Am finally getting around to requesting the last few Sopranos DVDs from the library (we had almost made it all the way through before Griffin totally interrupted us). But even not having yet watched the last few episodes, I feel like: It’s not a big mystery why David Chase chose “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the final song, is it? (I’m sure more than one person has written about this before, but I happen not to have seen it anywhere yet.)
I mean, the point is that Tony spends the whole series knowing full well he is on a course that leads only to self-destruction — he’s even got the wherewithal to not just enter therapy, but to return to it more than once — but he doesn’t actually want to change any of the behavior that’s put him on that path. Even though he understands deep down that it isn’t workable, he wants to keep being rich without working very hard, sleeping around, and beating up and killing people; and he keeps hoping there’s some way he can get better, can get saved, without giving that stuff up, despite the evidence that mounts over six seasons telling him otherwise.
So as artistic choices go, the song is not subtle. But it’s admirably, aptly grimly ironic, twisting what’s usually read as a joyously optimistic anthem into a depressingly empty self-help slogan. Plus, fittingly, lyrically “Don’t Stop” encapsulates a common take on the American dream: lower-class kids taking on the world, working hard, hoping for a lucky break, and finding joy where they can in the meantime. And it’s not just that this is the story of Tony and Carmela’s younger days; it’s that the point of the whole show, of course, is that Tony is America.