One rock fan's immodest refusal.
After toiling around the local circuit and self-releasing their first CD, the band signed to Wind-Up Records in 1998, which is when their rise began in earnest. But here's the thing about Creed: They had chops, but not a single idea in their collective head. They were, however, persistent--look into Scott Stapp's eyes and you'll know there has perhaps never been a man more eager to stand on a CGI cliff in a rock video--and by the by, they learned how to play by the new rules.
In the absence of new music with a vision, those new rules quickly established themselves as a sort of recipe for mass appeal and mainstream success.
Creed--a pallid, entitled imitation of something that might not have been so great in the first place--sold millions upon millions of records and became the sole embodiment of everything that went wrong. What they proved was the final triumph of capitalism over what, at the very least, should have been something like art.
Three prevailing facts aided them in this sorrowful (but lucrative!) journey. They were:
One: The radio is for sale.
I know you don't want to believe it--neither do I--but it's looking more like the truth all the time: Payola is back, and with a vengeance. Sure, these days it's all clouded in terms like "promotional support" and grandfathered through by independent promoters ironically called "indies" who merely sort of make demands and then launder money between influential stations and labels.
And while I would never be so bold as to accuse any one artist or band of knowingly doing this, there is compelling evidence that it happens constantly, and here's the rub: The second it does, radio programming becomes no longer about the music.
To think that one pay-for-play incident would not color the entire credibility of what gets on the radio--especially given how rock and Top 40 stations parrot one another once a record looks like it might break--would be naive.
(For more on this, dig up Eric Boehlert's amazing story on the modern payola system on Salon.)
Two: Creed are all mixed up with Jesus, and that just can't be good for rock 'n' roll.
While it may be true that before they went mega, Creed probably started out as a contemporary Christian/sports bar band simply because that was the whited-out cultural cesspool from which they emerged, it has been hard for them to shake the Christian thing--and they've been trying.
"I can say that all the members believe in God, but we each differ on our methods to reach Him," says Stapp on the band's website. "I know this might be hard to understand for all the Christians who follow the band--and trust me, I know where you are coming from--but let us continue to seek, and if that is the way, then we will find, if we continue to knock, the doors will be opened."
Clearly, a lot of this is just backpedaling for the mainstream.
Stapp's nudging and winking with Christianity is basically analogous to Trent Lott's ring-around-the-rosy with racism: It's clear the group has an affiliation. But the conventional wisdom is that Christian rock has no credibility in the secular world, and with good reason.
The contemporary American-style Christian Right--which has more to do with a political and social orientation than a belief in the divine--seems to endorse everything rock 'n' roll has over the years sought to defeat. Like sexual repression. And segregationism. And so on.
Creed's muted affiliation, whether the band knows it or not, is more in line with Bush and Lott's America than with anything else in the whole of rock 'n' roll. It's a travesty. Believe whatever you want--hey, that's why we're all here, right?--but to drag their whole weird Christian nudge-and-wink thing into rock 'n' roll, the very arena that was set up in protest against it, is wrongheaded, and yeah, even sinister.
Three: Creed plays into the business plans of this country's companies that are destroying rock 'n' roll as we speak.