To be a rock star is to achieve Nirvana. You have an army of fans, get to travel the world, and be responsible for enriching the lives of thousands of people. It is a term that has transcended music itself. It is also the focus for Chart-Topping Canadian rock band, Nickelback’s hit anthem Rockstar.
The song is incredibly hook-driven, after hearing the acoustic guitar ring out and hypnotic drumbeat, you’ll have the track stuck in your head for months. The chorus manages to inspire a fervent desire to sing, regardless of who or where you are. It is catchy, with a simple and effective arrangement that evokes the tonal sounds of a country record. Alongside the video’s settings, for instance, by an Army Base, effectively conveys the feel of America, ultimately lending back to the songs core ideas.
The lyrics are an interesting affair covering the monologue of a wannabe rock star, listing the perks of the gig to the “God of Rock” (Legendary ZZ Top Vocalist Billy Gibbons) and the sacrifices they are willing to take. Nowhere in the lyrics do they mention about the actual craft of making rock music, only the superficial thrills and the realistic costs in order to achieve this vocation. Here is where the song is interesting, holding up a mirror to the perceived realities of the rockstar lifestyle, and in a way, highlighting the unintended appeal of these trade-offs to the common person.
The video is a montage of everyday people and celebrities mouthing along to the lyrics. Representing how endemic the dream of being a titular rockstar actually is. It also showcases a whole host of cameos from actress Dominique Swain to Gene Simmons. Here the cast takes lip syncing up to 11 and it serves as an effective tool to get the audience to sing along and have fun with the track. The video ends with a shot of an audience at a Nickelback concert singing the final line of the final chorus, singing it directly to the viewer. It is a strong send-off for the video and the chorus of the crowd helps the line resonate as the video ends, summing up the concepts of the song succinctly.
Nickelback’s rockstar is a catchy tune that manages to get everybody nodding along and singing, like any good rock ballad would, but it rewards you for taking the time out to actually listen to the words you’re singing and realise the shallowness of the dream. Putting it up there with some of the other oxymoronic anthems that have had their message misinterpreted. The chorus famously states that “we all wanna be big rockstars” but the question is after taking it all on board, do we?
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