A week before Nickelback were to enter the studio to record their third album, frontman Chad Kroeger played the rest of the band the skeleton of a song he was writing as a possible last-minute addition.
Ten minutes later, the Canadian rockers finished “How You Remind Me” and pretty much decided it would be the first single.
“I could tell when I brought the song to the band [there was something special about it],” Kroeger said. “You start arranging it, and you get that [feeling] in your stomach. You’re like, ‘OK, this is good — this is really good.’ You can tell. Every part of that song was thought-out, and a lot of effort was put into it. However, it did fly together very fast.”
Indeed. In fact, that may have been the most productive 10 minutes in rock history, considering the song became the most played of 2002 (even though it was released in September of 2001) and will compete for the Record of the Year Grammy at Sunday’s ceremony.
Kroeger penned the break-up anthem about a specific person — his ex-girlfriend Jodi — but wrote it with ambiguous verses like, “It’s not like you to say sorry/ I was waiting on a different story/ This time I’m mistaken/ For handing you/ A heart worth breaking.”
“It’s very sarcastic,” guitarist Ryan Peake said at the time of the album’s release. “The last time we played it, Chad said, ‘This is for all of your sh—y ex-girlfriends,’ and you can pretty much say ‘sh—y ex-boyfriends’ in the same breath. Damn near 99 or 100 percent of the people on the planet can relate to that. People like to hear a story told. If you can do it well, you can appeal to anybody.”
The song struck a chord with a wide array of listeners, even reaching adult contemporary and pop radio formats. People were applying the song to their own relationships, but at the same time, acknowledging Kroeger’s personal story.
“For some reason, women like bashing the person I sing about in the song,” Kroeger said.
“How You Remind Me” also happens to be armed with more than just memorable lyrics.
“It’s one of those melodies that just rings in your head,” Peake said. “My dad, a country music fan, told me, ‘I didn’t get it the first time, but I got it the second.’ That’s what’s really cool … If you knew the formula, you’d write every song like that. Sometimes you just magically hit it.”
Along with the melody, “How You Remind Me” just sounds good, with Kroeger’s voice resonating clearly over crisp guitar licks and a smooth but meaty rhythm section.
Producer Rick Parashar, who has worked with Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, certainly deserves some credit, while mixer Randy Staub (Metallica, P.O.D.) has also been praised for his work.
“I’m mixing Michelle Branch right now and she heard that song on the radio and that’s the reason I got that call,” Staub said. “It’s gotten me a lot of work. People want the vocal nice and clear.”
Staub modeled his mix of “How You Remind Me” after Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment,” the most played song of 2001. “I wanted it to make a statement,” he said.
The job was easy, Staub added, because of the honesty in the recording. “If the song is convincing, then it comes off that way,” he said. “If they’re not faking it, it goes a long way.”
Staub also gives credit to the timing of the release.
“I knew it would be a hit, but the level of hit certainly surprised me,” he said. “It came out at the end of the real aggro rap-rock thing, so maybe people were ready for a change, back to a good melody. It’s a simple song, and that usually helps.”
So simple it only took 10 minutes to come together.
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