Well, excluding the original of course. Nothing ever tops the original recording of anything, right? Especially one as glorious and time-tested as Toto’s No. 1 power-ballad from 1982/83.
Still, that doesn’t mean other artists haven’t tried… many others in the case of “Africa,” the third single from Toto’s 1982 album Toto IV and the only No. 1 hit of their career (why it wasn’t the second single after “Rosanna” still baffles me – who remembers the No. 30-peaking “Make Believe” anyway?).
As evidence of the song “Africa’s” attractiveness to other artists, djrobblog easily found 20 different cover versions of the David Paich/Jeff Porcaro-written classic on Spotify (all included on the playlist linked below, which you’ll get to play and decide whose version you like best).
The latest cover getting Sub-Saharan-sized attention, however, is the only one besides Toto’s original that’s gotten any attention since 1983. It’s by the veteran Los Angeles alternative rock band Weezer, who – after heeding a fan’s request on Twitter – recorded their remake in 2018, one that has just reached No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Rock chart and is fast climbing the main Hot 100 songs list (leaping 86-68 this week!).
If just one fan felt strongly enough about it to cyber-bully Rivers Cuomo (Weezer’s frontman) and his band into blessing the rains down in Africa, it seems America is agreeing – judging by the collective response to the group’s biggest hit in over a decade. Weezer’s version is the only one to reach Billboard’s Hot 100 since the original. It’s also Weezer’s first No. 1 on any Billboard chart in ten years (since “Pork And Beans” topped the alt-rock list in 2008).
The band Toto – also originally from Los Angeles – clearly appreciated the love from their younger homeboys, so much so that they’ve returned the favor by recording one of Weezer’s hits, the 2001 stoner anthem “Hash Pipe.”
Now if you’re one of the many who think the unlikely reciprocal covering of songs between your grandfather’s favorite band with songs like “99,” “Pamela” and “I Won’t Hold You Back” in their canon and the goofier-than-thou group who recorded such parody-leaning songs as “Beverly Hills” and “Buddy Holly” is an odd showing of mutual respect between two L.A. bands, it becomes even odder when you remember that “Africa” is a love song about a white man’s fascination with the great continent he’d never visited, while Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” was inspired by a real-life transvestite prostitute.
The members of Toto had to have thought a few times before laying down tracks for that one this summer.
Regardless, it’s “Africa” – the original version of which was voted the Internet’s favorite song of 2017 – that’s getting all the love today, both in its original form and now in Weezer’s No. 1 remake.
But is Weezer’s the best cover out there?
Djrobblog has rounded up 20 different versions of “Africa,” including some heavy metal ones, some jazzed-up ones, versions driven solely by piano or acoustic guitar, sped-up and slowed-down versions, a couple of a cappella renditions, a remake featuring a ukulele and even a soulful CeeLo Green cover (his is actually pretty good, btw).
I’ve included them all in the playlist below, entitled “Africa – The Original and the Covers,” which you can hear by clicking the link and deciding for yourself whose version you like best.
Or you can just sit back and enjoy Weezer’s very respectfully done alternative-rock remake, the one that is sweeping the country as I type this (and deservedly so).
Or still better yet, you can just listen to the original with the alternating vocals of David Paich (on the verses) and Bobby Kimball (on those searing, shoot-for-the-rafters choruses) and marvel at its 36-year-old beauty…
…And just agree that nothing will likely ever top it.
Bonus: here’s a scholarly video of Toto’s original version from 1983:
Now here’s a video of Weezer and a very special – but “weird” – guest performing the song live recently: