MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 78: CREED

Let me just say from the outset, that my go-to type of music hasn’t really been rock. It was only recently where I heavily listened to artists like Switchfoot and Skillet, alongside other rock bands like Train, Evanescence, Daughtry, Goo Goo Dolls, Lifehouse, Hanson and Hoobastank (all of which are present in my blog post series) that I’ve come to a better appreciation of a genre that I wasn’t necessarily quick-to-listen-to in the first place. Nothing notably ‘wrong’ with rock, it’s just for me growing up, I was much more susceptible to enjoy other more radio-friendly CCM/pop, and even now, that’s where I’d go to, if I want something familiar and comfortable. But as I’ve continued to say throughout these blog posts these last few years, I’ve thrown out comfortability when listening to a myriad of artists and genres over the last couple of years or so- from country, rap, boy-bands, pop and CCM, to rock, operatic pop, folk/singer-songwriter, Australian music and worship; I’ve explored a fair amount of music out there, only to discover that I was a little naïve about the music that didn’t necessarily fit my initial ‘mould’ of what I assumed each genre of music to be. I had pre-conceived ideas going into listening every genre of music aside from CCM, and as I listened and heard artists and genres that changed my perceptions of them, and the music genre their body of work represented; I was less quick to judge musical genres that weren’t necessarily my first choice- I’m much more accommodating and explorative than I was a couple of years ago. Artists like Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Goo Goo Dolls, Josh Groban, Alanis Morrissette, Jon Foreman, Jackie Evancho and Pentatonix have all broadened my appreciation of their respective genres over the years, and my blog posts have all reflected a sense of wonder when it comes to discovering a little nuanced facet of music that I maybe hadn’t thought about, prior to listening to said artist. And so, as I approach my 78th blog post (phew…that’s a lot of blog posts, if I am to be completely honest), I come with a sense of honesty- that I don’t really know much about this band I’m about to discuss. And maybe that’s ok.

I wasn’t the most avid fan of this popular group, and even after hearing these guys over the last week or so, I don’t know if anything has ever changed. Nevertheless, my appreciation and respect for these rockers has come with a sense of humility that even I, a lowly website owner who’s on a musical journey stretching a couple of years and 77 blog posts, has still a way to go in being able to at least see the value in a genre that is different to my preferred one. To be able to see how God Himself uses music that wouldn’t necessarily be my own preferred go-to, to impact people who may not look the same as me, or who may not even believe the same as me, is something that has been understood better from this blog series, and especially from listening to this band I’m about to discuss. For music, as wide as the genres may be, is nevertheless the universal language of the soul. People from far and wide, over the course of history, in their respective musical genres, have attempted to create songs that stir up our own passions and beliefs as listeners, and to create a space where people can express themselves as they know how. Music has been the place where people commune and fellowship, people who may share the commonality of a favourite band, or people who don’t necessarily share that commonality…and that’s ok if people have different musical tastes. I can like what I like, and you can like what you do, even if they’re not the same, and even if they never will be. For that is what I’ve come to know over these last 26 months or so- that what I knew prior to this blog series (and even what I know now) is still a drop in this vast ocean of music, and I have to be content with not knowing everything there is, and to be ok with not even enjoying every musical genre out there. For I know that it will only be by the grace of God alone (and that’s a big bold declaration!) that I somehow enjoy opera in the future, and it can only be by God’s hand, that I appreciate rap fully in the future too. Nevertheless, what this music experience has taught me is this- that God gives music genres to touch a variety of people in a variety of places in their own walks in life- and if me and you don’t like the same music, or have different opinions about this artist or that, that it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

