Oh, Nickelback! Why art thou so hard to love? To be fair to them, they are neither as bad as their detractors make them out to be nor are they as great as their fans seem to think. Like always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these polarizing opinions, and it seems their latest single, “She Keeps Me Up” from their 2014 album No Fixed Address, won’t really help in ending the debate anytime soon.
The song starts off with a standard disco drum beat and a groovy bassline. It becomes pretty clear from the start that the band have tried to do something different here. As the funky chords of the guitar come in, the song completes it revelation as a straight up 70’s-inspired, disco-funk song. Yes, the same hard rockers who brought us heavy hits like “Burn It To The Ground” and “How You Remind Me” have given us a groovy disco-inspired song. If you close your eyes and forget that it’s Nickelback, and forget about all the baggage they come with, then for the first few seconds, you can enjoy the song. Even when Chad Kroeger starts singing, it still seems like a catchy if somewhat generic song. And then the pre-chorus starts.
To put it simply, the lyrics are awful and downright stupid as Chad Kroeger sings ”Funky little monkey, she’s a twisted trickster / Everybody wants to be the sister’s mister / Coca-Cola rollercoaster / Love her even though I’m not supposed to” throughout the song. It is simply unacceptable that a huge band like Nickelback, with a team full of songwriters and label executives behind them, could not come up with a more suitable line than “Coca-Cola rollercoaster.” How is it that every single person in their team heard the lyrics and thought “Yeah that line seems fine.” To be honest, the lyrics throughout aren’t that great and seem like they’ve been written without much thought, but this line takes the cake. Chad Kroeger has suggested that the lyrics are about cocaine use rather than sexual innuendo, but I find that hard to believe. And it’s a shame because otherwise the song could have been a perfectly fine, catchy radio hit.
The rest of the song follows a standard verse chorus verse chorus structure. The bass line is groovy and, fortunately, the bass is turned up in the mix so you get to hear a lot of it. The outro features Chad Kroeger singing some more mediocre lyrics while a female singer croons intermittently. Mike Kroeger plays a cool mini bass solo at the end of the outro. The song doesn’t feature the guitar much other than some funk chords playing in the background although that’s not a bad thing. The bass is the best part of the song as Mike Kroeger plays some simple but groovy basslines. The drums as mentioned are pretty standard, although from what I could make out the song features a drum machine rather than actual drums. I could be wrong there. The mixing is very overtly polished and the song loses some of its organic funky nature due to it. The song has too many layers of cheesy effects that detract from the song.
Overall, you can see that the band sound (and look, in the video) quite a lot like Maroon 5 in the song. Whether this was a conscious decision or just them “taking inspiration” by Maroon 5 remains to be seen, although I suspect it is the latter. “She Keeps Me Up” is a generic, radio-friendly song that has its bright moments but is let down by its lyrics and unoriginality. It seems to me like this is an attempt by the band to stay relevant and appeal to as broad an audience as possible. For fans of the band, the song will be further proof that the band are not afraid to experiment while detractors will cite this as proof that the band is again selling out. Like always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.