When Journey initially got together in 1973 in San Francisco, the idea was that they would work as backup for other singers. That idea was quickly abandoned, though, and they started to try and find their own musical direction. However, to find the Top 10 Journey songs, I won’t be looking at that period of their recordings. Better was to come.
In the early days, they tried to create a jazzy rock sound. Their first three albums, released between 1975 and 1977, were not a commercial success, however. They decided that they were in the wrong market, took on a more Pop/Rock singer in Steve Perry, and changed direction.
- But What Direction?
- What Is Album-Oriented Rock?
- The Criticisms
- Top 10 Journey Songs
- Want to Listen to More Great Music for the 70s and 802?
- Top 10 Journey Songs – Final Thoughts
But What Direction?
New subgenres of Rock music were being created all the time, though it can’t be said that Journey themselves created one. They just fitted into what was already there.
Most people identify them as being an AOR band. AOR means “Album-Oriented Rock.” It was a phenomenon that began to develop in the 70s and probably had its heyday in the 80s.
What Is Album-Oriented Rock?
The idea behind AOR is that albums were supposed to be listened to as an entity. Not just listened to as isolated tracks as had been what often happened. The tracks were supposed to be linked thematically and musically to make a “whole.”
Adult Oriented Rock is a smooth rock sound that came out of America and became the soundtrack of millions of lives all over the world. It is defined by timeless anthems such as More Than A Feeling by Boston, Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, and Africa by Toto, as well as by monumental power ballads, such as the massive worldwide hit I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner.
The music had a Rock basis, and there were plenty of harmonies, power chords, and keyboards. And the clothes became very visual. This led to what was almost a new subgenre of the subgenre of AOR, which could be called “Melodic Rock,” although I am not one to label music for the sake of it.
There were many in some circles. Some critics mocked them for their shaggy, tinted haircuts and bright satin everything. Others just ignored it as “manufactured rock,” and a few just ignored it altogether.
However, let me make one last point. We call it the “music business.” Businesses need to make money to survive. If there is a market in what Journey was doing and playing, then why not?
You only have to look at how many albums they sold to decide whether they were a success or not. So let’s do that and have a look at what might be considered Journey’s Top 10 songs.
Top 10 Journey Songs
10 Who’s Crying Now
This was the first single from the album, Escape in 1981. It reached #46 in the UK and #4 in America, and it was written by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain.
The song has an interesting arrangement that allows the piano riff, simple as it is, to dominate. The drums are only heard in the chorus and when we are nearing the end. The song tells the story of a bad relationship.
9 Only The Young
This is a song with a strange history. It was written by Neal Schon, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain and was sold to the band Scandal, who included it in their album Warrior. Journey had originally planned to release it in their 1983 album, Frontiers.
Journey finally released it themselves as a single in 1985 that reached #9 in America. It was also included on an album of the soundtrack to the film Vision Quest. Those decisions cost the band and their management a lot of money as they had to make a payment to Scandal for using it.
The song is about the possibilities of youth…
Even suggesting that the young might be wiser than the older generations. A bit of wishful thinking there, I think. It also says the youth have seen through the “lies of the past,” whereas the older people didn’t.
Easy to be wise in hindsight, of course. An attempt to do a “Bob Dylan” and make a political statement? I don’t know, but I hope not, because it won’t work. That said, it’s typical of the best Journey songs – a good chorus and powerful production.
8 Open Arms
Another single released from their 1981 Escape album is a power ballad that is a good example of an ‘AOR’ production. It was written by Jonathan Cain and Steve Perry. The song was a success in the UK, where it reached #4, and did even better at #2 in America. It has since been covered by Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.
This track is a man pleading for forgiveness from his partner for something he has done wrong. Clearly trying to attempt to kick-start their relationship.
It includes a variety of styles with an infectious piano and utilizing an orchestra. A heavy guitar is also present, as you would expect. Without question, one of Journey’s best power ballads.
This is a track that could be considered part of the change in styles away from their original jazz-fusion ideas. It is the opening track on their 1978 album, Infinity. As the opening track from an album that was announcing a change of direction for them, it had to be good. And it was certainly a good example of their new Melodic Rock style.
The song has its Rock influences, but it is unashamedly written and produced to be commercial. They needed success, and this was just the sort of song that would provide it. “Lights” almost became the template for what was to follow in years to come. Good harmonies with a certain style that would appeal to a new breed of fans. It was written by Steve Perry and Neal Schon.
