Reasonable Weezer fans agree that the band lost the plot sometime about a decade ago, after making albums that ranged from “listenable” to “unimpeachable classic” in the first half of their career. They’ve kept making music since then, but only the truest diehards have paid attention. From the six albums they’ve released in the last 10 years (that is, since Make Believe), only one single has cracked the Hot 100: “(If You Are Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” a goofy power pop number from 2009’s Raditude.
Now, Weezer is back on the charts, albeit only barely. As Stereogum notes, their cover of Toto’s deathless soft-rock hit “Africa,” released in response to a viral campaign from a fan, is currently sitting at number 89. You could say that this is their biggest hit in a decade, but now that Billboard includes streaming numbers as part of its chart calculations, all manner of weird stuff that wouldn’t traditionally qualify as a hit lingers near the bottom of the Hot 100. “Africa,” for instance, sits between two songs from Post Malone’s latest album that weren’t even released as singles.
None of this would matter as much if “Africa” weren’t so transparently a bid for internet-age relevancy. The band released it in response to a Twitter account that was created entirely for the purpose of diligently nagging them to do so, which eventually earned press from outlets like Noisey. It’s clear from listening to Weezer’s version of the song that they don’t care about it much as a piece of music: their arrangement is exactly the same as Toto’s original, save for Rivers Cuomo’s sleepy vocals and the addition of some terribly tinny power chords in the chorus. Weezer playing along with the viral joke has the whiff of a great idea by some Vice-reading millennial marketing associate at their label, the rock band equivalent of the International House of Pancakes pretending to change its name to IHOB. A little buzz, no matter how insignificant, was exactly what they were hoping for, and they got it.