“How You Remind Me” by Nickelback vs. “The Reason” by Hoobastank

These two songs have quite a bit in common. They’re both Post-Grunge radio-rock hits from the early 2000s, both are staples of Rock radio to this day, and both, through a combination of massive overexposure and coming from a genre of music that is widely disliked anyway, are frequently reviled as some of the worst hit songs of their era. So I thought I’d examine them side by side and see if either of them really deserve that level of antipathy.

Now, Nickelback, if perhaps not quite the record-setting horror they are sometimes made out to be, are not a good band, but if you go to the well as many times as they did (and God help us, they certainly did), you’e going to produce a few decent songs out of pure luck. This was their first major establishing hit, and even today it holds up better than the vast majority of their output. It’s not exactly an immortal Rock classic, but the lyrics are actually rather interesting, and it’s as close to authentic Grunge as the band would ever get. Also, lead singer Chad Kroeger sounds better here than anywhere else in their discography…even on their few other good songs like “Rockstar”, he’s usually borderline unlistenable, but here his voice seems to oddly fit and even have a modestly appealing smokiness to it.

As for “The Reason”, it was the product of a generally more capable band, but in spite of being by far their biggest hit, it did not catch them on a particularly good day. The lyrics to this song are all complete cliches, but that’s not really the primary problem…after all, the same can be said for most of the early Beatles hits, and it’s never stopped them from being loved and lauded. The real problem is the tuneless, dreary melody, which wallows in its own misery and makes the song an incredibly depressing listening experience. In general, songs with lyrics that are both this formulaic and this depressing tend to work better with ironically upbeat tunes than the maudlin moaning on display here—it’s probably best to reserve the deeply melancholy music for the more profound sad songs, and at any rate this wouldn’t be a good tune paired with any lyric.

Verdict: “How You Remind Me” has actually held up about as well as a Nickelback song is capable of doing, but “The Reason” wore out its welcome a long time ago, and wasn’t particularly good to begin with.

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