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Journey’s song Don’t Stop Believin’ belongs to an elite category of songs, because its popularity is global in scope. It is popular because of the right combination of melody and message. There are hit songs with fancy melody that creates a lingering effect in the hearts and minds of listeners, but just like a passing fad, it fades away. There are also songs written for the purpose of communicating powerful ideas, and yet without the proper melody as a vehicle for its success, the song fizzles out. Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ is a powerful ballad with a heart stirring message, coupled with a music that inspires people from all walks of life, because it encourages both young and old to never give up on their dreams.
The song was written during one of the most difficult times in U.S. history. The 1980s can be characterized as a time of confusion, as evidenced by an economic and political environment that creates insecurity among the people. The song was written in 1981, a few years after the Vietnam War ended in a catastrophe. The United States earned a great deal of goodwill when it defeated the evils of Nazism and Fascism at the end of World War II, however, all of that was squandered in a useless war that made a lot of Americans angry (Schulzinger 3).
It was not the best time to cherish and promote American values, and one can argue that many teenagers and young adults all over the United States went through some form of an identity crisis. The characters in the song, the girl and the boy who took the midnight train even if they did not have a sure itinerary or goal in mind seems to represent a significant number of young people who are no longer happy with the way things are, and they needed to find meaning for their existence (Lynskey 1). As a result, a great number of teenagers and young adults found a connection with this song, and as a result made Journey a household name in America (Daniels 25).
The song’s core message is to keep on fighting and to keep on believing even if there is no evidence to encourage the person to go on working towards his dream job. Teenagers and young adults trying to make sense of where they are going in life were the intended audience for the song’s message. The song’s core message also speaks to those who left the rural life of farms and small towns in order to pursue their dreams in the big city, and in the process encountered tremendous difficulties. The opening verse of the song talks about a small town girl and a city boy trying to find success outside their respective comfort zones. The song’s message of hope resonates with teenagers and young adults because it differs from the condescending tone of authority figures; it provides a radically different view of failure.
Parents and school administrators may find it easy to criticize those who chose the unconventional pathway to success, however, the song seems to encourage them, and tell them that not everyone will succeed on their first try. Consider the following lyrics: “Don’t stop believin’. Hold on to the feelin’” (Snider 421). In this part of the song’s lyrics one can find an advice that is not based on logic or scientific deduction. In fact, this message encourages a teenager or young adult to pursue their dreams even if they do not have the capacity to explain the logic of their action plan. According to the song, it does not matter, because the individual’s gut feeling is enough to justify a risky move. This message resonates with millions of people all over the planet, because dreams are often unquantifiable. This message invigorated the hopes and dreams of people all over the world, because it reinforced the idea that dreams are often indescribable. In other words, the song encourages people to follow their dreams even if their bank accounts and their current mode of employment tell them to quit.
There are two ways to view the song’s intended message. It is possible to take the negative view and focus on the rebellious nature of the message. On the other hand, it is also acceptable to argue that it condones the idea of running away from home. One can also say that it glorifies the night life characterized by gambling and drinking. However, it is best to take the positive view, because the song did not explicitly say that the girl was a runaway teenager, she could easily represent a college graduate who wanted to test her luck in the big city.
If the critic considers the positive view, then, the song is interpreted in a different way, and this interpretation provides positive reinforcement for those who are not content to lead mediocre lives. It is easy to criticize a person who failed after attempting something that is difficult to accomplish. It is easy to kick a person when he is down. However, it is rare to find encouragement in a world filled with doubters and haters. It is rare to find a voice of encouragement saying it is not wrong to keep on believing in the dream. The song’s lyrics create a wonderful feeling, and it inspires people to take chances. Those who failed in their first try are never condemned for their past actions. It is therefore a source of encouragement for those who are in desperate need of an ally in times of great pain and confusion. This is one of the significant features of the song.
Journey’s song Don’t Stop Believin is a worldwide phenomenon, because it inspires people from all walks of life to never give up on their dreams. Journey’s song seems indestructible as it continues to enjoy success for more than three decades. The song’s global popularity is due to the unique blend of melody and message. It is rare to find songs with a message of hope, and yet at the same time excites the listeners with songs that are as entertaining as those produced by successful rock and roll bands. A careful examination of the song’s lyrics provided surprising results, because it is possible to have two diverging views regarding the song’s intended message. It is possible to take the negative perspective and condemn the song for encouraging teenagers to run away from home, as well as glamorize gambling and drinking alcohol. However, it is good to use the positive perspective, and appreciate the song for its powerful message about hope and never giving up. It is hard to discredit the group, because the band is the living proof that dreams do come true.
Daniels, Neil. Don’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story of Journey. New York: Omnibus Press, 2011. Print.
Lynskey, Dorian. “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The Guardian. 2010: 1-2. Theguardian.com. Web.
Schulzinger, Robert. A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Snider, Dee. Shut Up and Give me the Mic. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.