Originally filed Tuesday, August 7, 2018 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
In one of the most unlikely radio cover hits of recent vintage, Weezer's ironically faithful cover of Toto's "Africa," goaded by a fan on social media, recently hit No.1 on the alternative chart as well as the iTunes download chart.
It’s now nearing the top 10 on the Hot AC chart. Locally, it’s on top rotation on Alt 105.7 and Star 94 just added it. SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and the Pulse have also spun itt 44 and 60 times the past week, according to Mediabase 24/7.
Weezer has always carried a cool factor among critics and fans since its debut in 1994 though its output in recent years has not been as successful. Toto was from a previous generation, a band comprised mostly of studio musicians who in recent years has begun to tour regularly. And while Weezer could have approached this as a true throwaway, the band is actually playing "Africa" during its summer tour to huge response.
Rob Roberts, the former Q100 program director who now oversees all Cumulus Hot AC stations out of D.C., called Weezer's hit a "freak of nature."
“I honestly believe it’s social media novelty record and I say that with all respect,” he wrote. “There will be about 20 bands covering some other Yacht Rock songs in the next couple of months but they won’t be do anything on the charts.”
Indeed, Toto returned the favor by recently covering Weezer’s catchy 2001 hit “Hash Pipe.”
Billboard magazine earlier this year did an extensive history of the song, which has become a 1980s staple that even Millennials and some teens know well. TV producers over the past decade have used it frequently on shows ranging from "Scrubs" and "Community" to "South Park," "Family Guy" and Netflix's "Stranger Things."
Indeed, it was a 15-year-old Cleveland Weezer fan Mary Clem, who heard "Africa" on "Stranger Things" and began a Twitter campaign under the handle @weezerafrica to get them to cover the song.
After a year, Weezer took the bait by first covering “Rosanna.” Then on May 29, the band blessed the world with its version of “Africa.”
The song was (more irony) a throwaway tune for Toto, which had focused on "Rosanna" as its comeback hit, which it was. It did hit No. 2. Lukather never thought "Africa" would be a hit in part because of the lyrics written by white dudes in North Hollywood about a continent they had never visited.
"Do any stand out as cringeworthy? Oh god, are you kidding? They all do," said Toto member Steve Porcaro. The primary lyrical writer David Paich explained that he grew up attending an all-boys Catholic school with priests and brothers who had done missionary work in Africa.
The YouTube official Toto “Africa” video has been seen more than 357 million times.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.