Some musicians are perennial targets. The go-to whipping boys of the people and the press alike, they're an easy punchline to a joke no one's quite finished writing yet but that probably contains some variation on the theme "you're shit, aren't you." More often than not, these acts carry on regardless; they brush off their shoulders at every well-aimed thinkpiece or trash-hurling Twitter joke (it helps to be selling out arenas while the hate splatters on your back).
Stanning one of these prime targets isn't easy. I should know—as a longtime Nickelback fan-stroke-apologist, I've been accused of idiocy, ignorance and, worse, irony for simply enjoying a big, beer-spilling chorus or ten. Like any long-term relationship, you take on their troubles. When those troubles involve thousands upon thousands of people hurling the proverbial mud, though, it can get a bit wearisome. But there's also something undeniably funny about sticking it out anyway and being someone who will fight for, like, Daniel Bedingfield or the Chainsmokers. With that in mind, I sought out some fellow fans of music's big hate figures, to figure out what makes them plant their flag on such scorched ground.
Nickelback – Scott, 42, Ontario
I've been a die-hard fan since they first came out. Their music was different to what it is now—it's got bigger and bigger. It feels like with each album they put out, there was just hit after hit after hit. Since the 70s, no band has got the notoriety worldwide like Nickelback has. The Long Road was the album that sealed it for me. "Someday" was a song that just clicked with me.
I've seen them live so many times, and I've met them several times too. On my birthday in 2006 a person who worked for a radio station had got me a meet-and-greet. I did these big drawings of Nickelback, and they signed them—they remembered me!! Chad wrote "Happy Birthday, Chad Kroeger," and then signed my arm. I got his signature tattooed the next day.
I just think the critics are jealous. Back in the day, Ryan Adams and Canadian bands could never get these kind of album sales over in Australia, or Germany, or Japan. Nickelback has broken those boundaries. I saw Avril Lavigne sticking up for them on Twitter—she'd had enough of everybody saying that Nickelback is bad or whatever, and she had a point: look at all the album sales; look at how many people go to their concerts. They're wanted. People can say, 'Oh, they suck, blah blah blah', but if you don't want to listen to them, that's fine! But guess what: people are going to the concerts, people want to meet them, people wanna buy their albums.
Sometimes I'll post something about them on Facebook and I'll get someone who says something not nice in return. Take my best friend: he's an Iggy Pop fan and he's like, "Ugh, Nickelback are garbage! They all sound the same!" And you know what? That's your loss, man!
U2 – Jordan, 23, Michigan
I got into U2 when I was about 13. I was getting curious about music, and turned to diving into my parents' CD collection. War sort of found me, in that it was very immediate and it took me to places that I'd never really experienced before. Back then I was looking for anything that had guitars—I wanted it loud! The Joshua Tree didn't really speak to me in that way, it really bored me, but the immediacy of War—turning it on and you get "Sunday Bloody Sunday" right away—was more of a punk aspect. It's an angrier album, and songs like "New Year's Day," they're ripping through them. The anger in Bono's voice grabbed me. I was super impressionistic at that point, and that album sort of met me there.
I've seen them the last four times they've been in Chicago—we've made a family event of seeing them. It's quite an interesting intersection for me and my dad, in that it opens up broader conversations about politics. Obviously U2 are quite a political band, and they bring a lot of that stuff into their shows. I have a good relationship with my father, but he's definitely more conservative than me. I have a Christian, religious background too, so U2's kind of an intersection of a lot of conversations, and has been an avenue into some of those conversations. A lot of things that we disagree on fuel this art that we both enjoy. It's almost a commonality.
Bono's not as bold and angry as he once was, and he kinda toes a lot of lines. In some ways, critiquing Bono as a person right now is critiquing capitalism in some way. He's a very optimistic capitalist, and very into his consumerism and philanthropy. A lot of young people don't have that sort of optimism – it just sounds like a lot of hot air, to them.
