In the wake of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” being resurrected by a pop-culture phenomenon for the 58th time last year, the band went hunting for a new lead singer—and they found one on YouTube, of all places. Arnel Pineda’s rise to becoming a sort of Ripper Owens for the user-generated content era began when some friends uploaded his performances to the video-sharing site; as lore has it, the Manila-based singer received an e-mail from Journey guitarist Neal Schon inviting him to audition, but dismissed it as a probable hoax. Eventually, Schon convinced Pineda that he—and his request—were the real deal, and the online matchmaking bore full fruit in February, when the new Journey made its live debut in Chile.
From there, the story grew. There was the comeback album, with requisite Wal-Mart exclusive and “hey, remember our iconography?” cover. There was the sniping from Perry in GQ, whose “I’ve moved on” attitude was epitomized by the quote, “I only know that they’ve been through three guys, and I’ve never heard any of them. I stay away from it, because it’s really none of my business now. We have children together, which are the songs we wrote, but that’s about all.” There was the Rolling Stone piece that claimed Pineda wasn’t adjusting well to being away from the Philippines, and the retraction. There were Arnel-bestowed blessings Etc., etc.
But most of all, there were the fans, whose ability to set comment sections all over the Internet alight like they’re Journey pinball games was unparalleled by pretty much any Internet phenomenon. (Including stupid listicles.) Take this PopWatch post that is still raging, some nine months after the initial post went up. You can spend days getting lost in the thickets of discourse (OK, maybe “discourse” is too highfalutin a word for some of the posts in question), and the twists and turns the online fights take almost eclipse Arnel’s dead-on impersonation of Steve Perry.