Earlier today, I was singing Journey in the shower. I started off with “Who’s Crying Now,” segued into “Lights,” hit the chorus of Don’t Stop Believin'” and wrapped up with Steve Perry‘s ode to road-induced separation, “Faithfully.” (I can still hit the notes!)
Now, I’m not what you’d call a Journey fan — I’m just another roller skating dweeb from 1982 who has the band’s hits seared into the mind Jell-O due to forced overexposure. That said, Journey’s music does seem to “have legs,” to borrow a tired music biz phrase. Particularly the ballads.
Which got me thinking: surely there’s a mathematical equation that would elegantly explain why Journey manage to captivate that primitive, lizard-like part of the brain that responds to rock ballads, while so many other acts fail to achieve liftoff?
Liftoff is a decent metaphor, actually. After all, an airplane relies on a fairly simple physics equation to get off the ground. But if there’s even one ingredient missing, you’re “ditching in the Hudson,” as the kids say. I’m not a physicist, but I do know that flight takes place via four governing forces working in harmony: lift, drag, weight and thrust.
Similarly, I believe that, for a power ballad to to truly “soar,” certain principles must present within the composition and performance. But again, it’s crucial that the appropriate ratio be applied, lest the ditty go down in flames. Essential elements for the achievement of stable rock balladry are: cheese, earnestness, orchestration and passion. If you look closely at a Journey number, you’ll probably find the sympathetic application of each of these musical “forces.” But in what denomination? Whither the key to power ballad alchemy? Is it mystical knowledge passed on in hermetic fashion from cock-rocker to cock-rocker, or is there a more plainly vulgar, re: scientific formula at work?
Dammit, I need answers!