Nickelback jokes, the Twenty One Pilots of humor
Last week, former California governor and Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger dipped his Olympian toe into the lakes of antediluvian pop-culture relevance and made a Nickelback joke on Twitter.
When Congress is less popular than herpes & Nickelback, how do 97% of them get re-elected? Gerrymandering. WATCH: https://t.co/SoX0tdlTeM
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) February 14, 2017
“When Congress is less popular than herpes and Nickelback, how do 97 percent of them get re-elected? Gerrymandering,” he tweeted. He included a link to an anti-gerrymandering video, starring himself, which equivocated the Canadian band with cockroaches and colonoscopies and included a killer sign-off that had a — you guessed it — Terminator reference.
There’s little argument that gerrymandering is bad. There’s even less that Nickelback aren’t that good: they take everything bad about 2000s commercial rock and somehow make it even more overwrought and less self-aware and we, for the most part, hate it. Even people that couldn’t name a Nickelback song if their life depended on it profess to hate Nickelback simply because the very act of being unsure about the badness of Nickelback is practically social suicide.
At best, a Nickelback joke is a weak attempt to communicate one’s “musical knowledge” in conjunction with an incisive takedown of a band that’s been kicked on the ground for a good 16 years: a desperate, throwaway bird of paradise mating call hurled into the void where this blindingly boring attempt at humor will hopefully be ignored, because the only thing worse than telling a Nickelback joke is laughing at one. And that is, frankly, boring. The shelf life on Nickelback jokes should have been barely longer than the shelf-life of the band (which expired, if we’re being generous, 10 years ago), but somehow we’re still dumping on Chad Kroeger in an astonishing case of social arrested development.
At its very core, a Nickelback joke is empty: the Twenty One Pilots of humor.
Everything about Twenty One Pilots — from their hyper-symbolic branding, to their gauche “voice of the generation” postering, to their faux-literate slam poet pretense — is a slick, puppeteered machination. A genre-hopping novelty band that moved into alt-pop radio and haven’t paid rent or even washed the damn dishes in years, Twenty One Pilots’ off-beat lyrics can be charming (for instance: “my taste in music is your face”) and their messages of suicide and mental illness awareness are important, but too often they fall into a preoccupation with conspicuous introspection a circular self-congratulatory emo Tumblr hellscape that negates whatever good is in their music.
As with Nickelback, the overwrought, self-important storytelling of Twenty One Pilots’ Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph inhibits and undercuts whatever semblance of actual coronary impact could be attained by their limited musical proficiency which is essentially a reactionary pseudo-indie pop minimalism in the face of fellow Fueled By Ramen offspring Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy’s bombastic aural arms race that more or less distilled every Michael Bay movie into an orchestral sensory overload of bloated, mechanized power-pop. Which isn’t to say that music must be complex or delicately arranged to be good, but it’s got to be interesting, man; Twenty One Pilots’ hyperactive genre-hopping isn’t good because they simply don’t have the depth to stay within a particular sound and have to diversify their sonic landscape to cloak the underlying manipulation of their pandering content.
Like someone making a Nickelback joke, Twenty One Pilots are too focused on the appearance of what they want to attain, and can’t seem to take the step out of the safety of their own shadow.
And that’s a Nickelback joke: all skin and no skeleton.