I must admit, I wanted a crazy diatribe on the spooks following Scott Stapp, the black helicopters circling the former Creed singer's every movement; from the closest equivalent of the Cobalt Club to the zooted-up, 'roided-out d-list celebrity appearances (read: Orlando stripper's 16th birthday party). I wanted a train wreck of a man to break down, freak out, gnash his teeth, pull out his hair. To, basically, behave the way that he did after the breakup of his slightly Christian post-grunge group. Accounts that we may not know to be true but have entered into the pop culture consciousness as fact because it's fucked. And that's fucked.
The aura surrounding Stapp, particularly in the increasingly cutthroat realm of internet gossip, is that of a pre-Nickelback Chad Kroeger. As the former singer for Creed, Stapp's slightly secular lyrics, often challenging the biblical narrative that seemed to follow the band like an obnoxious, friendless Holy Ghost, painted him as the jaded son of the overzealous pastor at Bible camp, the kid who challenges the youth leader's every attempt to unite the children around rope courses, renditions of "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and your pal "J-to-the-C." Stapp's popularity post-Creed seemed based solely on his decline into hard drugs, manic episodes and poverty; a washed-up lunatic.
And this is not who Stapp is. I mean, maybe it is. I don't know the guy. But it's who we, the media and pop culture, the same spectacle that once championed the man when he was filling industry pockets, want us to think he is.
"I think social media plays a big part in a new expectation that fans have from their pop stars. I think they want a tremendous amount of access. And, you know, really want to know every detail of your life. And not just what you present," Stapp said in a phone conversation with the San Antonio Current.
Stapp expounds: "I think personal lives have become also another form of entertainment that these younger pop stars are using to cultivate and stay connected to their fan bases, and that's extremely different than when I was doing my thing."
That's what pop culture feeds on, after all. It makes icons out of those it aims to eventually offer back to us as pitiful poster children for ego gone awry. The famous personalities; once yesterday's entrée, now today's excrement. Perfect fodder for the faceless lambasting, celebrity cyber-bullying that hides behind the shallow reasoning of, "Well, they're rich and famous, that's what they get."
"I can't say that suffering has made me a better artist, but it's definitely impacted my art. How could it not?" Stapp asked rhetorically. "With the themes and the content being drawn from my life, it's inevitably impacted what I talk about in my songs and the moods and the vibes of some of the music, but, definitely, I would trade it all away to not have had to live it."
What's truly bothersome, and is indicative of a larger cultural flaw, is that we often don't even address the music. Granted, we are being sold a lifestyle with Stapp, just like every artist before and after. However, that image is projected through a giant public relations machine. At what point do we draw the line and say, OK, making fun of somebody's wack-ass tunes is totally kosher but kicking a human being, one who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as Stapp has, or one that's clearly hit a devastating patch of life, is sick?
Going into the interview with Stapp, I wanted a maniacal meth-head on a CIA-backed mission to assassinate President Barack Obama. It wasn't until seconds before Scott was put on the line and his publicist said he is open to talk about his bipolar disorder, an ailment I was unaware of, that I caught myself trying to exploit someone's struggle.
"I still think there's a tremendous stigma out there in the general public and a tremendous amount of pre-judging ... I think that things are changing slowly ... I think that the more people that come out and share the truth about their lives, I think that that will help continue to break down the walls and break down the stigmas," Stapp said.
He has done just that. Do I like his music? Nope. But I did. I once dug it so much that I screeched it at the top of my pre-pubescent vocal cords at a summer camp talent show. And so did many of you. Is it fun to make fun of music we find shitty? The most fun. However, tearing down someone for behavior that is indicative of a larger problem, or, more simply, someone who is clearly in pain, is negative, cruel and something Stapp looks to combat with his music and his message.
I wanted psychotic ramblings from a paranoid schizophrenic to print in ironic mockery. "Creed sucks, Scott Stapp's a weirdo." That kind of elitist bullshit. Instead, dude, I think Scott Stapp just made me a better person.