I remember when I was in high school I would mount my bicycle and ride for hours with my walkman (I know, I know…I am dating myself) strapped on and Journey’s greatest hits blaring into my ears through my headphones. When the song Don’t Stop Believin’ would come on I almost always, inevitably, stopped my ride and sang the lyrics as loud as I could (isn’t it funny how you sound just like the chosen singer when the music is so loud you can’t hear your own voice?) Anyway, there was something about that song that just touched my inner core. Inspired me to tears sometimes. It was just those eight words …”don’t stop believin’ hold on to that feelin’…”
Journey’s keyboard player, Jonathan Cain, recalls his father bucking him up when he was a young struggling musician in his pre-Journey 1970s band, the Babys. “I was always starving, and I’d call him up and he’d say, ‘Don’t stop believing or you’re done, dude.’ “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” has become the top-selling digital download of a track not originally released in this century, selling 2,803,000 units since online single sales began to be tracked in 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And apparently there’s room in people’s hearts to hear a full chorale bust out that chorus too. The “Glee” cast’s version debuted at No. 2 on the iTunes chart, with 302,000 downloads of its own.
So what’s my point? In Chris Willman’s June 29, 2009 LA Times article, he writes: There’s an old pop aphorism that goes: “Don’t bore us — get to the chorus.” By that yardstick, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” should be one of the most boring and unsuccessful rock recordings of all time. Structurally, it’s a mess: Surely one would get tossed out of songwriting school for a tune that follows its opening piano riff with a verse, a guitar arpeggio, a second verse, a bridge, a guitar solo, a third verse, a repeat of the bridge, another guitar solo . . . and then, 3 minutes, 20 seconds in, when the song is ready to fade out, one of the most unforgettable choruses in rock.