Africa by Toto: Why are your friends still obsessed with it?

By De'Graft Mensah
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe track is still so big that it's being used in this series of Strictly Come Dancing

"It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you."

Whether it's being requested by your pal on a night out for the billionth time or the punch line to a meme, Africa by Toto is the song the internet just can't seem to shake off.

It was one of the most streamed songs in 2017 and has an impressive 396 million views on YouTube and over 426 million streams on Spotify but check this: it was first released in 1982.

So what makes this soft rock song still popular?

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The birth of a bop

Lots of things that are now part of our daily lives first emerged in 1983.

It became compulsory for both the driver and passenger in the front seat of a car to wear a seatbelt.

In gaming, plumbers Mario and Luigi made their video game debut as the Mario Bros.

And in the music world, well - we saw the British chart debut of Africa, a song by American rock band Toto.

image copyrightGetty Images / BBC
image captionDavid Bowie, Blondie and Michael Jackson all had British number ones in the 80s

It was up against tough competition, including Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

The song peaked at number three before falling down and out of the charts. And it didn't trouble the British charts again 'til 2013 where it spent a week at number 67 before it vanished once again.

Memes, glorious memes

But why did it chart in 2013 and become relevant again in 2018? Time for a quick lesson into the history of the internet.

From early 2013, covers and parodies of the song ended up on YouTube and a subreddit dedicated to Africa covers - /r/TotoAfricaCovers.

The song then appeared in everything from a sex scene in Stranger Things to a parody on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

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Although, sometimes the obsession is taken a little too far. Take this Twitter bot account that tweets Africa lyrics...

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Then earlier this year, a Twitter account led a campaign to try and get Weezer to cover the 80s banger which boosted interest in it again.

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Why do people love it so much?

The obsession for Africa goes way beyond the memes (just about).

Last year some of the most streamed songs were One Last Time by Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You and - you guessed it - Africa by Toto.

On Spotify alone, the song had been streamed a whopping 426,699,549 times at the time of writing.

And Britain's one of the top countries searching for "Africa by Toto" on Google.

Even Radio 1's Greg James described it as "euphoric" and "one of the greatest songs ever recorded" on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.

However, not everybody finds it as "euphoric" as Greg.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionAriana Grande and Ed Sheeran are amongst some of the most streamed artists on Spotify

Senior lecturer Barbara Lebrun, who has researched popular music, says the song is a lot sadder than people think.

"My own perception is that its very emphatic but it's also a very sad mood with a sense of despair.

"For example, 'nothing is going to take me away from you', it's defiant."

She also told Newsbeat about the confusion about the song's geographical location.

"Is he welcoming the rains in a land of desert? Where in Africa are we?

"I think it's a white person's idea of exoticism," says Barbara, who nevertheless believes the tune is "very well crafted".

"The synthesisers have aged a little bit but maybe the younger generation find it attractive? It's distant."

A fan favourite

A self-confessed fan of Africa, Grace Shademan, tells Newsbeat there are different "levels" as to why people will like the song.

"The harmonies on that song are fused with magic, in my opinion," she says.

"It transports you to an 80s synth paradise."

image copyrightAlamy
image captionToto have had many different members since they formed in 1976

Clifford Stumme, a fan of the track from Virginia, also thinks it's a timeless classic.

"It's been around long enough that people have had the opportunity to remember it, large portions of people will recognise it and it's more of a community gathering.

"Not everyone will remember a song from last Thursday but we've all heard this classic and can all enjoy it together."

Though there are no clear signs of Africa dominating the charts anytime soon, we can probably all agree on one thing...

"There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do."

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