Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is no longer a guilty pleasure. It has become a stadium and arena staple. – ESPN

By Rick Paulas
Page 2

The first thing you hear is that keyboard.

It’s one of the most iconic in music history — perhaps second only to the opening strains of Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” although that’s popular more for ironic reasons — and it’s during Jonathan Cain’s ivory-tickling riff that a wave of recognition hits you. Your face slowly creases into a smile as you realize how you will spend the next 4 minutes, 11 seconds. That’s when Steve Perry’s unusually high-pitched vocals kick in:

Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world

She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere

Even before Neal Schon’s repeating guitar lick fades in, you’re belting out the story of a city boy with the same railway destination. No matter the stadium or the sport or the team, thousands of other voices rise as one alongside you.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is our era’s greatest stadium anthem.

The opening track from Journey’s seventh album, “Escape,” the song was merely a modest hit when it was released in 1981, reaching No. 8 on Billboard’s mainstream-rock chart. (“Open Arms” off the same album was actually the biggest hit, reaching No. 2.) But in recent years, “Don’t Stop Believin'” has undergone a Rick Ankiel-like rebirth in our collective consciousness.

In the past three years alone, the song was covered by Kanye West in honor of his late mother, was featured in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” and was the focal point of the pilot for Fox’s “Glee.” In 2008, it became the most downloaded catalog song in iTunes history — “catalog” meaning material released before the iTunes Store was launched. But its biggest impact has been in the sports world.

(There’s an argument to be made it’s had an equal impact in the world of karaoke. But our ears aren’t willing to research it.)

Once used almost exclusively at home games for Detroit-based franchises — the Motor City crowds especially enjoy the part about the aforementioned city boy being “born and raised in south Detroit” — the song now seems to be receiving more sports arena play around the country than Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll (Part 2)” or the “Dee-fense” chant.

During the 2007-08 NHL season, Washington Capitals rookie center Nicklas Backstrom began playing it in the locker room after every win, leading the Caps to co-opt it for their playoff run. Last year, a new incarnation of Journey — with Perry vocal-clone Arnel Pineda filling in for the real deal — sang the song at the Super Bowl XLIII pregame show. Most recently, the smell of wine and cheap perfume wafted into Chavez Ravine, when the Los Angeles Dodgers made it their unofficial eighth-inning stretch song, no matter the score. “If you’re winning, don’t stop believing,” Dodgers executive Charles Steinberg said. “If you’re tied, don’t stop believing. If you’re losing, don’t stop believing.”

(If you listen to it over and over, you’ll be astounded at how perfect a stadium anthem it is. The structure of the song — with the sing-a-long chorus not coming until the end — builds and builds like the stress level in a closely contested playoff game. “That’s definitely part of its appeal,” said Mark Richardson, managing editor at Pitchfork.com, a Chicago-based music commentary Web site. “Each verse keeps hooking you in and pulling you forward because you’re looking for that big climax of ‘Don’t Stop Believin” that doesn’t come until the very end.”

via Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is no longer a guilty pleasure. It has become a stadium and arena staple. – ESPN.

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