Time and lack of relevance have rendered it fairly easy to forget just how popular Journey was during its heyday – that the band’s image loomed so large Atari actually built an entire video game around it … that its sound grew so recognizable Budweiser actually enlisted several members to perform commercial jingles … that its songs grew so ubiquitous you can still find a copy of the band’s Greatest Hits lying just beneath the driver’s side of every housewife’s minivan. For good or ill, Journey somehow manages to endure, very often as if driven by its own means of combustion.
Enter Arnel Pineda: a pint-sized migrant from The Philippines who joined the band back in 2007, personally recruited by Neal Schon. Pineda was not only a revelation, he was also the primary reason Journey had any worthwhile reason to look forward. Arnel’s unique ability to channel Steve Perry without becoming Steve Perry was – and is – pretty goddamned remarkable. But what’s more is his ability to draw power from his boyhood idols, all the while leading them in a whole new (multi-million-dollar) direction.
In terms of continuity, Don’t Stop Believin’ does have a tendency to dawdle, specifically when engaged in Arnel’s backstory. But the feeling sure is there. And, assuming we can all agree that David Chase reinvigorated that whole franchise way back in June of 2007, we can also probably agree that Arnel Pineda was – and is – the primary lynchpin keeping all those other pieces together. His story is an inspiration, to be sure. And it makes for pretty fascinating viewing, regardless of whether you’re a music fan, a movie buff, or just some pint-sized migrant from the cut.