|First posted 2/13/2020.|
Writer(s): Steve Perry/Jonathan Cain (see lyrics here)
First Charted: January 15, 1982
Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 17 RR, 7 AC, 1 CL, 35 AR, 2 CN, 43 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 4.07 video, -- streaming
Journey’s keyboardist, Jonathan Cain, wrote the melody for “Open Arms” when he was with The Babys. John Waite, that group’s lead singer, considered the song “too syrupy” and passed on it. SF Cain tried again when he was in Journey, showing it to singer Steve Perry. He was sold, but the rest of the band wasn’t so sure about a ballad. Perry and Cain ended up writing a song about a couple drifting apart and finding each other again when they realize how much they love each other.
“Open Arms” was the third single from Journey’s chart-topping Escape album following “Don’t Stop Believin’” (#9) and “Who’s Crying Now” (#4). It not only bested them both, but became the band’s biggest hit ever. It held on to the runner-up spot for six weeks, held out from the top spot by two huge #1 songs – J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” (6 weeks) and Joan Jett & the Blackheart’s “I Love Rock and Roll” (7 weeks). Songfacts.com said the song “pioneered the entire concept of the power ballad” while Perry said, “Now everybody’s got to have one.” SF All Music Guide’s Mike DeGagne’s echoed that idea saying the song “broke down the flood gates and paved the way for…the power ballad.” AMG
However, “Open Arms” was definitely not the first power ballad. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a genre known as “arena rock” emerged, led by groups like Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner. Each garnered wide rock and pop audiences and landed #1 albums. All four had their biggest hits with power ballads – but the other three groups did so before Journey. Styx topped the charts with “Babe” in 1979 and REO Speedwagon pulled of the same feat with 1980’s “Keep on Loving You.” Foreigner arguably pulled off the biggest hit of the four groups with 1981’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” While it didn’t hit #1, it held the #2 spot for 10 weeks. In 1984, they hit the top with “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
While “Open Arms” wasn’t the first power ballad as claimed, it is “one of rock’s most beautiful ballads,” A2 according to DeGagne. He said the song “gleams with an honesty and feel only Steve Perry could muster” A2 as it puts his “voice on a pedestal for all to hear.” A1 “The accompanying piano riffs that floated and then wisped away the song’s delicate lyrics had a lot to do with the song’s prosperity as well.” A1 The song has been covered by Boyz II Men, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, and Mariah Carey, who reached #4 with the song in the UK in 1996.
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