Shoup: In his own way, Chad’s a pop savant, albeit the kind who does his work within strictures: his songs are knotty and clenched, horizontal and grouchy. When the melody breaks through it’s like watching Soyuz 1 touch down. As the years go, Kroeger’s love for dance asserts itself more: “She Keeps Me Up” has those slurping hi-hats, some female counterpoint, some bassy gulps, and some guitar flash borrowed, a 75% speed, from “Couldn’t Get It Right”. Sure, it’s formulaic, but it’s the kind of formula we should be studying harder.

Edward Okulicz: My theory is that everyone secretly tolerates one of Nickelback’s critically reviled monster hits (mine is “Photograph”). This is probably going to double that number for those who actually listen without dismissal. That riff over the verses could be “Superstition” or something. The call and response of a woman’s voice who represents cocaine is more on the nose than in the nose though.

Thomas Inskeep: Well, I gotta say I never saw Nickelback-doing-“Miss You” coming, which makes this nominally less bad than most of their oeuvre. But god, that would-be-glam-but-fails-at-it chorus, ugh. Also, I don’t ever need to hear Chad Kroeger singing about sex.

Juana Giaimo: I always knew that my ears didn’t need a “let’s pretend we are as cool as Maroon 5” Nickelback, but now I’ve confirmed it.

Scott Mildenhall: It’s so funky, it’s so lithe, it’s… still Chad Kroeger, Kroegering away. Rarely is there such a mismatch of singer and song. If anything, he sounds exceptionally Kroegerlike here, and maybe that’s apt, because while Maroon 5’s “Sugar” was supposed to be sweet, his “Coca-Cola rollercoaster” is a reference to coke. That’s right Mary Whitehouse, you heard: hard drugs. Quite why, well who knows, but rock’n’roll needs no reason, grandkidsdad. This could do with another Shayne Ward cover though.

David Sheffieck: If there was a more unexpected song this year, I didn’t hear it – this is catchier and more shameless than anything Adam Levine’s managed in ages, a genuine delight from a band most often known as a punchline. It marries the thudding slur of Nickelback Classic(TM) to a slinky disco beat that puts bandwagon jumpers of the past few years to shame. This is how you copy a trend: with a sense of elan and an ear for adlibs and hooks that belies your reputation. With a CO-ca-co-LA-ro-LER-coas-TER.

Megan Harrington: Rock, in general, is floating around like a severed arm in the wreckage of a plane crash at sea. Any newly formed group with a little savvy and a lot of ambition will steer their rock off course — make it glam, make it funk, make it pop — anything but that terrible, fogey dirge. Nickelback don’t have that option because they formed entrenched in rock’s worst qualities. Instead, they emerge from the fog of rock’s great dismembering humbled from their flogging and practically apologetic. Even Chad Kroeger, the once be-noodle haired wretchface and erstwhile frontman of Nickelback’s redemption narrative, has to know how embarrassing he sounds singing a very, very thinly veiled love song to cocaine. Instead of hemming or cringing, he leans into the pie flying at his face. It’s endearing. 

Katherine St Asaph: Nickelback making a disco-funk song about cocaine that’s 1) via sex metaphor 2) Daft Punk vocoders 3) Carly Rae Jepsen’s writers, 4) an uncredited Ali Tamposi as an obvious Avril stand-in 5) “funky little monkey” 6) in 2015, is perhaps the most #nottheonion development of the year. (The second-most, and thematically related, is “Can’t Feel My Face.” This is where we are and what we fund as an industry, folks!) The dreadful punchline is that Chad Kroeger and his… particular vocal form are a much better match for the form than certain other lightweights who’ve made it a cliche.

Alfred Soto: Four on the floor! Rhythm guitar! She smells just like a flower? Right — it’s Nickleback. Chad Kroeger don’t got the moves like Jagger or the gross of Levine or the venereal of Big Dick at the bar — he’s just another twisted trickster who discovered funk too late to make a difference. But I’ll take it.

Will Adams: An unfortunate side effect of radio pop’s genre stratification in 2015 — with EDM’s fading homogeny and the ushering in of discrete styles from tropical house to lite-disco to R&Bass — was the tendency for some enterprising acts to meld every possible sound into a universally pleasing song. In a favorable light, these songs bravely blur genre lines; when I actually consider them, I realize they sound like nothing. So here we have Nickelback, whose status as the ultimate punching bag remains one of pop culture’s most tiresome jokes, testing my charity with “She Keeps Me Up,” which acts on this same kitchen sink mindset. Chad Kroeger picks and chooses what he wants from each era — Nika Futterman-esque call and response, dirty pop, vocoders, Dr. Luke guitar jangle, grunty vox — and funnels it all into an overdriven Kevin Rudolf stomp for an unpleasant piece that’s diluted as dishwater.

Jonathan Bogart: Those who refuse to learn the lessons of Mötley Crüe will be forced to repeat them.

Anthony Easton: Oh the auto tune, the auto tune towards the end, proof that artifice is the new authenticity. 

Madeleine Lee: Somewhere in the last ten years, Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” started becoming a staple in hockey arenas and at group karaoke. I’m not stupid enough to suggest that that’s how Nickelback picked up its disco guitar style, but I am cynical enough to suggest that that’s who Nickelback knows they need to be aiming at now: the people who loved Franz Ferdinand ten years ago and will these days grimace through a Hockey Night in Canada montage but not enough to change the channel and would hopefully be surprised to hear Nickelback doing this kind of off-beat funk thing. Oh, but that voice. I’d be impressed to hear Chad Kroeger’s voice singing lines I already recognized, in the way that unexpected but good karaoke singers are always impressive, but it just doesn’t work for me with this style. Probably sounds good in an arena, though.

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5 Responses to “AMNESTY 2015: Nickelback – She Keeps Me Up”

  1. “what the fuck poptimism in 2015 even really means”

    this was the year where all the critically reviled and mocked musicians of the past decade had the bar set low enough for them that they could trip over it accidentally and be heralded as geniuses

    finger eleven did this eight years ago

  2. I live for scott’s blurb

  3. yeah thf but “Paralyzer” is a jam

  4. i literally could not be happier this was covered

  5. @tfh — lol no. me being pissy about poptimism excluding what is actually popular is a recurring theme in my writing. and this nickelback song rules, a genuine [9] sorry