Despite rumors to the contrary, Creed still sucks.

You may have noticed that I stopped blogging here. It’s because I don’t love you any more. But extenuating circumstances occasionally get in the way of me being too damn lazy to ever write blog posts anymore. And today is one of them. For you see, this cannot be allowed to stand.

Creed Is Good
Scott Stapp’s nu-grunge foursome was seriously underrated.

By Jonah Weiner
Posted Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009, at 9:30 AM ET

We can interrupt right here because everything of importance in this article has already been stated. First, the title. While composed entirely of words that are both actual words and in English, it still legally counts as gibberish because there is no way those three words belong together in that order. Creed is good. It’s like saying the sky is red or dogs can fly or Windows 7 is the greatest operating system every created. These are all statements that make no logical sense. But the author is determined to make an argument that is roughly along the same lines as “Ass cancer has a bad rap, but I contend that ass cancer is something that is actually desirable.”

But if you managed to make it past the title without grabbing the nearest paperweight and caving in your own skull, first of all, congratulations. It probably helps that paperweights aren’t in general usage these days, but still, your restraint is admirable. But the subhead provides yet another challenge. “Scott Stapp’s nu-grunge foursome was seriously underrated.” Nu-grunge? Seriously? Was that ever a word before this exact minute? But forgetting that, please remember the word “underrated,” as its subject will be brought up again shortly.

Lastly, Jonah Weiner. Hehe. I really need say no more.

In 1997, an unknown Florida hard-rock group called Creed spent $6,000 to make its debut album, My Own Prison. Talk about a good investment: An independent label, Wind-Up, signed the group, got Sony to provide distribution, and Creed became, for four years or so, one of America’s hugest bands.

That was only for four years? Wow. It seemed like an eternity back when the biggest rock acts on the face of the planet were Creed, Nickleback and Puddle of Mudd. How any of us survived those days is beyond my pay grade.

Its 1999 single, “Higher,” topped the modern-rock chart for 17 straight weeks. “With Arms Wide Open,” released the following year, reached the top of the pop charts, and won the Grammy for best rock song. Between 1997 and 2002, the band grossed more than $70 million touring. To date, it has sold 26 million records in the United States.

Now, we will return to that word from earlier. “Underrated.” Please notice that the author of this article (Hehe. Weiner.) is asserting that a band that made $70 million from touring and sold 26 million records in four years’ time was somehow “underrated.” Why am I taking the time to ridicule an article that is already ridiculing itself?

It was the perfect setup for a Behind the Music-style implosion, and Creed delivered. By late 2002, singer Scott Stapp was on a near-daily regimen of alcohol and Percocet—prescribed after a car crash—and he would soon add OxyContin and the steroid Prednisone to the list. In December of that year, Stapp stepped onto a Chicago stage visibly intoxicated, slurring his lyrics and performing one song while lying on his back. (Fans sued, unsuccessfully, for refunds.)

Yeah, that was hilarious.

It was the last show of a nationwide tour, and Stapp’s band mates didn’t speak to him for months. The next year, at home in Orlando, Stapp put two guns to his head, intent on blowing out his brains. Recounting this near-suicide, he has explained that he decided to put down the weapons after spotting a photograph of his infant son, about whom he’d written “With Arms Wide Open.”

Dammit! SO CLOSE! By the way, who in the hell has ever, when contemplating suicide, decided that the best way to go about it was with not one, but TWO guns? I’ll tell you who. Fucking Scott Stapp did.

In 2004, Creed broke up, and as this recent New York Times piece shows, there is no disagreement within the band that it died for Stapp’s sins.

Today, Stapp has shaved his head, cleaned up his act, and Creed has reunited for a tour and a new album, out at the end of this month—the first single, “Overcome,” is a wailing survivor’s anthem. (This Details story is a fine chronicle of the band’s dissolution and return.) Stapp’s lyrics have always been full of sweaty redemption narratives and howled prayers for second chances, so we could have seen this comeback bid coming a mile away. That is, if we’d had any reason to think about Creed at all. From the start, critical gatekeepers dismissed the band as derivative blowhards with a self-righteous Christian agenda, a consensus that did nothing to slow sales but that cemented in the popular imagination and took its own toll.

Oh, the poor babies. They unfairly got paintbrushed with the image of being a shitty band just because they happened to be a shitty band. No wonder they wanted to blow their brains out. Twice. At the same fucking time.

In the Times article, guitarist Mark Tremonti said that he greeted the breakup with a degree of relief: “No matter how many records you sell, when you’re up there with a target on your head every day it’s not fun.” Along with Limp Bizkit (who made fun of Creed, too), Stapp and Co. are remembered today as poster boys for a turn-of-the-century musical nightmare we’re happily past.

You may have just missed the only fundamentally true statement in this article, so I encourage you to go back and read it again. It does, in fact, suck to be made fun of by Limp Bizkit. Because, you know, they were Limp Bizkit. Also, Fred Durst probably tried to kill himself one time with eight guns and a rocket launcher. So suck on that, Stapp.

There’s no telling whether Creed will make good on its second chance, but the band deserves a second listen. If your impulse on hearing that it has reunited is to groan, stifle it long enough to locate a copy of Creed’s 2004 Greatest Hits collection. It’s a fantastic baker’s dozen of first-rate schlock-rock, courtesy of one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned groups in pop history.

Yes, if your first instinct upon hearing that Creed is back to being a band after being an ex-band is to groan or dry-heave or see if you happen to have two shotguns laying around somewhere handy, the obvious solution is for you to go pick up a copy of all their shittiest music compiled onto one CD and listen to it over and over and over again until you come to an incorrect epiphany: that Creed does, in actuality, rock. That’s a much better idea than continuing to believe that Creed sucks, just because they do.

