Start believin’

Don't let "Sopranos" fans and '80s embarrassment fool you -- Journey rules.

Topics:

As a longtime Journey fan, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the band’s rousing “Don’t Stop Believin’” play out over the last shot of “The Sopranos” finale. But that surprise quickly turned to frustration as the Web started filling up with anti-Journey sentiment in response to the use of the song.

The bloggers’ antipathy toward Journey isn’t exactly unexpected, though. Critical distaste for the band goes back a long way. Rolling Stone’s two-star review of the band’s 1981 breakthrough “Escape” — featuring “Don’t Stop Believin’” — calls the album a “triumph of professionalism, a veritable march of the well-versed schmaltz-stirrers.” The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau wrote the following about 1983′s 6 million-selling “Frontiers”: “Just a reminder, for all who believe the jig is really up this time, of how much worse things might be: this top 10 album could be outselling ‘Pyromania,’ or ‘Flashdance,’ or even ‘Thriller.’” Even a positive customer review on Amazon.com slaps the dreaded “corporate rock” label on the band.

I sort of don’t get why Journey are typically derided as slick and soulless. The idea that a heavily produced sound is necessarily lacking in emotion is plainly false. The sonic atmosphere of “Abbey Road” is just as glossy and seamless as anything Journey ever recorded; likewise Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” And why, exactly, is a punk-rock-style decision to just plug in and play any less calculated or any more authentic than Journey’s choice to overdub extensively and give the music a synthesized sheen?

You Might Also Like

Journey were actually making punchy pop-rock designed to get across quickly. In a weird way, it wasn’t that different from punk. Consider this: On the six studio albums Journey put out during their peak years of 1978-86, the band recorded only seven songs longer than five minutes. On just three albums before the band’s best-known lead singer Steve Perry joined, 12 songs stretched past the same mark. Journey consciously scaled back, determined to pack as much punch into each single as possible. Hence, the grand, glowing sound of their music, thick with guitars, booming drums, Perry’s soaring, multitracked vocals and hook after hook. Nothing is extraneous. In their cool efficiency and pop concision, Journey were a lot closer to the Ramones than they were to Led Zeppelin.

Similarly, the idea that Journey’s music is marred by the virtuosity of Perry’s insanely flexible and wide-ranging voice and guitarist Neil Schon’s flashy technique is another boring bit of punk-rock dogma. Technical ability is not inherently inimical to emotion. If it were, jazz and classical music would have to be dismissed outright. And as with the band’s lushly produced sound, Journey’s technical facility was always in the service of the song. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a case in point: Schon’s tricky rapid-fire picking at the 51-second mark beautifully sets the stage for the rest of the song, his muted sound mimicking the stifled emotions of the lyric’s protagonists. Later, his eight-bar solo is a marvel of melodic precision, leading perfectly into the chorus that follows. Perry’s rousing vocal performance works much the same way. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is about desperate hope — “living just to find emotion.” Accordingly, the Olympian high notes that Perry affixes to the end of the line “Hiding somewhere in the night” are a suitably inspiring match for the song’s message of hopeful perseverance.

The carping of persnickety “Sopranos” viewers aside, the recent attention has been good for Journey (who, minus Perry, still regularly tour). As of this morning, the band’s greatest hits collection was holding down the No. 53 spot on Amazon.com’s album sales rankings; “Don’t Stop Believin’” was at No. 22 on iTunes. These listeners are learning what millions of listeners unconcerned with what’s hip have known for years: Journey’s a band to believe in.

– David Marchese

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>