And so, when I researched a little bit about this band I’m about to discuss; and found out that Creed has been voted in many different publications over the years, that they own the ‘coveted’ #1 spot of being the world’s hated band of all time; I was intrigued, to say the least. Creed are indeed famous- just one listen to ‘With Arms Wide Open’, ‘My Sacrifice’, ‘One Last Breath’ and ‘My Own Prison’, and you can tell the amount of impact these men have had throughout their tenure of being part of this polarising group (as of right now, Creed is on an indefinite hiatus, though there’s always been swirling rumours of a possible reuniting sometime in the future). And it is in the light of this revelation that they are touted as the world’s worst band ever, that I was interested in this group, and at the very least, quietly excited about the band’s music. For it’s not a debate that this band is as influential as they come, in spite of the band’s short discography (only four albums ever since the band started in the 1990s). What I’ve found since then, is this- that for as much hate that Creed receives, there are still a bunch of people out there that resonate with this group, even though the consensus into declaring the band’s irrelevance can seem on the surface to be unanimous.

Blog #77 was the longest blog post (to date) that I have written- more than 13000 words about how I believe Cimorelli’s impact and influence expands far beyond their space on youtube. And coming into blog #78…well, let’s just say that this Creed post could be the shortest blog post to date…yes even shorter than blog post #1 where I discussed the value and influence of CCM legend Michael W. Smith (update: this Creed post is not the shortest blog I’ve done, in fact, this blog is surprisingly longer than the blog about Coldplay!). And herein lies the point- that in hindsight, as I’ve written longer and longer articles about the myriad of artists I’ve discussed, and with my ability to write longer posts, the more ‘stressed’ I’ve become in the preparation of these blogs, as if I’ve bought into this false mentality that if I don’t write ‘enough’, the artists themselves would be ‘less’ of an influence on society…which looking at this assumption I’ve bought into, I can say that that is completely a false mentality and paradigm. If I write about Creed and it comes to 2000 words, 1500 words, or even 5000, it doesn’t change the fact that this band is at the top of their craft, and the lasting impact on music and society as a whole need not to be denied. Whether I write a little or a lot doesn’t change this fact. And so that I’ve got this assertion out of the way, what I will say is this. That the songs in and of themselves by Creed are pretty good. They are not as ‘rock’ as I thought they would be, nor are they as ‘vanilla’ or as ‘Christianese’ as people have claimed that they are. Scott the lead singer has been very vocal about his Christian faith before, and the band has used plenty of Christian imagery in their music, so much so that many fans and critics alike have labelled the band as being ‘Christian’, much to the band’s pushback, saying that though some band members may be attributed to the faith, that the band itself never seems to put on the Christian label in their music.

Nevertheless, upon hearing Creed, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed their music. They’re not as hard as Skillet, nor as ‘soft’ as what the Goo Goo Dolls are right now. Somewhere in the middle, and that’s ok. And with such a short career as theirs (only four albums), and much of the band’s accolades and respect coming through their first few albums (My Own Prison, Human Clay and Weathered), Creed’s impact on music and society may not be as big as other rock bands (Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Evanescence, Daughtry, even Nickelback), but still an impact, regardless. Scott Stapp and co. have created a brand of music that is synonymous with the late 1990s and early 2000s; and presenting a style of music that was akin to a variety of grunge-rock and garage-rock outfits of the day, Creed and their honesty has always been the drawing point for me over this last week of listening to their music, and I’m sure a potential drawing card for other people who could be checking out the band for the first time. Formed in Tallahassee, Florida, Creed was the first band to receive four #1 singles from their first album My Own Prison (‘My Own Prison’, ‘What’s This Life For?’, ‘Torn’ and ‘One’), and that feat in and of itself, ought to be reason enough to at least check out this band, even if it is only once, to satisfy curiosity, expectation, and anticipation. Even if the band isn’t as popular now as it once was, these songs still matter now, and upon hearing their discography this last week or so, it still stands to reason, that Scott and the rest of the band (who may come back to reform later; or may disband at any turn of events) have created a corner of music that is as accessible as it is needed in a society as polarising as 2021!

