Is there any song more American than "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey? It concluded The Soprano's, it's the theme song of the Chicago White Sox, and has achieved enormous notoriety in film and television. It is, essentially, one of the best rock songs ever written by one of the best rock bands ever formed, Journey. It also begins the new documentary about Journey, titled Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, centering around Arnel Pineda, the new Filipino lead singer of the band.
After Journey's lead singer Steve Perry left the band in 1998, the gang was scrambling to find a new voice. After a few replacements, temporary and official, they settle on a Filipino man named Arnel Pineda, who lead guitarist Neal Schon found on Youtube after spending hours searching for a new possible frontman. Pineda discovered that several dozens of Youtube videos had been posted of him singing with his coverband called "The Zoo." When Schon stumbled up his cover of "Faithfully," and continued watching additional Journey songs, as well as Survivor and Aerosmith, he knew he found their guy. The problem was, could it work? The hardest part about replacing a member of a classic rock band, the lead singer, nonetheless, is that the fans of the music want the sound, style, and rhythm to stay the same. How would fans respond to Journey's choice to make a short, Filipino man from a third-world country their lead singer? The documentary shows the hesitance from the fan-members, including the obligatory racist remarks Pineda got when he first signed on with the band. "I'm not cute; I'm short, I'm so Asian," a self-conscious Pineda states. He recalls his first concert in 2008 in Chile, in front of thousands of people, with pinpoint detail to how he felt that specific night. Before the concert, he states, his lips were trembling, his heartbeat was slowing, his voice and breathing became faint, and everything "was moving in slow-motion." Until he got up on stage and sung his heart out, along with jumping wildly and running from the opposite ends of the stage. It showed the band that not only was Pineda bringing his amazing voice and talent to the table, but also, his kinetic energy and charisma.
In many ways, Arnel Pineda reminds me of the singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who was profiled in Searching for Sugar Man, which won Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars this past year. The film concerned the immense popularity of a singer named Rodriguez in South Africa, which lead to two filmmakers researching the man's roots in America, where he became reclusive and part of the obscure when he realized his albums did nothing but fail in his homeland. Pineda and Rodriguez have the same kind of personality; they're somewhat shy, self-conscious, modest, and beyond charismatic.
The documentary shows how the band has been affected with Arnel Pineda now leading the iconic group, and it seems that it couldn't have been more positive in terms of popularity. We see how Journey is playing in different parts of the world now, and that there is a stunning influx of Filipino attendees at their concerts now. One wonders if it's still necessarily politically correct to refer to the band as the all American rock band.
I fell in love with Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, not just because of the inclusion of unforgettable tunes such as "Anyway You Want It" and "Separate Ways," but mainly because of the likability of Pineda, and how the group currently functions with him. He's such a talented, brave soul, who wandered the streets of Manila to be the lead singer of a larger-than-life rock band. Documentaries are known for shedding light on smaller, more overlooked areas in a big world, and in that case, Pineda's story needed to be told. If you don't experience an emotional resonance with Pineda or his story during the final sequence, where he belts out "Don't Stop Believin'" to an incalculable crowd, you may have the inability to be moved.
Starring: Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain, and Deen Castronovo. Directed by: Ramona Diaz.