In 2007, following the loss of Steve Augeri to a chronic throat infection, American rock band Journey was looking to put out an album and start a new tour without a lead singer. Scouring the Internet for a suitable replacement, Neal Schon happened upon a YouTube video that would help launch the band’s most profitable tour in decade and discover a star halfway around the world.
Director Ramona S. Diaz‘s documentary follows the unlikely journey (pun intended) of unknown Filipino singer-songwriter Arnel Pineda who would rise from complete obscurity to become the new lead singer of Journey.
Filled with plenty of classic Journey songs which Pineda belts out well-enough to make Steve Perry proud, the documentary follows Pineda growing into his role as the band’s frontman, going from star-struck fan to the man fans go crazy for, and opening up and entirely new audience with a huge influx in Filipino fans. Crazy enough for a movie script, the story happens to be true.
Pineda’s personal journey from fan to star struggling to cope with the demands of life on the road, the strains of performing nearly every night, and weighty expectations of the legions of Journey fans (both old and new) is a compelling one. For those unfamiliar with the band’s history, the documentary also sprinkles in a brief look at the band’s beginnings, and the ups and downs that led Journey from the glory days of Steve Perry to giving a complete unknown a microphone and a place in the spotlight.
Fans of the band (which I would certainly include myself) are likely to enjoy the documentary more than those without some knowledge and appreciation of Journey’s music. That said, Pineda’s almost magical fairy tale is certainly compelling on its own. In an age where singers can be discovered in the most unusual circumstances with the rise of YouTube and American Idol (and and a host of imitators), Pineda’s story has as much to say about the man himself as about the current culture in music and how a band many considered irrelevant for more than a decade can catch lightning a bottle one more time.