Glancing through the songs that made their career as unique and impactful as it has been over the years, we can immediately go to songs like ‘My Sacrifice’, ‘One Last Breath’, ‘Higher’, ‘My Own Prison’, ‘With Arms Wide Open’, ‘One’ and ‘What’s This Life For’, that have shaped not only Creed but rock music, to where it is now today. ‘My Sacrifice’, one of the most streamed songs by the band on Spotify (125 million and counting), was borne from the album Weathered, and though not as commercially successful as Creed’s first couple of albums, ‘My Sacrifice’ did come out of it, and that song, has since become an anthem to many people around the world. It’s a song that has me even appreciating what Creed has done, and with a message of relationship, be it a friendship, or a romantic one, being one of sacrifice and of placing other people’s needs above our own, we are nevertheless reminded that sacrificing (on both people’s parts) can be the ultimate showcasing of love that can occur in any camaraderie friendship or relationship. Or sacrificing can also bring a relationship down, especially when you’re sacrificing your friends for instant fame and everything else that comes with it. As Scott himself puts it, ‘…this song – and I think you can see it in the video – is essentially talking about coming out of the throes of a dark period in your life, whether that be a dark depression or a period of substance abuse or alcoholism, and then reconnecting with yourself. And what you see in the video is a version of me in a boat and then also a drowning version of me pulling myself out from underneath the water into the boat – and I think that really captures what the song means. It’s coming from the darkness back into clarity, coming from the gates of death back into life. I had tried to get better alone for so many years, and I would have times when I would come back and hold on for a period of months, but then I’d fall again. So this song is really talking about reconnecting with yourself. And then, of course, there are also elements – and shots – of someone else that you love and your feelings when you’re with them. So there was a two-pronged approach to that song…’ It’s no wonder why ‘My Sacrifice’ is one of the most played tracks by Creed on Spotify- it’s as relatable as they come.

The band also bring other hard-hitting songs to the fore throughout their career- ‘My Own Prison’, from their first album, has the persona in the song struggling with life and question their faith and existence, which has been mirrored through the actual life of Scott throughout the years- the song takes the ‘art imitates life’ slogan a little too dark and a little too far, while ‘Higher’ speaks about Scott’s literal dreams, and his own hopes and wishes about life, and if he longs for his dreams to become a reality. As Scott muses about the song, we see that ‘…I wanted the world, so to speak. I wanted to achieve every dream that I ever had. And also I had that idealistic view of wanting to create heaven on Earth. At the time I penned that song, my view of what heaven on Earth meant was very narrow, very naïve, and very wrapped up in ego and self-fulfilment. I didn’t really expound on that, but I can comment on that now. And it’s also, ‘Be careful what you wish for, because your prayers might get answered.’…’ ‘One Last Breath’ portrays a persona in such a depressive state that they are contemplating ending their lives; and is very indictive of Scott’s personal live over the years, as his own public wrestling with his demons has often been reflected in song, such as ‘One Last Breath’. The song itself portrays something very real to a lot of people suffering from depression; and is a song that hopefully can give people some quasi-comfort, that even famous people like Scott can feel very human things like depression, and that it’s not just the commonfolk feeling these things in their lives from time to time. Creed also impart to us other hard-hitting themes, from discussing suicide and asking pertinent question about life’s meaning and purpose (‘What’s This Life For’), and writing thoughts to paper and song, after being kicked out of a Christian school and not having much (monetary-wise) in a particular moment in life (‘Torn’), to a call for unity and how without the support of other people, your ideas can’t change society (‘One’), and calling out haters, the media and critics of the band who have publicly made their disdain known about Creed, asking them what they’d do, in similar situations to the band (‘What If’). The band themselves have never shied away from being poignant and heartfelt, and while Creed will only be remembered (unfortunately) for only a handful of songs they have created throughout their career, the band and their message of honesty and courage seems to continually give longevity, relevance, and influence, especially now in 2021, when there’s much need for vulnerability, something that Creed themselves are very good at expounding on through their music.

