First Hit #1: February 5, 1983
On a world tour of pop, here’s a song about Africa, which both succeeds and fails. As a pop song, it works, it’s got a memorable hook. It’s also got inventive percussion that is at the forefront of African-influenced pop recordings – it’s a sound that’s going to continue throughout the decade, arguably reaching its peak with Paul Simon’s Graceland. It doesn’t sound remotely African, I’d argue, but it is an appreciably different sound that it stays a bit novel and unique. Toto, whatever their faults might be, have made a clever and enjoyable pop song. Provided, of course, you ignore the lyrics.
While it’s a love song, it is called Africa so the group decided that it should have many references to Africa. Fair enough, but when you get a line like “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises above the Serengeti” you’ve reached a point where it becomes a joke. That line is basically impossible to sing without sounding incredibly awkward, and in general the references to Africa don’t really feel well integrated. It’s a song about a man pursuing a woman more than anything else, just with references to Africa on occasion. Every time someone actually references the continent it gets noticeably awkward, as though they aren’t really sure why they wrote a song about Africa in the first place. It’s still an enjoyable song, just one that makes you scratch your head.