You probably want more than that. Well, let's start with this: "Don't Stop Believin'" is a well-constructed song with broad demographic appeal, a built-in sense of optimism and a throbbing pulse.
The song could hardly have broader appeal. The song's arena-pitched dynamics make it a natural for pop and rock fans, while its strong melodic sensibility makes it relatable to older, adult contemporary fans. Moreover, it's highly singable. A generation of students came of age singing this song in school assemblies and talent shows. In fact, it's all but impossible not to sing along. I bet even snooty critics who pooh-pooh the song sing along when it comes on the car radio (though they probably check first to make sure their windows are closed.)
Neal Schon, who co-founded Journey in 1973, co-wrote "Don't Stop Believin'" with Steve Perry, who joined in 1978, and Jonathan Cain, who came on board in 1981. Schon was a former member of the rock powerhouse Santana. Cain came over from the pop-minded group, The Babys. (These disparate influences help explain the song's broad appeal.)Olivia Newton-John's "Physical," which topped the Hot 100 for 10 straight weeks, longer than any other single of the 1980s. But "Physical" doesn't mean nearly as much today. It has sold just 122,000 downloads.
"Don't Stop Believin'" is still selling at a remarkably swift pace. It has sold 1 million downloads just since October, when it topped the 2 million mark. (The Glee version of the song has sold 353,000 downloads since the show's preview airing in May. These aren't counted in Journey's total.)
The strong afterlife for "Don't Stop Believin'" helps to make up for the fact that it was shut out in the Grammy nominations (as were Escape and its other key singles, "Who's Crying Now" and "Open Arms").
The success of "Don't Stop Believin'" paved the way for two similar arena-rock anthems: Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer." All three of these smashes appear on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the 200 songs with the most paid downloads.
That list includes 12 songs that were released prior to 2000. They're not necessarily the ones you might expect. Only four of the 12 songs reached #1 on the Hot 100. Only three won Grammy Awards.
Here are these 12 songs. The tally after the song title is the song's number of paid downloads, as of this week. I include the song's peak position on the Hot 100 and the month(s) and year it peaked. Finally, I show the song's current ranking on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of 200 songs with the most paid downloads.Journey, "Don't Stop Believin,'" 3,006,000. This spirited anthem was the second single from the band's ninth album, Escape. Hot 100 peak: #9 in December 1981. Top 200 rank: #33. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"/"What A Wonderful World," 1,965,000. The Hawaiian singer and ukulele player, who died in 1997, recorded this medley in 1993. It appeared on his second album, Facing Future. Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong recorded the original versions of these prized songs. Jason Castro borrowed the arrangement of "Over The Rainbow" for his performance on American Idol in April 2008. Hot 100 peak: didn't chart. Top 200 rank: #111. Survivor, "Eye Of The Tiger," 1,860,000. Though "Eye Of The Tiger" (from Rocky III) lost the Oscar for Best Song to "Up Where We Belong" (from An Officer And A Gentleman), it's much more popular with today's fans. Survivor's smash won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It was the first single from the band's third album, Eye Of The Tiger. Hot 100 peak: #1 in July and August 1982. Top 200 rank: #126. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama," 1,833,000. This Southern rock classic was the first single from the band's sophomore album, Second Helping. Hot 100 peak: #8 in October and November 1974. Top 200 rank: #130. Michael Jackson, "Thriller," 1,812,000. This was the seventh and final single released from Jackson's 1982 blockbuster of the same name. The album earned Jackson a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. This song, with its spooky Vincent Price spoken part, has been a Halloween perennial every year since 1983. Hot 100 peak: #4 in March 1984. Top 200 rank: #134. Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody," 1,778,000. Not many singles make the top 10 twice. This one did, in 1976 and again in 1992 when it was featured in the movie Wayne's World. The theatrical rock epic was the first single from the band's fourth album, A Night At The Opera. Hot 100 peaks: #9 in April and May 1976, #2 in May 1992. Top 200 rank: #142. Guns N' Roses, "Sweet Child O' Mine," 1,753,000. This rock classic was the first single from the band's debut album, Appetite For Destruction. That 1987 release is the only debut album represented with a song on this list. And it has two (see #10). Hot 100 peak: #1 in September 1988. Top 200 rank: #148. Bon Jovi, "Livin' On A Prayer," 1,736,000. This was the second single from the band's third album, Slippery When Wet. Hot 100 peak: #1 in February and March 1987. Top 200 rank: #150. Queen, "We Will Rock You," 1,608,000. This song, coupled with "We Are The Champions," was the first single from the band's sixth album, News Of The World. Hot 100 peak: #4 in February 1978. Top 200 rank: #171. Guns N' Roses, "Welcome To The Jungle," 1,576,000. Here's the second song on this list from Appetite For Destruction. This was the second single from that blockbuster, which is one of only two albums with two songs on this list. Hot 100 peak: #7 in December 1988. Top 200 rank: #176. Green Day, "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)," 1,507,000. This bittersweet rock ballad was the second radio hit from the band's fifth album, Nimrod. It reached #11 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart in February 1998. At the time, songs that weren't released as singles didn't qualify for the actual Hot 100. Hot 100 peak: didn't chart. Top 200 rank: #193. Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean," 1,506,000. This pop, dance and R&B classic was the second single from Thriller, which is the second of the two albums with two songs on this list. "Billie Jean" won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. Hot 100 peak: #1 in March and April 1983. Top 200 rank: #194.