Getting the Gig
In 1981, Journey–sometimes called the Grateful Dead on steroids–had the number one album in the world. That same year a homeless Manila kid, who could sort of sing a little, was performing in an obscure boy band in city parks for food and change. By 2008, Journey was down on its luck–lead singer Steven Perry left due to health concerns–and that Manila kid was performing in a better, yet still obscure band, even covering Journey songs. Then, to everyone’s surprise, a genuine Journey old timer discovered him via YouTube.
The “kid”–Arnell Pineda–was approached by the group in an email, and agreed to fly from Manila to the states to audition. His voice, in the previous ten years, had blossomed into a powerful, suasive instrument. After a week of auditioning, Pineda was signed as the new lead singer with some misgivings on the part of a couple of the band members. On the other hand, Journey’s record sales were down, and they were about to be fired by CBS Records.
One band member wondered out loud, “You take a kid from the third world and throw him into this [rock-world] circus. Can he handle it?” Another chimed in, “And what’s he gonna do after each song–just stand there?”
In their first concert, Pineda not only sang up a storm, but performed with what another group member called “the athleticism of Bruce Lee and the chops of Perry.” And though Journey was heading back to the top, Pineda had not been so sure: “I’m short,” he argued. “And not cute–and so Asian.”
All this is handled competently in Romona Diaz’s documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. The members of Journey were all millionaires by 2008, still interested in touring for more money. Pineda was a real find, and the squeaky-clean documentary covers his tours with Journey through Mecca (Los Angeles) and back to Manila, where he had become a global icon for Filipino music fans.
Pineda emerges as a good-natured, high-energy “kid” with, as they say, a good head on his shoulders and a route to fame and fortune.
The rest of this 105-minute film, with, curiously, no one song played completely on screen, shifts into culturally anthropologic terrain, examining Pineda’s importance to Filipino culture. It borders on propaganda for fulfilling one’s dreams about future fame and prosperity. In fact, Pineda establishes a cultural foundation for the kids of his culture, and, by the end of this two-year old documentary, is happily a full-fledged member of Journey. For Real.