The Price of Living a Fairy Tale in Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey
Long relegated to pop-culture punch line and music-critic whipping boy, Journey still stands among the most commercially successful American musical acts of the last four decades. The band’s meat-and-potatoes arena rock has inspired snickers from the cool kids, then became a badge of ironic hipster cool, and has always been the heartfelt soundtrack of middle-American blue-collar life. As Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary Don’t Stop Believin’ illustrates, Journey’s songs have even resonated with struggling people around the world, a point illustrated by the film’s central story: the band’s search for a replacement for lead singer Steve Perry, whose vocal pyrotechnics on songs like “Open Arms,” “Faithfully,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” prove almost impossible to match. Thanks to the reach of YouTube, the band found their guy—in Manila. Arnel Pineda, a Filipino cover singer who specialized in Journey songs, was ready to throw in the towel on his career when he received the call to audition. Armed with a backstory that stops just shy of Dickensian—a childhood marked by homelessness and the death of his mother—he’s a small-framed man with a massive voice. The film sustains a current of tension as we watch Pineda make the leap from small bars to arenas, battling insecurities and fears—including worries that as a replacement for Perry, there’s no room for his own “voice.” It’s a moving tale made more so because even after he’s “won,” Pineda maintains a clear-eyed pragmatism about what living a fairy tale costs.
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