‘The song simply won’t die’

[…] In the case of “Don’t Stop Believin'” it helps that the general listener isn’t old enough to remember when the song was first released. The song is older than almost all of the Tigers and the Giants, and it predates every single member of the William McKinley High School Glee Club (Morrison was barely 3 years old in 1981). Over the years, the song has shed its disreputable associations, yet retains its power as a pop cultural artifact with the weight of history behind it. A new generation ostensibly hears it for what it is: a shameless go-get-’em-tiger anthem with a catchy chorus and a straightforward sentiment about not disbelieving. Modern-day listeners can ignore its pandering take on poverty and struggle (which is particularly ironic during the current recession), as well as such awkward phrasings as “streetlights people,” “living just to find emotion” and, of course, “South Detroit.”

They can do this because “Don’t Stop Believin'” was a blank to begin with. It wasn’t punk or new wave; it wasn’t muscle car rock or heavy metal; it wasn’t glam or lite pop or any other genre that can be popularly associated with a particular scene or era. It grew out of ’70s and ’80s corporate rock, which tended to erase any regional traits or distinctive personalities to appeal to the broadest swath of listeners possible. Journey is more or less interchangeable with Survivor, Toto, REO Speedwagon, Mr. Mister and so many other anonymous bands of that era. In fact, those groups are so bland that they barely constitute an identifiable genre, which allows a song like “Don’t Stop Believin'” to live slightly out of time and out of style, unburdened by any identification with a larger movement good or bad, popular or obscure. The very traits that drew the most criticism have become crucial to Journey’s longevity: Their blankness allows for more than simple nostalgia. Subsequent generations can paint whatever they like on this blank canvas. […]

That’s near the end of Stephen Deusner’s Salon.com article “Please, let’s stop believin'”

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