Is Florida Georgia Line the Nickelback of Country Music?

Two of the most hated bands from the past decade have many similarities. 

Let me be frank. I listened to Nickelback. And not just listened–they graced a few of the mixes that circled around my group of friends. I’ve seen the music videos, and I even know some of the lyrics. As much as you hate Nickelback, at one point in your life, you liked them (or at least pretended to like them).

Even though my collection of Nickelback is indefinitely buried in a box of old CDs, I wince at the thought of them even existing. I can’t deny my tryst with Nickelback.

Florida Georgia Line is the boyfriend you don’t want to bring home. We all listen to that band that for some reason makes us slightly embarrassed to share with others. It’s like the ugly sweater you get for Christmas from your favorite relative that collects dust at the back of the wardrobe or the collection of gaming cards or old series of books that you can’t seem to part with. Your friends are understanding and tolerant, but if your boss found out…

Unfortunately, eerily similar feelings resurfaced for me as I watched my friends recount their night at the Grand Old Opry a couple nights ago.

Like Nickelback, FGL offends tradition

The Opry is one of the most sacred stages in country music, from a purist standpoint. When a country musician is invited to perform in a space with such rich and incredible history, it’s more than commendable. It’s a rite of passage, per say, into the inner-circle of country music.

That night at the Opry, my friends were accompanied by a country musician who draws inspiration from traditional country artists. His face went white with horror and disdain as soon as Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley strolled across the stage.

Florida Georgia Line? Bro-country? Rap-country? At the Opry? Is Johnny Cash rolling over in his grave?

Florida Georgia Line doesn’t stray from letting other genres influence their music and thrive off of hip-hop and rap. Traditional country artists trace their roots back to bluegrass, folk, or gospel. But rap? R&B? Hip-hop?

In an interview with CMT news, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley explained their unique musical influences:

“Growing up, we always listened to country music and rap music, and I thought that was completely normal,” Hubbard reveals,”We just grew up around it. I’m a big hip-hop fan, and I grew up in the middle of the country, so I can relate to both. Put them together and our influences are very diverse, but I think that’s what makes our music different, cool and fresh.”

Eminem. Juvenile. Big Tymers. Cash got his beginnings in gospel music, Patsy Cline in honky-tonk tunes, and Elvis was first introduced to music in church. Eminem is a far cry from bluegrass, gospel, and folk music.

It’s easy to hear this melting pot of genres in Florida Georgia Line’s remix of “Cruise” featuring Nelly. Country artists have collaborated with rappers and hip-hop artists before; however, Florida Georgia Line is the first to establish an entire career off of fusing the two genres.

Needless to say, Florida Georgia Line is a huge contrast to traditional country music, and neither Hubbard or Kelley express any qualms about it.

Nickelback isn’t a fan of tradition either. When they first released Curb in 1996, the music industry sensed another 90s grunge band on the horizon. Nickelback’s most notorious album, All The Right Reasons, abandoned post-grunge, hard rock guitars and channelled Chad Kroeger’s inner Celine Dion.

No Fixed Address, Nickelback’s latest album, drops a funk and a rap song on the same record.

Nickelback, like FGL, isn’t a stranger to diverse genres.

FGL, like Nickelback, is extremely popular

Whether you love it or hate it, bro country has been extremely popular. When “Cruise” hit the radio in 2013, the single climbed to the top of the charts with ease. Furthermore, Billboard reported FGL’s feel-good tune broke a 50-year record as the No.1 country song for over 17 weeks. “Cruise” has won multiple awards at the CMA’s, ACMA’s and the AMA’s. It’s also the most downloaded country song of all time.

Yet the duo has received heavy backlash for their crazy party antics, frat-boy appearance and lack of creativity. But it’s not like a band hasn’t built a career off of big guitars, 808 drops, girls and booze before.

So what makes Florida Georgia Line any different?

Hip-hop is notorious for having a groove, something that you find yourself involuntarily bobbing your head to. When you pump out the bass of a FGL song on a car radio, the bass drops just as well as any hip-hop song. The catchy harmonies and simple melodies mimic the structure of any Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, or Drake record.

Though critics bash FGL lyrics for being basic and primitive, a fan can take one listen to FGL’s “Cruise” and sing back the melody and get the gist of the lyrics. Plus, the feel-good summer song is just plain catchy.

Baby you a song
You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise
Down a back road blowin’ stop signs through the middle
Every little farm town with you
In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit
Would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it
So baby you a song
You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise

Yes, it’s cheesy. But sometimes the cheesiest, simplest songs resonate the most with fans.

People still go to Nickelback concerts and “How You Remind Me” will always be in rotation on the radio. Fans like easy going melodies, simple lyrics, and big guitars.

3. Nickelback and FGL share producers

Joey Moi, FGL’s producer, is no stranger to rock anthems, gritty vocals and outlaw personas. Before taking on FGL, Moi built his career off of co-producing and engineering Nickelback. Before working with FGL at Big Loud Mountain, the producer’s first gig was working late nights to demo the Canadian band in the studio.

“There’s so much Nickelback in Florida Georgia Line, you may as well call it Nickelbanjo,” Moi said an interview with Billboard.

It’s easy to here Nickelback’s influence on Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard’s style. One listen to “Stay”– the substantial ballad of Here’s to the Good Times — and you can just imagine Chad Kroeger belting the lyrics. Whatever Moi creates and inspires from his previous endeavors with Nickelback, BK and Hubbard are still looking to fray the line between country and rap.

5. Both bands will always be in the hot seat.

Critics love to pull apart Nickelback’s music, limb from limb.

Florida Georgia Line isn’t a stranger to criticism either; in fact, critics are having a field day bashing their latest release, Anything Goes. The Nashville Scene put out an album review titled, “Florida Georgia Line Says ‘Girl’ 42 Times on Anything Goes, aka ‘The Worst Album Ever'”, followed by tally of FGL’s favorite nouns: trucks, alcohol, drinks, girl, angel, baby, party, and good.

Similar reviews of Anything Goes grace the headlines of blogs such as, Sputnik Music, and Country Perspective. Critics dub FGL as “forgettable”, “bland” and “unoriginal”. One read through any of these FGL-hating rants, and it feels as if you’re perusing through another Nickelback love/hate fest.

Despite the backlash they’ve faced, Florida Georgia Line believe they’re doing something right.

“Anybody that has made any mark on history, musically or business-wise has always been criticized for it,” Hubbard proudly said in an interview with Fox, “So we’re hoping to be criticized, because that means we’re doing something big and that means we’re making big moves and we’re making history.”

But 10 years from now, will Florida Georgia Line CD’s be hiding under my bed?

Next: Here’s Why Bro Country Is Coming to an End

Featured images Flickr/Mark Runyon, Flickr/Moshville Times

recommended for you

Is Florida Georgia Line the Nickelback of Country Music?