Weezer Covers Toto’s “Africa” & Makes a Young Fan’s Dream Come True: The Latest, Greatest Cover of the 1983 Song

Last month, rock band Weez­er per­formed a remark­able bit of fan ser­vice: tak­ing a request from a fan’s Twit­ter and grant­i­ng it. A user called, appro­pri­ate­ly, “Weez­er Cov­er Africa by Toto,” has been bad­ger­ing the band since Decem­ber of 2017 to do just that. The per­son behind the account is 15-year-old Mary from Ohio, who is both a seri­ous fan of Weez­er and of “Africa,” which she first heard on an episode of “Stranger Things.”

Though the band decid­ed to help Mary out, they had a lit­tle bit of fun first, trolling her and cov­er­ing “Rosan­na,” Toto’s big­ger hit (it won Record of the Year at the 1983 Gram­mys ). A few days lat­er, they dropped “Africa”…and watched as it sailed to the top of the iTunes charts. (If you’re won­der­ing, the orig­i­nal reached the top spot in the Bill­board 100 back in 1983).

Now, if you know the orig­i­nal, Weezer’s cov­er is pret­ty note-for-note. One could argue that Toto, mocked for its smooth pop lean­ings, actu­al­ly rock hard­er than Weez­er, espe­cial­ly in the song’s cho­rus.
But Mary’s obses­sion with “Africa” doesn’t come out of nowhere. YouTube is full of odd cov­ers of the song.

Here’s a loop ped­al and piano ver­sion from Peter Bence:

Or how about a choral group’s ver­sion, com­plete with a ASMR-tas­tic recre­ation of a rain­storm.

You could also watch a rub­ber chick­en have a go:

But my cur­rent favorite is this very enthu­si­as­tic Nordic met­al cov­er from Leo Morac­chi­oli and friends:

Why do peo­ple more than ever love “Africa”? When it came out it was def­i­nite­ly a hit, but over 35 years or so it’s tran­scend­ed its cheesy pop sta­tus to become a “clas­sic” of pop con­struc­tion, filled with dynam­ic changes, mul­ti­part har­monies, and a com­plex arrange­ment. There’s noth­ing iron­ic in lov­ing it.

Annie Zales­ki, in her Salon arti­cle on the song’s endur­ing pow­er, describes its world music indul­gences and its rhythm:

With­out flash or fan­fare, “Africa” incor­po­rates con­gas, marim­bas, the gong and oth­er per­cus­sion flour­ish­es, giv­ing the song a tex­tured veloc­i­ty. Under­neath it all is a hyp­not­ic groove, resem­bling a con­stant, gen­tle push — one that keeps the song pul­sat­ing for­ward. When lis­ten­ing to “Africa,” it’s impos­si­ble to stay still; the song’s innate move­ment is infec­tious.

Co-writer David Paich (Toto’s key­boardist) explained the thoughts behind the lyrics in a Grant­land inter­view, explain­ing they stemmed from his days as a Catholic school­boy and hear­ing tales of mis­sion­ary work:

I had all these things rat­tling about in my brain when I was writ­ing the song. All these thoughts about priests and young social work­ers that have gone over there, devot­ing their lives to help­ing peo­ple, and hav­ing to choose what kind of life they’re going to have — whether to keep doing this, what I’m doing here, or can I have a life, get mar­ried, have kids, and do that kind of thing. So it was a life choice mixed in with a geo­graph­i­cal fas­ci­na­tion there.

But as he also says, the line “I bless the rains down in Africa” just popped out when he first start­ed work­ing on the cho­rus. The vers­es were writ­ten after to explain the mys­tery of the cho­rus. Also: the song was added at the last minute, clos­ing off the album, which opens with “Rosan­na,” per­fect book­ends which the rest of the album can’t reach.

And final­ly, if you’re still fas­ci­nat­ed with the song, Rick Beato checks out the indi­vid­ual mul­ti-tracks on his series “What Makes This Song So Great.” By the end, you might just have the answer.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Bonham’s Iso­lat­ed Drum Track For Led Zeppelin’s ‘Fool in the Rain’

Feel Strange­ly Nos­tal­gic as You Hear Clas­sic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Play­ing in an Emp­ty Shop­ping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

David Byrne Cre­ates a Playlist of Cre­ative Music From Africa & the Caribbean—or What One Name­less Pres­i­dent Has Called “Shit­hole Coun­tries”

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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