Given its controversial subject matter, The Long Road challenged some music critics upon its release, but as far as Nickelback fans were concerned, the album fit in comfortably with the gloomy, angst-ridden mood of an early-2000s alt-rock scene dominated by nu-metal firebrands and hip-hop provocateurs. After all, this was an era when P!nk gave voice to the children of divorce (Family Portrait) and Eminem spoke out about drug addiction in trailer parks (Cleanin’ Out My Closet). With this in mind, Nickelback’s raw expression of redneck miscreancy on The Long Road can’t have felt too far from home for the millions of people who bought the album.
The legacy: “We had to figure out a way to win or die trying”
Going on to sell over eight million copies, The Long Road became one of Nickelback’s best-selling albums, thanks to its gut-punching mix of grunge and metal-influenced guitars and fist-pumping choruses. As a songwriter, Chad Kroeger had upped his game with a laser-like focus. “If you study songwriting, you can learn so much. That’s why there are so many one-hit wonders – they don’t know how to write,” he told Rolling Stone. “They stumble onto it by accident once. I study everything – everything sonically, everything lyrically, everything musically, chord structure.”
Without a doubt, the album’s success owed much to Kroeger’s commitment to ensuring How You Remind Me would be just one example among many of the impact the best Nickelback songs could have. By going harder with the music and embracing more inflammatory lyrics, The Long Road took the group past Silver Side Up as they continued on their journey with their foot to the floor. “We couldn’t turn around,” Kroeger told the Toronto Sun. “We had to figure out a way to win or die trying.”
Showcasing their signature post-grunge sound while exploring deeper and more thought-provoking themes, the album secured Nickelback’s place among the best 2000s bands, proving beyond doubt they were here to stay. Fondly regarded by Nickelback fans as a significant milestone in the group’s discography, The Long Road is ultimately the sound of a band going full-throttle towards their goal, leaving in their wake gutsy rock anthems with a commercial appeal that would shape the post-grunge landscape.