Today on Slate, Jonah Weiner wrote a defense of the band Creed, a late-90′s pseudo-Christian rock band who were quite popular for a few years before lead singer Scott Stapp self-imploded with the help of alcohol and drugs. The band is back again, with a comeback tour and and a new album on the way. Weiner calls Creed, “one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned groups in pop history.” He also suggests that their hit “Higher” might become a song like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” a song maligned upon its release that eventually becomes an anthem for sports teams and alcohol induced sing-alongs.
Honestly, I’m entirely unsure how you could consider Creed to be an underrated band let alone one that deserves more respect than it’s gotten. The band emerged around the same time as Limp Bizkit, an equally unimpressive band that simply pandered to angsty teenagers and those that wanted a more happy medium between heavy metal and grunge. In the late 90′s, both bands received large exposure from MTV that made their genre, which Weiner dubs “nu-grunge,” hugely popular. Creed and Limp Bizkit helped spawn bands like Nickleback and 3 Doors Down, both of whom still chart well today and have subsequently spawned similar bands on their own.
The problem is that Creed’s music is not underrated as Weiner suggests. The lyrics, filed with Biblical references, are incredibly tacky and generic. The band wouldn’t have exsisted had it not been for Nirvana and grunge, but they completely lack the lyrical magnificence of Kurt Cobain. Similarly, the music itself is incredibly bland, just loud power chords put in different order to make up different songs. The songs aren’t ground breaking or any different from each other. Stapp seems to have tried imitating the voice of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, but with seemingly less power.
Thinking of what else was going on with music around the same time makes it even harder to comprehend how Creed can be considered a lost gem. During the period of 1997-2002 when the band was at it’s “prime,” Radiohead made two of the best records of the last 30 years with 1997′s OK Computer and 2000′s Kid A. Radiohead started as a post-grunge rock band with an angsty debut single (“Creep”), yet they managed to evolve into the most important band of the early 21st Century. Creed, on the other hand, had very little musical development in refining a commercial, processed sound designed to sell records, not improve upon the sound of popular music.
As a result, creativity in popular rock music came to a screeching halt. Since the genre’s beginnings in the 1950′s, each decade saw it get more and more sophisticated. Nirvana in the early 1990′s even seems to be the last breath of any creativity, any sound that enhanced the genre on a national stage. Since Creed and nu-grunge of the late-90′s, popular rock music has changed very little in sound. Rap and hip hop, in contrast, has developed leaps and bounds as it has become a larger popular genre. But in rock, Nickleback is one of the most popular bands on rock radio today, and their sound has remained largely unchanged since their first single at the start of the decade. To hear truely innovative, original rock music, fans have to seek it on their own. Gone are the days of finding original music on radio. It’s all on the internet now.
To be clear, I’m not saying that Creed single-handedly destroyed rock music, corporate influence is probably more to blame. But Creed represents the manufactured sound that popular rock music has adopted as its own. The lack of creativity and originality has shifted from the radio to the internet and independent radio. Even major label releases by bands like Built to Spill, who are on Warner Bros., doesn’t make the same airwaves that Nickleback and 3 Doors down do. So I guess yes, Creed is underrated, but not for it’s music, but for its role in making popular rock music bland and uninteresting.