Sounds absurd? It isn’t. Not totally.
Melodic rockers Journey have sold boatloads of records (an estimated 75 million) since vocalist Steve Perry joined the group back in 1977, not to mention plenty of concert tickets. Even their short-lived reunion with their famous frontman in 1996 did not derail them. The San Francisco quintet has had three singers since Perry’s departure and can still play to crowds of 10,000 people or more, effectively warding off the frontman curse that befalls any superstar group that loses its “voice”. On top of all that, Journey’s 2008 album Revelation (a Wal-Mart exclusive) even hit #5 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and sold over 1,000,000 copies in America. Classic rock dinosaurs? Far from it.
More importantly, Journey’s songs have become pop culture touchstones that work everywhere, from major video games like Rock Band to TV shows. When The Sopranos used “Don’t Stop Believin'” for its series finale in June 2007, the song shot to the top of the iTunes chart and become the site’s biggest selling download ever, reaching the 2 million mark as of last November. The same tune, along with “Any Way You Want It,” has been used in the new Broadway jukebox musical Rock of Ages. And it is also sung by a high school glee club in the finale to the pilot episode of Glee, a charming Fox TV series due to air in September. (And by the way, what is “Don’t Stop Believin'” about anyway? Despite being an inspirational song for many — the first stanza seems like the lyrical rough draft for Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” — the rest of it is essentially snapshots of everyday people’s lives with little characterization.)
At any rate, it’s all about perception. While heavier bands like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin have probably sold two to three times as many albums as Journey (we won’t include Elvis or The Beatles here since they trump everyone), downloads and individual songs are how you reach people these days. The band is doing big business that way, and many of their instantly hummable, melodic tunes are tailor made for mass media consumption. I don’t mean that as a diss. While I generally can’t stand their hit ballads, I think that Journey actually write a lot of great rock songs that often spotlight stellar musicianship, and their timeless quality has helped their music endure. The fact that they are undergoing a massive resurgence simply adds to their legend and should keep their fanbase growing for years to come. Like it or not, disbelievers.