Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Protomartyr’s Joe Casey on why “Don’t Stop Believin’” is the bane of his existence

Casey, third from left, with the rest of Protomartyr
Casey, third from left, with the rest of Protomartyr

In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.

The hater: Clad in a blazer with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Joe Casey has a tendency to look a bit like a badass middle-school English teacher. And as the somewhat-morose frontman for native Detroit band Protomartyr, it’s clear he’s got a way with words. The reality is, though, that he’s got bigger fish to fry. With an excellent new album, The Agent Intellect, out October 9 on Hardly Art, Casey and the rest of the band are poised to draw more and more well-deserved attention in the weeks to come. Couple all that buzz with a massive U.S. and European tour this fall and, if all chips fall Casey’s way, this could be the season of Protomartyr. Here’s hoping, anyway.

The hated: Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)

The A.V. Club: Usually, we start these interviews by asking, “Why is this the song you picked?”, but let me first say that I was shocked this one hadn’t been picked already.


Joe Casey: I assumed it’d be one of the first choices. When I was asked to do it, it was the first song that popped in my head. And since then, I’ve thought of much shittier songs, but this one is interesting because I never really gave it much thought, but this song slowly became shittier and shittier in my mind until, over time, it’s gotten worse; you just can’t escape it.

On its own, it’s not that bad of a song really. It’s just the ubiquity of it. It’s everywhere, which has made it one of the banes of my existence.

AVC: It really regained strength back in 2009 when it was on Glee, but did you hate it before that?

JC: I started hating it with a passion back in 2012, but it seemed like when I was growing up it was on the radio so much on those middle-of-the-road radio stations. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer radio stations, and due to compressed time classic rock stations play fewer and fewer songs. So they’ve started playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” on classic rock stations, which in the ’80s would have seemed absurd.


Also, I know it was at the end of The Sopranos, but even then it was being played more and more. I’d be at a bar and someone would put it on a jukebox, usually ironically, but the Glee thing really pushed it over the edge.

In 2012, though, the [Detroit] Tigers were in the World Series against the [San Francisco] Giants and the Detroit, in general, is kind of stupid. We tried to use that as our song, like Detroit teams tried to use it as our song for sports.


AVC: Because it says “south Detroit”?

JC: Yeah, that’s how dumb we are; it says south Detroit, but there is no south Detroit. It doesn’t exist.


We played the Giants in the World Series and Journey is from San Francisco and I know they used it. I know they played it on the radio during the World Series in support of the Giants and the Giants beat the Tigers that year. And from then on, I’ve hated it with a passion.

The whole Detroit thing really bugged me. We’re Detroit! We’ve got Motown and musical history and I don’t get why they play it at Red Wings games and people sing along to the Detroit part because, again, there is no south Detroit. We can come up with something better. Play The Stooges or Wolf Eyes or Motown.

AVC: Is there a north Detroit or an east Detroit or a west Detroit?

JC: There’s a west side and east side. South Detroit would probably be Windsor, Canada. It’s down river.


It just bugs me because Glee bugged me, but it seems that after that it was just everywhere like in commercials or in Rock Of Ages. Now when I go to bars, people play it unironically and I guess those are what people call “bros,” but when I was young we called them chodes. They play it in the bar and it just kind of ruins the moment.

AVC: It’s also one of those epic songs, which makes it a lot more grating once you start disliking it. It goes on forever.


JC: For a popular song, it does have an interesting structure. If it was just a popular hit from the early ’80s, you’d like the song, it wouldn’t bother you. But I saw an article a couple of years ago said it was the most popular rock song of all time or has been downloaded or played the most online. It’s not a rock song.

AVC: Is it a pop song?

JC: It’s a pop song. But the way history works, classic rock stations are playing stuff from the late ’80s now and it’s kind of lumped in as a rock ’n’ roll song. People will look back in 50 years and think it’s the greatest more and more as time goes on. And I will be dead.


Every year there are terrible songs and they just go away. You have to search them out to find them again. Like last year there was that song “Rude” by Magic, which was the worst thing I’ve heard. That won’t become a cultural icon like this song has become.

AVC: Well, hopefully.

JC: I don’t want to live in that world.

AVC: Journey doesn’t have the best history as a band. The guy that sang this song isn’t even in the band anymore.


JC: They’re still touring though. And this song is in every bad dad commercial. But I guess it couldn’t happen to a better song.

AVC: It just won’t go away. It’s like that song “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy. It was made for that shit.


JC: I recently drove from New York to Detroit by myself and I had to listen to the radio all the way. That’s another one that they use in the car commercials right alongside the one that’s got all the annoying “heys” in it, like “Hey!” [“Hey Ho” by The Lumineers]. But when they use it in commercials, it’s worse. “How You Like Me Now?” was on a baseball game I played and it drove me insane.

AVC: Baseball games can really kill songs. If you watch live broadcasts, they play the same tracks over and over again going into and coming out of commercials.


JC: It’s always “dude rock” and the songs always have lyrics like, “Yeah! Let’s set the night on fire.”

That’s another thing about “Don’t Stop Believing.” It’s such a specific, bland uplifting song. It’s like “Don’t stop believing. In what? Who cares? Don’t stop believing in anything!” I guess that’s what makes it good for commercials, because you can use it as “don’t stop believing in this baseball game” or “don’t stop believing in these maxi pads.” It doesn’t matter what it is.


I think I just hate the Detroit sports teams for being so unoriginal and not coming up with their own song. We just copy and I don’t know how many sports teams use “Don’t Stop Believing.” I just wish the Tigers or the Red Wings would come up with something specific for Detroit.

AVC: Maybe that’s Protomartyr’s responsibility now.

JC: I don’t know if I can be that positive for a rousing sports song.

AVC: It doesn’t have to be rousing. It could be ominous.

JC: Depressing? The Tigers are coming to eat you or something like that.

AVC: Yeah. Something like that!

JC: Maybe in 20 years, one of my songs will be hated just because of its ubiquity.


AVC: Well, fingers crossed. You’ll be hated all the way to the bank.

JC: Yeah. I’ll be rich so I won’t care.

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