Most of my friends my own age don't really give a shit about U2, and I totally get why! I definitely can't bat for everything U2 have done over the last 25, 30 years. I liken my U2 fandom at this point to being a fan of a sports team: if your favorite team has a shit season, you'll still root for them. I'm still pulling for U2, but I understand the criticism of them. All their corporate sponsorships and the Songs Of Innocence debacle... But I happen to believe it comes from a place of genuine want. I'm willing to give Bono the benefit of the doubt, I guess.
The Chainsmokers – Luca, 18, Italy
I discovered The Chainsmokers around 2013, when they started releasing remixes on Soundcloud. I was really into EDM music at the time. When they released "#SELFIE" and they started to become mainstream, I was so happy for them, because as a fan it was great - they were finally becoming popular. Then they released "Roses," and "Pull Me Down," and then "Closer" and it was a huge deal. I was totally blown away. I think they're so talented, and two normal guys uploading songs to Soundcloud eventually became popular just from uploading music made in their bedrooms in college.
When I listen to an EDM song, I feel differently to when I listen to a pop song, for example. Maybe I want to feel stronger, or maybe I'm not in the best mood, so I listen to a song that makes me feel a certain way. Chainsmokers' songs are easy to understand—in my opinion, that's a good thing. They totally rely on a nostalgic vibe, and some of the scenes their lyrics describe are relatable—for example, a guy that falls in love with a girl after four years, like they sing in "Closer." That vibe, I think, is very unique to them. Some people criticize them because most of the songs sound alike, and I can see that! But it's just about the vibe—when I listen to one of their songs, I get these pictures inside my head, and I just feel… relaxed. I don't think their music is the best music in the world, but it's the best music for me. It just makes me feel good.
I read constant criticism about their music, or about them in general, but I just don't care. I'm a fan of theirs because of their music, not because they're popular. "Closer" was everywhere, and people started hating it because it was overplayed. I think people have good reason to criticize them—I don't agree with everything they say. There was some stuff they said in that Billboard interview that was totally unnecessary—all that "17 inches" stuff, that wasn't the best. They're shooting themselves in the foot. It's like a parent-children relationship where the fans are the parents and artists are the children. I don't hate them, I just feel disappointed.
I'll listen to them anyway, though. There's no way someone could stop me. I'm here for the music, not for Drew Taggart or Alex Pall. I'm here for what they make together.
Muse – Jamie, 20, California
I actually got into Muse by watching Twilight, which sounds terrible. I hated the movie. But I heard "Supermassive Black Hole" on the soundtrack and I fell in love with it. My friend made me a mix CD of just that song, and it was all I listened to. I dove right in and I fell in love with them so fast. They're still my favourite band—I'm seeing them for the fifth time in two weeks!
I've done some crazy things for Muse. I've flown across the country to see them. I made the @MuseFansUSA Twitter account because there wasn't really a US-based one. It took off pretty fast and has been growing pretty big. It's great because you see fans from all over the world, and it's cool to see people's different reactions to everything.
I've experienced their haters first hand. I used to have a friend who hated Muse, and when she found out that I was a Muse fan she just stopped talking to me. That was the most harsh thing ever. It was years ago—high school drama! But yeah, I lost a friend over this band. But I've actually met my best friend through Muse. She's been my best friend for five-plus years, now. I've made really good connections through just being a Muse fan, which is cool.
I've seen a bunch of people make fun of them because of all the "Anarchy! Aliens!" stuff. They're very out there, definitely, but I think people just don't like Muse because they're very out there, with all the conspiracies and singing about weird stuff. Plus their genres are all over the place, from symphonies, to dubstep, to rock. I remember when they released "Unsustainable," and it was just hardcore dubstep. I was like, '...what are you doing?!' Then "Madness" was more like pop. There's definitely people who want the old Muse back, but I think with the most recent album they've definitely gone back to those rock roots. You can't please everyone!
You can find Tom on Twitter.