Regardless of your interest in Journey’s music or their existence as a band, chances are good that you’ve heard about their new lead singer Arnel Pineda, remarkable for his uncanny ability to channel Steve Perry and for his humble background. Literally plucked from YouTube obscurity and named frontman of one of the most recognizable bands in the world, Pineda is living the ultimate rags to riches story. As weird and incredible as his story is, it’s easy to forget that an established band was left in the lurch after Steve Perry went solo. Not only did discovering Pineda lift a struggling Filipino singer to instant fame, it provided the band with the opportunity to have a second act. The documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey recounts their strange and serendipitous ride.
If you’ve ever heard Arnel Pineda belt out a Journey song, you know that it sounds ridiculously close to Perry’s originals. Close your eyes, factor in the variations inherent in a live performance, and you could believe that it was 1981 and Perry himself. It’s jarring, then, when Pineda begins speaking in heavily-accented, sometimes very broken English. Even more jarring is the fact that this diminutive, boyish figure is actually well into his forties and is also a husband and father. He looks for all the world like a fresh faced kid who won some sort of international American Idol, but Arnel Pineda has been around.
As Pineda reveals his background as a struggling singer who sometimes lived on the streets and periodically battled substance abuse (all in that heavy accent), you begin to realize just how far removed he was from the trappings American life most of us take for granted. Considering the sort of rock star life he was thrust into, you can’t help seeing him as a fish out of water. Strangely, though, Pineda keeps on swimming, slowly learning what it takes to operate a machine the size of Journey and adjusting to the demands of life on the road. As the person behind the voice reveals himself, his story only becomes more incredible.
Though the documentary focuses heavily on Pineda’s story, interviews with band members are interspersed throughout the film, giving us their perspective. Live performances and rehearsals are also featured throughout the documentary, making for a strangely inspiring concert film. It’s a story crazy enough to keep us all believin’.