And On The Drums, We Have?
A bit of interesting trivia is that the drums on this track are played by Aynsley Dunbar. He is a British drummer from Liverpool who played with Mick Ronson, John Mayall, Jeff Beck, and many others.
Back to the Frontiers album for this track from 1983. This is another well-produced power ballad that ranks as good as the track “Open Arms” we have already looked at. “Faithfully” was written by keyboard player Jonathan Cain. Structurally, it is an interesting song in that it doesn’t have a definable chorus. It reached #12 in America and #36 in Canada.
Cain wrote this song to and about his wife, documenting the potential problems of being married to a musician who is on the road. The production has several layers, and, in particular, the guitar chord work has some interesting sounds.
If you are looking for another classic example of an Album-Oriented Rock power ballad, then this will do the job. It certainly moved the power ballad idea to a slightly alternative place. For that reason, this track must be included on our list of the Top 10 Journey songs.
5 Stone In Love
Not released as a single, this track from the Escape album made a statement that they could vary their style and sound a bit. When this song starts, it’s got the sound of AC/DC’s 1979 release, Highway To Hell. Journey, however, tries to create a similar atmosphere, a song for their live concerts.
They are certainly trying to emphasize the power rather than the ballad. But, in doing so, they manage to ensure the vocals still play a prominent part in the overall sound.
4 Any Way You Want It
This is the opening track of their sixth album, Departure, from 1980. It is a song with plenty of punch and power and is sometimes the last song at their concerts. It was released as an afterthought in 2010 in the UK but only reached #161. The original recording from 1980 did better in America, peaking at #23.
This is a very well-known Journey song. And, even if you’ve never heard of the band, you will probably have heard this track. They added a little bit extra to this song by using a mellotron to lift the chorus.
It was written by Steve Perry and Neal Schon. Steve Perry gives some credit to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy for the song. And, in particular, for the guitar and vocal interchanges common on some Lizzy recordings.
3 Wheel In The Sky
“Wheel In The Sky” is a track from the band’s fourth album, Infinity. It was written by Robert Fleischman, Neal Schon, and the wife of the band’s bass player, Diane Valory. As I already mentioned, it was at the time that they were moving towards producing more commercial music.
Fleischman had been their initial choice of a singer, but it didn’t work out, and he was replaced by Steve Perry. They kept the song on the album, however. It was an effort to develop more of a Rock sound, especially with the guitar, and the song has a much heavier dynamic.
2 Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
And so, down to the last two of the best songs by Journey, in my view, of course. The album, Escape, had been a big success, and in many ways, had been their breakthrough album. The trouble with that is everybody then watches to see if you can repeat the process. This is a big Rock song from the album Frontiers that shows they could continue with another good album.
Another big production ensures that the interest in the song is maintained all the way through. It was released as a single in 1983 and reached #8 in America and #11 in Canada. Plenty of heavy guitar and vocals meant that they kept up their winning formula.
1 Don’t Stop Believin’
Just about the most popular and well-known song they released was another track taken from the 1981 album, Escape. On its first release as a single in 1981 in the UK, it only reached #62. However, due to re-releases and TV shows that helped to promote it, it finally saw success in 2010. Then it managed to reach #6. It peaked at #9 in America in 1981.
This is the most recognized and most popular Journey song with its opening keyboard riff. And, it is interesting that what you would call the chorus and the words that most people associate with the song aren’t heard until very near the end.
It was written by Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, and Steve Perry and became the band’s anthem at concerts.
Want to Listen to More Great Music for the 70s and 802?
If so, have a look at our detailed articles on the Most Famous Singers Of The 1980s, the Best 80s Rock Songs, the Best 80s Love Songs, the Best 70s Songs, and the Best 70s Rock Songs for more excellent song selections.
Of course, you’ll need to hear them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones with Volume Control, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Journey Songs – Final Thoughts
I suppose you could argue that it was the right place and the right time for Journey. Certain aspects of music were still trying to define themselves, and Rock music was one. People were open to new ideas. Although this is a step back away from the Glam Rock scene of a few years earlier, there were similarities. But the music was more vocal-based and embraced the concept of the Power Ballad.
Journey went through several changes over the years. But, once they had defined their new style with the album Escape, they moved forward. They were able to overcome personnel changes and stay very close to their style, whoever was singing or playing. Love them, or otherwise, they left a body of work that is still hugely popular today.
So, until next time, happy listening.