An artist’s relevance and influence can be felt by people when you can count how many songs you really know from the band, even without knowing it was the band singing these tracks- and often the more songs you know (without knowing the band), the more ‘influential’ this band is to not only yourself, but to music and society, right? Creed’s influence for myself started off when I heard the songs ‘With Arms Wide Open’ and ‘Rain’ back when I was in high school. I didn’t know the band Creed at the time- I thought the two songs were by artists like Seventh Day Slumber or even Skillet, Nickelback (I had heard of Nickelback back then, but only through a few songs here and there) or even U2. Regardless of my initial assumptions on both these two songs, what I know now is that both ‘With Arms Wide Open’ and ‘Rain’ helped formulate a positive experience surrounding the band, and while many people can hate on Creed for the antics of Scott Stapp over the years, my experience with the band (just these two songs during my high school years) has been a positive one. ‘With Arms Wide Open’ is a prayerlike melody, a track that Scott derived out of a moment of appreciation and thanks for being a father, and writing with the mentality of a father, and being from a moment of giving to someone other than yourself and how that sense of initial sacrifice can come with a whole lot of benefit- joy within yourself, and love for another person, being immediate results. ‘Rain’, from Creed’s comeback album Full Circle, speaks about how Scott longs for rain (physical and spiritual) to come wash away the things in his life he longs to be rid of- for we know Scott’s public admission of his failings over the years has made him garner more respect, and even myself in 2021, have found the band’s vulnerability, especially in ‘Rain’, to be comforting to hear, as it creates less of a division between artists and fans, that knowing that artists can go through similar stuff that we ‘commoners’ can, allows us all to open up about our own struggles as well, hopefully to a reaction of grace and love as opposed to hurt and judgement.

‘…it [With Arms Wide Open] continues to have relevant meaning in my life because as I sing it now, I think of my daughter who’s now on this planet and alive. And then I think of my newest son, my three-year-old, Daniel. And then I think back to the spirit and the somewhat naiveté, just that brutal honesty that that song expressed as me being a young man and approaching fatherhood for the first time. Now I’m a full-fledged father with a 14-year-old, a daughter who’s going to be 7 in June and my youngest, who’s 3. So those are still my feelings. And as a human being and as a father, my feelings haven’t changed one bit from those that are expressed in that song. Every time I sing it, I can connect with it again and again and again because I’m no longer expressing fears in my thoughts about being a father; I’m a full-fledged living-it-every-day father. So it just rings true to me…some of the fears that are expressed in that song [about having a child and fatherhood] are fears or concerns or worries or statements that us as fathers have forever in terms of the bad choices we’ve made in our lives. None of us want our kids to be like us. You know what I mean? In terms of waking up to the reality that the idealistic white picket fence view of the world that some of us have had in our lives; to realize that that’s not the reality of life. But still in our hearts we wish that for our children. Don’t we always want our kids to be better than us? Don’t we always want them to have a better experience in this life and this journey than we did? So I think that from my point of view I’m beginning to see why that song struck a chord with multiple generations: because it touches on a feeling and sentiments that are universal for fathers, and for parents in general…’

Creed went on hiatus after their fourth album released in 2009 (and are still on hiatus even to this day). It was in and around the existence of the band that much of Scott Stapp’s personal life of dealing with drugs and alcohol spilled into the hands of the tabloids, and what resulted was a very public view of something that should’ve been very private. Scott’s personal life has always been wrung out in the public eye, and whether it was either his doing (through very intoxicated actions) or if the media found a way to publicly call him out on things that should’ve been discretionary- it’s neither here nor there. What happened was something very public, and Scott himself has reminded us all through his solo albums (The Great Divide in 2005, Proof of Life in 2013, The Space Between the Shadows in 2019, of which was reviewed for this site here) of how much God has turned his life around, and has refined his life and character, out of something so public and difficult to deal with on a fame-level. For anyone’s private life to be seen in the public eye can seem like an unsettling thing to stomach, and maybe it was the case for Scott throughout his tenure in Creed. Regardless, Scott’s transparency and vulnerability in his solo albums that showcased a lot of personal moments that were documented well by the media, has been something that has made people respect Scott all the more (myself included).

