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Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Aug 27, 2013
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

Arnel Pineda has Steve Perry's crow-black hair, generous sideburns and high-flying vocal chops. Pineda also has Perry's former job as the band Journey's front man, and his discovery on YouTube is recounted in Ramona S. Diaz's "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey."

Pineda's story is heartwarming; the documentary is thin. The diminutive Filipino was born to two tailors in Manila, and after his mother died when he was 13, he had to live with relatives. He found singing as a way to make a living.

He sang with many cover bands at home and in Hong Kong, as well as in national competitions, paying his dues as an imitating American rock stars (the film doesn't include this impressive touring cred, nor the fact that the youthful-looking singer is almost 46). After guitarist Neal Schon contacted Noel Gomez, video-poster and Pineda's friend, Journey hired Pineda within a few months at the end of 2007.

While wailing old white guy anthems, Pineda still brings his gratitude, humility and street soul to the catalogue.

Pineda is charming, and can belt, but notes that he's considered by detractors to be a copycat participating in a global karaoke contest. It must be difficult to sing somebody else's ubiquitous songs, which have sold 80 million albums worldwide ("Don't Stop Believin'" is the most downloaded song recorded in the 20th century).

While wailing old white guy anthems, Pineda still brings his gratitude, humility and street soul to the catalogue, and adds his electric smile and tremendous energy from his 5'3" frame. He still speaks in Taglish, a mix of Tagalog and English. Filipino fans (known "plokkers" on Pineda's website) flock to his concerts, so Journey has "inherited a nation," as one Filipina gushes to expand its audience base.

I wish the documentary would have painted a more complete picture of the man -- like him overcoming drinking and drugging -- and I hope Pineda gets the opportunity to sing his own songs and find his own voice, and not spend his days being Perry's Mini-Me in cash cow nostalgia tours. But Pineda's appreciation of serendipity and his love of singing are infectious. "The performance is really my consolation," he says.

"Don't Stop Believin'" Everyman's Journey"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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