My brother once ordered a giant sub sandwich that was chock full of un-fresh ingredients. When I asked him how it was, he said "it tastes like a bunch of nothing." Which reminds me...
In my last post, I wrote about the paucity of new classics in American rock. "Where's the universality?" I asked. "Where are the transcendent songs?" I cried. "Where's the chart-topping band with the unavoidable, instantly familiar hits?" I bemoaned.
I forgot about the massive, tireless, downgraded weather phenomenon that is Tropical Storm Nickelback.
If this is about universality, and not artistic merit, then Nickelback deserves mention. Of course they're one-dimensional and silly. Of course they're kind of rock's apolitical answer to Toby Keith. Of course you probably don't like them and probably I don't either. But millions of people do, and their new single is the only rock song on the Billboard Top 10. At the very least, they're unavoidable.
So, conceivably, "Gotta Be Someone" could pass the Rock Band Test, right? It's been written and recorded and produced and packaged and distributed with all the pop sensibility and sheen you'd expect from the newest release of a massively popular band. It's currently everywhere--from Top 40 radio to TV commercials to TV shows to Myspace, Facebook, and major internet placement--and sure, it even sounds like a Nickelback single.
But that's exactly the problem. "Gotta Be Someone" won't pass the Rock Band Test because it isn't an actual Nickelback hit...it just resembles something that could maybe pass for one. It doesn't sound like a new, memorable, poppy tour de force; it sounds like the photocopy of a thousand photocopies of "How You Remind Me, " a legitimate hit (and, to be fair, a pretty good song). It sounds like what would happen if you asked radio-programmers to write what they thought a Nickelback song would sound like, not what the band itself would actually come up with.
"Gotta Be Someone" is like my brother's sub: full of all the requisite ingredients, devoid of anything genuinely satisfying. It isn't a hit pop song; it's a sad imitation of a hit pop song. It is a bunch of nothing. And it's everywhere now because it simply has to be, but you won't remember it in six months. It won't be anywhere in a year, or three years, much less five years.
At least not Rock Band.
Are we having fun yet?