Director Ramona Diaz is working on an upcoming film about Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer of Journey. It is an aspirational, rags-to-riches story set against the backdrop of some of the most anthemic songs of recent rock n’ roll history.
Halfway around the world, Journey, the iconic, quintessentially American rock band who recorded eight platinum-certified during their heyday between 1978 and 1986, chose a lead singer in a manner befitting this digital age: They found him on YouTube.
Filipino Arnel Pineda sang Journey songs for many years with his cover band Zoo in clubs all over Manila, his hometown, and posting their performances on YouTube. Arnel grew up in poverty; his mother died when he was 12 years old and he ended up on the streets. Neal Schon, Journey’s legendary guitarist, was half a world away in Northern California. He was frustrated about not having found a lead singer. Since the band’s most famous and distinctive frontman Steve Perry—whose power ballads catapulted the band to super stardom, filling stadiums all over the country — exited the band in the 90’s, it had been a revolving door for Journey vocalists. After literally singing for his US visa and a couple of live auditions and recording sessions later, Arnel was offered the gig as Journey’s frontman.
As the mainstream took notice, Journey found itself in a media frenzy. Is it the beginning of Journey’s second act? Meanwhile, there’s “an undercurrent of racism among some Journey fans.” “It’s both a blessing and a curse” says Arnel, “because up there on the stage I’ll be facing a lot of hard core Journey fans who will be comparing me to “the voice,” Steve Perry. Not only am I not Perry, I’m not even white. But it’s okay, it’s okay, I’ll take that hit head on.” In this age of globalization, how will a non-white foreigner fronting a classic American band change the very nature of the group and possibly expand its fan base? How will he successfully sell songs about being “born and raised in South Detroit”? How long will this dream last and can he live up to expectations? As the band tries to navigate the difficult task of preserving a legacy and moving on with their new “Thrilla of Manila” at the same time, can they turn this media moment into something more than just a footnote in their thirty-year career?
Look for this documentary coming soon.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey trailer