Has there ever been an artist who has sold so many records and yet seems to be as universally detested as Scott Stapp? For a few years around the turn of the century, Creed were the biggest-selling band in the world (yes, really), yet misunderstandings over Stapp’s spiritual beliefs (like it mattered in judging the music); misunderstandings over Stapp’s drug-taking (dodgy doctor prescribing dodgy painkillers); and misunderstandings over Creed’s music (contrary to revisionist history – nothing like Nickelback); all combined to make Stapp the media’s number one vilification victim.
Judging by the interview Stapp’s former band-mates Mark Tremonti and Brian Marshall (now of Alter Bridge) gave to musicOMH.com a while back, he’s not top of their speed-dial list either. Listening to the defiant lyrics on The Great Divide, his first solo album, it’s clear that Stapp is doing his best not to be overly bothered (“This is my fight song”, “I do not have to justify the way I live my life” and so on), although there are also refreshing bursts of humble candour that obliquely reference the is-he-a-Christian-no-he’s-a-hypocrite debate (“I guess you’ve probably noticed… I’ve been living a double life”).
It’s not just Stapp’s lyrics that paint from a broader palette than his Creed days. Musically, The Great Divide spans the extremities, with the serpentine-riffed, Eastern-flavoured Reach Out and the appropriately aggressive Fight Song literally kicking things off, and the altogether more soulful Broken – complete with piano, strings and a fine female vocal accompaniment – closing things out in versatile fashion.
In between these bookends Stapp settles into familiar but rarely passé territory. Hard Way and Justify both build into rocking, arena-sized choruses; Let Me Go boasts some delicate Spanish-type guitar that Tremonti would be proud of; while the title track is an anthem in the mould of Creed’s My Sacrifice that manages to marry euphoric music to epiphanic lyrics (“You set me free to live my life / You became my reason to survive the great divide”).
Occasionally, songs don’t live up to their lofty titles. You Will Soar doesn’t make it up to the stratosphere, while Sublime is insipid instead of inspired. However, for those who like their American rock to be bullish rather than dullish, The Great Divide will prove a worthwhile investment.