Covered: “Africa”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

No one should have to listen to Toto’s “Africa” for any reason whatsoever in the year of 2015, so I apologize for the embedded video above.  It is a song that exists purely as a punchline, whether it be from digs by amateurs like you or in the hands of professionals like Patton Oswalt.  The only reason why anyone from my generation would have anything besides ill will for the song is due to a misplaced sense of nostalgia, from the time when you would catch a snippet of the chorus for one of those 80’s compilation discs on those commercials they would run on a daily basis.  Which makes sense, because if you cut the song down to about three seconds, it is tolerable.

I would not bring the song up if it were not for the release of Low’s brilliant new album Ones and Sixes last week (of which you should expect a review in the near future).  However, this provides the opportunity to bring up the time that Low covered “Africa” for the AV Club’s Undercover series.  As mentioned in the video, the song was not really the band’s choice, but that did not stop them from doing an admirable job in creating a memorable cover.  True to their style, the band does an elegant, mournful take on the original, giving the song far more weight than otherwise necessary; were it not for the recognizable chorus or the unusual organ tone in the keyboard, it would seem to be a natural fit in the band’s traditional setlist.  Their spare version provides a nice contrast with the bombast of the original, while also emphasizing the strength of the melody.

I also learned that there are a lot of people out on the internet that take Toto VERY SERIOUSLY, as evidenced by many of the exasperated YouTube comments.  I suggest that instead of getting worked up in a rage because someone did not apparently muster enough respect that the great musicians of Toto apparently deserve, that they sit back and relax by listening to one of Low’s slowcore masterpieces, like Things We Lost In The Fire.  Maybe then they could understand the full range of what “musicianship” entails.

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