It’s been over a year since the world found out about the engagement of pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, and it’s been slightly over three months since the two tied the knot over Canada Day weekend, yet it’s still hard to know what to think of this bizarro Canadian celebrity couple.
The news of their engagement felt positively apocalyptic, and only more so when the barely month-long courtship period and Lavigne’s 14-carat ring were taken into consideration. It may be unfair to blame the apocalypse on Chad and Avril who–in addition to being awful musicians–are also human beings. Yet, as a celebrity couple, they’re too odd to be ignored, and as a musical “power” couple, their effects are too frightening. If it still seems harsh of me to pick on Chavril, remember that it was their decision to do an hour-long interview with Howard Stern in which they discuss Avril’s black wedding dress, their sex life, and Kroeger’s ability to suck his own cock.
The music video for “Let Me Go,” the first product of this unlikely union, was released last week and it’s every bit as traumatizing as one might expect. The song itself is a Nickelback song, replete with strained Kroeger warbling and irritatingly pedestrian melodies, but with female vocals and some piano. But it’s not the song (which is merely bad) that troubles me, so much as what it signifies.
In addition to being a promotion for Lavigne’s latest self-titled album, the video also serves as an advertisement for the Sony Xperia tablet and as a possible treatise on Kroeger’s anxiety over the couple’s age difference (10 years, which isn’t even that large for a celebrity couple). I think there’s a barely comprehensible narrative about death and mourning in the video somewhere, but the main thing to be remembered is the sight of a somber old man magically transforming into Kroeger, whose face has seemingly been botoxed into a permanent smirk.
If the news of Chad and Avril’s engagement was apocalyptic, then the video for “Let Me Go” is evidence that we’re living in the end times, a dystopic era in which corporate record labels don’t even have to pretend that their artists have a shred of authenticity. This isn’t a Canadian embarrassment–Nickelback and Avril Lavigne are popular worldwide–it just sucks for us that this international embarrassment happens to be Canadian.
On the one hand, there’s Avril Lavigne, the slightly rebellious singer whose production costs might as well be underwritten by Hot Topic. Her songs are focus grouped by Epic Records to appeal to that broad demographic of angsty high schoolers who feel rebellious, but not so rebellious that they’ll skip the school dance. In other words, Avril is a pop star, albeit a pop star defined by weak punk signifiers. Basically, she’s the musical equivalent of that $375 Urban Outfitters ‘punk’ jacket.
On the other hand, Chad Kroeger is too awful to be the product of a record label committee. The only thing that could explain the monumental commercial success of Nickelback is a Robert-Johnson-sold-his-soul-to-the-devil-for-fortune-and-fame scenario, except without Satan granting Kroeger and company any actual talent.
Reportedly, the couple met when Kroeger was brought in last summer to help write songs for Lavigne’s latest album. This is a decision that only makes sense if a record label was planning on transitioning the almost-30-years-old Lavigne into an adult-contemporary phase of her career, yet the first single released from the album was the intentionally not-grown-up “Here’s To Never Growing Up.” The credits for the single claim that Kroeger had a hand in writing that Radiohead-referencing anthem, but I refuse to believe that anyone–not even Chad Kroeger–could listen to Radiohead and still make music like Nickelback.
Avril managed to find one of the only celebrity husbands that could make a bloated, post-fame Deryck Whibley look like a catch. Sure, Chad Kroeger is probably worth a lot more than the Sum 41 frontman, but compare Sum 41’s inoffensive pop-punk to Nickelback’s overwrought post-grunge howling and Whibley comes out the clear winner. Even Whibley’s colour-changing spiked hair looks good in comparison to Kroeger’s umpteenth awful coiffure.
If there’s a silver lining to the Chavril phenomenon, it’s that the artistic collaboration reveals cracks in the relationship between the corporate artist and their audience. There’s no way Lavigne would ever collaborate with the singer of Nickelback if she had anything in common with her mall-dwelling fan base. It’s the sort of collaboration that would have flown under the radar if this unexpected romance had never occurred. The capitalist music industry machine cares not about their customers’ romantic angst, nor whether Avril wannabes across the world will find their Sk8ter Bois, they just want to exploit those feelings for profit.
Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.