Scott’s a man that seems to be heartfelt and genuine, and even in his own difficulties with drugs, alcohol, and sex throughout his life, we have nevertheless witnessed a man on a spiritual journey. It all culminated to a moment after the band went on hiatus (for the second time), where Scott revealed in a video that he was broke and homeless. It was then (and maybe later), that we as maybe fans of Creed or even fans of Scott himself, realised just how far a man can fall and become so broken, understanding that nothing else matters anymore- not the fame or adulation, but rather, a change of heart and a realignment of priorities, as often the Lord can speak during times of difficulty and despair. While I won’t go through much of Scott’s solo material (the review of The Space Between the Shadows can be seen on our site, while Scott’s first two solo albums can be listened to on various streaming services and platforms), what I will say is this- Scott Stapp (and by extension, Creed) and his vulnerability is what makes this artist be one of the most unique and heartfelt, and deserving of a blog post in this Top 100 influential artists series. It’s not necessarily because of the music, because according to critics (Rolling Stone, especially), Creed is by far the worst band out there in recent music history and memory…my opinion though? Creed and their songs have helped a lot of people over the years, and regardless of any publications though, their music stands the test of time. Songs like ‘My Sacrifice’, ‘One Last Breath’, ‘Higher’ and ‘With Arms Wide Open’ remind us that it is ok to be a rock band, and still sing about spiritual issues- of which Creed has done a lot of. Scott’s journey with God has been as public as his indecencies, and if this band can show and tell us anything, it is that by being vulnerable, people either respond in two different ways- they either love you and respect you for showing flaws and giving people a better and more balanced view of yourself, or they retreat and don’t give you the light of day, because you are so vulnerable that you are giving people a side of yourself that they don’t necessarily want to see.

Creed and Scott Stapp’s journey over the last 20 years has resulted in four albums (Creed) and three albums (Scott Stapp), and while even after this blog post, Creed’s music may still not necessarily be my go-to rock band to listen to each time (leave that to Skillet and Switchfoot to curb my rock-music itch from time to time), I’ve gained much respect for Scott, his life, his relationship with God and his love for creating music with a message. Creed’s a part of that, and so is his solo material. And with Scott himself even obtaining his first film role as Frank Sinatra in the Dennis Quaid-led Ronald Reagan biopic titled Reagan, the question on everyone’s lips is this- will the band ever reunite in the future? Who knows, but what I do know is this. Scott’s ability to be as transparent as he is with his life, has me respecting him in whatever he does in the future, and hoping that many other people in the industry be as vulnerable and honest as Scott has been. The music industry can be a brutal place, and I’m sure there have been (and still are) people like Scott, feeling like how he was when he was part of Creed. Scott had his own demons, as I’m sure other people have had throughout music history. What stands the test of time, are these songs, these windows into people’s souls at a particular point in history. And if someone has to wrestle demons in order to obtain a great song that can impact people and change the trajectory of someone’s life in the process, then maybe, just maybe, all of the shenanigans would’ve been worth it, and God would’ve been using whatever was occurring for His glory, and our good!

