On a good day, they're the punchline to jokes about musical mediocrity; on a bad day, they're considered the soundtrack of Satan incarnate. But at some point in the next few weeks, Nickelback, a four-piece rock band from a small town in Alberta, Canada, will sell the 6 millionth copy of their fifth album, All the Right Reasons. It was released on Oct. 4, 2005, to middling reviews, but that hardly mattered: Reasons has yielded five top 20 singles and has yet to fall below No. 29 on the Billboard 200 album chart. In the last two years, only Carrie Underwood has sold as many records, but no other act has left more music snobs shaking their heads in confusion.
''When people ask me, 'How did this happen?' my answer is, 'Why doesn't it happen more?''' says Jonas Nachsin, president of Roadrunner Records (the band's home since 1999), who credits both the label's patience and Nickelback's fan base ''just a heck of a lot of American music lovers, basically'' with keeping the album afloat. Adds Ben Jeffery, music director of Calgary rock station CJAY 92: ''You would think they'd be on a downward slide by now, but they've been consistently performing. They keep pumping them out. It's one of those pieces of magic in the music industry. If you could reproduce it easily, everybody would.'' Sadly, aspiring chart-toppers must look elsewhere for tips. Possibly driven by fear of snarky critics (and despite the fact that we gave Reasons a B), the band continuously declines to be interviewed by EW, and there's no word yet on a follow-up. But anyone who's watched one overhyped artist after another disappoint lately may want to consider this: What if Nickelback's decision to let the music speak for itself is, ironically, their biggest selling point of all?