Thanks to a Meme, 2018 Was the Year of “Africa”

It’s not just your imagination: Toto’s “Africa” is playing on loop. And if you can’t get its karaoke-ripe chorus out of your head, you’re not alone. The song, as synonymous with the eighties as leg warmers and The Breakfast Club, owes its resurgence to, essentially, a bit gone viral.

The tune could have easily faded into the 1980s rock canon, instead, it streamed strong in 2018. In fact, plays of Toto’s original song doubled in 2018 from the previous year. Which means that “Africa” is no longer only a fixture of classic rock playlists, but has found its way into alt and pop charts, and—surely—plenty of intergenerational family car-ride singalongs.

But why?

Nineties alt rock standout Weezer first covered Toto’s “Rosanna” in May 2018, which set off an internet frenzy: Weezer had out-memed a meme. The internet (or one teen on it) had actually been requesting for a year that the band cover Toto’s “Africa” via an insistent Twitter account. Then, giving the fans what they wanted, Weezer dropped a cover of “Africa” that would ultimately join the streaming ranks of the band’s hit originals “Say It Ain’t So,” “Island in the Sun,” and “Beverly Hills.”

While plays of Weezer’s cover have since tapered off, the original song stands tall, like Mt. Kilimanjaro above the Serengeti. And the covers kept on coming.

Following in Weezer’s footsteps, several other bands recorded standout renditions of “Africa.” From fun-poking to point-making, each of the below groups “blessed the rains.” Give them a spin — our guess is that they don’t leave your stream (online or of consciousness) anytime soon.

Weezer covers “Africa” and includes Weird Al in the music video

In September 2018, four months after the song debuted, the band kept up their good humor, releasing a music video for the song that not only starred Weird Al as lead singer Rivers Cuomo, but was also a clear allusion to Weezer’s music videos for their classics “Undone” and “Buddy Holly.” Weird Al also took to the stage to perform the song with Weezer on tour. Finally, SNL rounded out the year by making this cover a hot topic in an “Africa”-inspired sketch.

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox gives the song a jazzy spin

Postmodern Jukebox included an old-timey, jazz-inspired cover of “Africa” on their Blue Mirror album this past fall, offering a rendition of the song that takes you even further back—not just to the 1980s, but to the 1920s dance hall scene. The collective included unique covers of “Video Killed the Radio Star” and “In the Air Tonight,” as well as more modern songs that play with the tempo and instrumental accompaniment of well-known classics such as “Welcome to the Black Parade” and “Genie in a Bottle,” so you know “Africa’s” in good company.

The Aquaman soundtrack includes Pitbull’s “Ocean to Ocean,” which samples “Africa”

What started as a musical jest of 2018 ended on a high note with Pitbull and Rhea’s sample of “Africa” in their new song, “Ocean to Ocean.” The tune blasted from theater speakers as the characters of DC’s Aquaman arrived on Africa’s Western Coast. While Toto commented that they never actually visited Africa before writing the song, Pitbull’s original lyrics evoke an allusion to African struggles and strengths. Between his rapping, soak in singer Rhea’s melodic take on the beloved chorus. It gives the song a new take and a new life.

Whether your “Africa” cover of choice is acoustic choir, rap-influenced, 90s rock-style, or jazzy, take it back to the basics with the original on our “This Is Toto” playlist today. And keep an eye out for what 2019 has in store for covers—”Africa” and otherwise.