On the song ‘Jesus Was a Rockstar’ from Scott’s 2nd solo album Proof of Life: ‘…I think on one level, it [Jesus Was a Rockstar] completely coined the struggle that I was having with what I did as a human being with how I was taught how rock & roll stars were supposed to be. And they didn’t mesh: You couldn’t be a rock star and a Christian. Those two didn’t come together. Then I woke up from that and went through the journey that I did and finally came to grips with the fact that, ‘Well hey, I am a rock star and I am a Christian.’ The two worlds can blend together. These two worlds do have symmetry. They don’t have to mean good and evil. They can mean unity. I can be someone that loves the Lord and loves Jesus, and be in a rock & roll band and play music that gets played on rock & roll stations. I can do that. So on one level, that’s where the song was coming from. On another level, I feel like for me being a rock & roll star, I just have an over-magnified version of what anyone in any kind of position of power has to struggle with on whatever level when people look up to you.
So, to put that in perspective, it definitely puts in play how I felt. In no way was I comparing myself to Christ, but for a period in my life I was beaten down for being a Christian. I was judged harshly. Stones were thrown. My life was attacked. And so I was trying to find a connection. I think at every level in that song I was trying to find a connection and trying to say, ‘You can be a Christian and be a rock star,’ and so at various levels I was trying to show some kind of parallel with that, and at the same time, share my faith, share what Christ means to me and what He did boldly. He walked on water, man. He made that water wine. He drank with people you and me would just cast aside. So, on another hand, you can be a Christian and a rock star because look at me: I’m a rock star and a Christian, and in some regard I’m preaching through this song right now. So, on multiple levels, that song meant a lot to me. But it also brought, finally, this divided part within me that was this huge struggle that caused so many problems in my life early in the public eye. It finally brought it together. And it brought it to a place for me, within my head…’

On his depression, recovery and a reigniting of faith in light of his 2019 album The Space Between the Shadows: ‘…I think for me, initially, when I was dealing with depression, there was a lack of understanding of it. I didn’t really understand what was going on with me and I didn’t know why I felt the way that I felt, especially when all my dreams were coming true – Number One records, sold-out arenas, everything. All my dreams were coming true and I didn’t understand why I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed or why I felt weak and mentally unclear and down and miserable and all the things that come from depression. So from that standpoint, it was just a lack of understanding and not wanting to appear weak and like there’s something wrong with you to your friends and family; there’s a little bit of embarrassment and shame, even though you don’t have any control over it. And when it comes to addiction – which started for me as self-medicating because of the depression – once you become addicted to using chemicals to cope, there’s an ego involved where I wasn’t really ready to give it up. I knew I couldn’t continue using like I was and be a daily habitual drinker – or whatever else I was doing – but I thought I could control it, and, again, I didn’t want to present to my friends or my family or anyone that I had a problem, that there was something wrong with me. So again, it comes down to ego and embarrassment. I think those things were part of my story and maybe others had the same mentality, and maybe that’s part of the human condition and why there are so many millions of people out there who continue to struggle with this and suffer in silence…knowing what I know now, I would have gone to someone who specialises in that and I would have put everything on hold realising that it wasn’t all about today, right now, this month – that all that would have still been there had I taken the time to get the help that I needed. And everything probably would have been different had I said, ​‘Hey – I’ve got to take six months or a year off to get the help that I need so this can continue on forever.’ So I would have put the brakes on everything and got the help that I needed, whether people understood it or not. Because there was a much different understanding – people weren’t talking about it like they are now. There wasn’t the knowledge, the understanding, the compassion – there was a lot of stigma and a lot of lack of understanding, so when I did try to share what was going on with me, even to the people closest to me, they didn’t get it. And some of them misunderstood it as something that it wasn’t. So I think today is a much different scenario than it was 20 years ago…
There were some times where I was very angry, there were some times where I literally cut off my connections to my faith and my spirituality and was bitter and felt, ​‘Why is this happening to me?’ And I blamed God and really had a lot of resentment and anger inside and I channelled that towards my belief system and turned my back on it for a period of time. But that only made things worse, and I spiralled further and further and deeper and deeper into a dark place. And I do talk about that in Heaven In Me – that even though I did that, I can look back now and reflect and realise that faith and spirituality and, as I see it, God never abandoned me. Because there were many, many times when my life should have been extinguished. I should not be here. And it was only by the grace of God, in my opinion, that I was spared…’

Does Creed (and Scott Stapp) make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘With Arms Wide Open’, ‘My Sacrifice’, ‘One Last Breath’, ‘Higher’ or ‘Rain’, that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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