Listening to Creed today, it’s hard to reconcile the animus against the band with the music.

It is? How?

(The animus against the group’s satiny tunics and slithery facial hair was always perfectly understandable.) In his lyrics, Stapp is a well-meaning, Bible-fluent doofus, easy to chuckle at but difficult to imagine hating.

You have no idea who Scott Stapp is, do you?

“The world is heading for mutiny, when all we want is unity,” he sings on “One.”

So that tiny little lyric there is the one argument you’re going to use to display just how much of a pompous, untalented shitstain Scott Stapp is as a songwriter, huh? Lame. Here, I’ll do your job for you.

“I look at you, you look away, I see your soul, It’s kind of gray…”
“Above all the others we’ll fly. This brings tears to my eyes. My sacrifice”
“Only in America. We’re slaves to be free. Only in America we kill the unborn. To make ends meet. Only in America. Sexuality is democracy. Only in America we stamp our dollar ‘In God We Trust.'”

Dude. Deep.

The trouble wasn’t that he was a blustery, would-be messiah (that didn’t stop Bono’s canonization)

I think what actually was to blame for Bono’s canonization not being avoided was the fact that U2 made Joshua Tree, whereas the reason why Scott Stapp is universally heralded as a buffoon is because he is a buffoon, and has no positive contributions to music history to atone for it. But please, do continue on with your stupid point.

so much as the unrepentant hamminess he brought to the role: ample baritone quaking and churning, arms outstretched atop mountains and hovering, Christlike, above crowds in music videos. On stage, Stapp was Charlton Heston in leather pants, humping the stone tablets.

Which is, of course, what everybody wants from a rock band. Chalton Heston dry humping rocks.

His brand of fist-pumping, hair-tossing, pelvis-swiveling rocksmanship was hardly without precedent; it just seemed obnoxiously anachronistic. An audacious throwback to the preening hair-metal era (and, even further, to Robert Plant’s roosterish sashay), Stapp audaciously reinflated rock’s hot-air balloon less than a decade after Kurt Cobain was thought to have punctured it for good.

First, punctured? Way to stick it to the dead junkie there, Weiner. You showed him. Second, was there really that big a demand for rock music to have its hot air balloon reinflated? Were we really, as a nation, that desperate to have another Winger? If this were the case, wouldn’t it have saved time to have just given old Kip a call, and let him know that all was forgiven? God knows he isn’t doing anything else of any interest at the moment.

And it’s not that the band didn’t deliver. To the contrary, Creed seemed to irritate people precisely because its music was so unabashedly calibrated towards pleasure:

Well, that and the whole sucking ass thing.

Every surging riff, skyscraping chorus, and cathartic chord progression telegraphed the band’s intention to rock us, wow us, move us. Tremonti was a brutally effective guitarist, and by 2001’s “Weathered,” he’d even added subtlety—or the hard-rock version of it, anyway—to his arsenal. Creed was formulaic, but that’s only an insult if the formula doesn’t work. One of the surprises involved in returning to Creed with a fresh pair of ears is how rocking, exciting, and, yes, moving, the songs can be. “Higher” might turn out to be the nu-grunge “Don’t Stop Believing”: dismissed by cognoscenti on arrival as bludgeoning and gauche but destined for rehabilitation down the road as a triumphant slab of ersatz inspirationalism.

So there you have it. Creed was underrated because a man named Weiner bought Weathered eight years ago and still listens to it on his car stereo every morning on his way to work and still thinks it fucking rocks, so obviously it’s everyone else who’s mistaken.

There’s never any such thing as listening in a vacuum—see this recent New York Times Magazine story on the fascinating, ultimately paradoxical attempts of the music Web site Pandora to wean musical taste away from the sullying effects of “cultural information”—and it’s a lot easier to give Creed a sympathetic spin now that they aren’t so ubiquitous or so ubiquitously loathed. In fact, when you listen to the band’s third album, Weathered, with Stapp’s period of self-ruin in mind, its emotional heft is amplified.

Weathered was awesome! I love Weathered so goddamn much!

“Bullets” is a furious blast of metal and one of the most galvanizing persecution anthems ever penned: “At least look at me when you shoot a bullet through my head! Through my head! Through my head!” he howls, presumably at the band’s haters.

Or, perhaps, at himself. Remember? The whole two shotguns thing?

At the other end of the spectrum is “One Last Breath,” a wounded ballad featuring one of Stapp’s most affecting vocals and a lovely refrain that foreshadows his suicide attempt: “Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking, maybe six feet ain’t so far down.”

I believe when he says “lovely,” the word he really meant was “retarded.” Six feet isn’t so far down. It’s fucking six feet.

He vaults up an octave on the first “six,” cracking his voice a little in a heartstrings-tugging flourish.

Scott Stapp is awesome because he can’t hold a note! I LOVE WEATHERED!

The album’s biggest hit was “My Sacrifice,” a cornball barnstormer on par with “Higher.” It ends with a repeated plea: “I just want to say hello again.” Creed’s previous album, Human Clay, had gone platinum 11 times over, and Weathered was destined to ship 6 million copies, but Stapp already sounded like an underdog. Seven years later, it finally feels OK to start rooting for him.

And yes, we reached the end of the article, and please do make note of the fact that all of the reasons presented for why it’s now cool to like Creed is because of all the things that happened before we decided as a society that they were lame. In fact, about the only things I gleaned from this writing that has changed for Creed is that Scott Stapp shaved his head and his bandmates came to the conclusion that starving to death in the streets is a less desirable thing than having to spend several weeks in the same studio as Scott Stapp. A decision that only took them five whole years to make.

So there you go, world. It’s cool to like Creed again. No, seriously. Go put your Creed shirt back on. Nobody will make fun of you anymore. We promise. Scout’s honor and stuff.

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