Do you like statistics? Same, friends. We have one for you right here. Imagine you’re a band that nobody outside your Tallahassee home base has really heard of. You spend around $6,000 to record a record that is released independently, sells 6,000 copies in two months, and then get hooked up with Wind-Up Records. Then, all heaven (not hell, for obvious reasons – they were immediately labeled a Christian band) breaks loose when the nascent Wind-Up Records signs you and your remixed debut album starts hitting radio – and the success doesn’t stop for the next 5-6 years. You then go from playing sizable venues in your home state to performing in arenas in the span of barely two years. You’re connected to Woodstock ’99 and popularizing post-grunge for eternity, despised by many despite being one of the highest-selling bands between 1998-2003.
After their initial implosion following their third album, Weathered (yes, the cover art is as awful as you remember), Creed went in two directions. One (lol), vocalist Scott Stapp embarked on a solo career. Two, all the non-Stapp members of Creed teamed up with The Mayfield Four vocalist Myles Kennedy to form Alter Bridge, who have cemented themselves as one of heavy rock’s most creative and consistent bands. Much like Sevendust and Chevelle, they’re a band that sometimes you question whether they should be more successful, but that’s a story for another day. The success of Alter Bridge is also likely the biggest roadblock to a Creed reunion, as without their success and longevity, it would be quite easy to make quite a bit of money while coasting on said reunion. Profiting off this kind of nostalgia is something that happens frequently – have you seen the Motley Crue turnouts?
At their peak, though, Creed sold millions of records. For a few years, they were one of the biggest rock bands around. It can be easy to forget that their sophomore album, 1999’s Human Clay, went absolutely nuclear – selling more copies than some massive albums like The Joshua Tree, Hybrid Theory, and ironically, Pearl Jam’s Ten. With just four full-lengths of original material, they managed to sell over 53 million albums worldwide. Creed has just about every accolade you could want from one of the most popular artists of an era, as well – a Grammy award, a #1 song (“With Arms Wide Open”), an appearance on the Scream 3 soundtrack (“What If”), and even an infamous appearance on national television (Dallas Cowboys, Thanksgiving Day, 2001). Replete with the band’s VH1 Behind The Music-esque implosion in late 2002, and you really have quite the fascinating story.
Even the most hardened detractor of Creed can’t deny, however, that these songs were truly everywhere. You couldn’t escape hearing “Higher”, “With Arms Wide Open”, “My Sacrifice”, and “One Last Breath” on the radio, at the supermarket, or basically anywhere you went. It was because of this oversaturation, as well as vocalist Scott Stapp’s heavy similarity to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, that very likely contributed to their unpopularity. Of course, when you reach the kind of audience they did (remember, Human Clay went Diamond), you’re bound to have plenty of detractors. It happens to any band or musician who reaches massive success, and especially so if they’ve done so quickly. Creed proved to be one of the easiest targets of the media, though, and specifically music critics. After all, their post-grunge sound didn’t exactly leave much room for anything other than being straightforward.
One thing that not many people keep in mind, is that CD sales (which peaked in 1999-2000, consequently just before filesharing and then streaming took off) were at their height. A crazy number of albums released those two years reached Diamond status – the likes of Eminem, The Beatles, Linkin Park, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and more reached said status. Creed obviously did the same thing. People really, really enjoyed these songs, to be fair, and when you combine the timing of this release with the added notoriety they were receiving at the time, you have a recipe for a massive success. It was also really easy to lob criticism at the band’s post-grunge sound, which generally took very few risks to make the maximum impact. A “play it safe” quandary, if you will.
The thing is, though, Creed didn’t rely on solely power ballads or plodding mid-tempo anthems to garner an audience. The band could get surprisingly heavy at times, especially on “Bullets” (don’t look at the eye-watering amount it took to produce the video for it), as well as from a lyrical perspective (the soul-searching “What’s This Life For”, which addresses suicide and finding meaning in the world). Don’t get us wrong, nobody is really saying Creed changed the world with life-changing lyrics and prog-metal level musicianship, but the non-Scott Stapp members of Creed are quite good at their instruments. Especially guitarist Mark Tremonti, who went on to play a major role in the immediate success of Alter Bridge. Even his solo project is active and also shows off his skills (even his vocal chops) in ways that he wasn’t able to before. Freed from the creative shackles of Creed, Tremonti himself has become a celebrated musician in his own right – and that’s not even talking about bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips, who have also done well for themselves in Alter Bridge (and Submersed and Projected, in the case of Scott).
At the end of the day, the band’s possible upcoming reunion could do a whole lot, or it could be just a way to enable the band to connect with their huge fanbase for another run. Could they create new music? Sure. Would it have an impact on the greater music scene at large? It’s possible. At the end of the day, though, Creed “fell victim” to a combination of good timing, a scene that was ready for the next wave of post-grunge bands to take over, the height of CD sales, and the sheer ability to write hits within the genre they played in. In any case, that’s quite impressive – and whether you love the band, despise them, or lie somewhere in between, their time in the sun was a big, big thing in the music scene. And btw, we put “fall victim” in quotation marks, because selling tens of millions of records is not a bad place to end up at all.