As grunge evolved and matured a curious off shoot emerged that retained some of the original musical presence of grunge; the grittiness and big guitar sounds, but added a near pop sensibility in the form of anthemic hooks and overwrought emotion.
Somewhere down the line this type of music became known as ‘man rock’, called such because it combined the angst of grunge and heavy metal with just a bit of the blues, often in the form of impassioned vocals (Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots etc.). Originally the genre was ruled by the dungeons and dragons aura of dark rock like Manowar, Dio and Saxton. As Grunge began to fade a new more pop friendly man rock emerged.
The style was rather global in scope with bands like Australia’s Silverchair, England’s Bush and of course America’s Creed. It would be the overwhelming success of this quartet that would give the genre its new face and eventual backlash.
Creed is something of a guilty pleasure. It’s songs are pleasing enough to the ear in that they satisfy the brains need to hear melody, rhythm and harmony in repetitive bouts. Beyond the musical merits of the band, Creed filled a void left by grunge where a need for youthful (mostly male) angst driven music was needed. To complicate their image (or compliment it), it was assumed that they were a Christian band due to lead singer Scott Stapp’s confessional lyrics.
His personal story resonated with a lot of Christian males who were some of the band’s first fans. The band has since declared that they had no Christian (or other) agenda, but it never stopped many of impressionable fans to following Stapp like some new prophet.
I simply saw Creed for what it was – just good rock music that pushed all the right melodic buttons. I myself was just getting into jogging when My Own Prison had come out and found that it was a great motivational music during my runs. For others, it became the soundtrack to a life of real or imagined woes.
You could pick anyone of Creed’s four albums and come away with the same impression: that this was clearly music designed for teenage boys, alpha or para-military types and anyone who was in search of music for their cross training class. Whatever spiritual or self affirming message there was would be lost initially in the crunching guitars and arena rock drum noises that framed many of their songs. That’s not denoting the fact that Scott Stapp had a great voice and compelling lyrics, its just that they were seen as possibly the next big arena rock band of the coming new Millennium. Creed in effect was perfectly suited to bridging grunge’s past with its new future as music for advertisements and righteous causes.
As is often the case in a band’s discography, the first few albums best illustrate the band’s formula. My Own Prison, the debut from the Florida based band was THE rock anthem for a generation of angst ridden males in the fall of 1997. Songs like “What’s This Life For”, “One” and the title song were all over the radio. All of the album’s singles reached #1 on the rock charts. My Own Prison would go one to be one of three multi-platinum albums from a band whose rise to fame came as quickly as its backlash.
That backlash came by critics who claimed that Creed’s sound was a formulaic attempt to cash in on the post-grunge era. The arguments were similar to those levied against Foreigner nearly two decades before when they became enormously popular. To further complicate matters Stapp’s legal and personal troubles were just beginning. They darkened his otherwise safe inspirational image. That image was enhanced by early support from the Christian Rock community during a time when the genera was exploding in popularity alongside Creed. It was Christian Rock radio that broke Creed in many markets first, before the modern rock stations began to saturate the airwaves with the new posterboys of man rock.
Creed would polish their formula with even more success on the follow up Human Clay from 1999. Up to that time liking Creed was something many people did but I suspect just as many admired some aspect of their music but were not willing to admit it.That was about when the fashionable backlash would start that also effected fellow man rock bands like Silverchair.