In recent years, the most common criticism of Weezer is that they’ve forsaken the satisfyingly dorked-out power-pop crunch of their early years for gleaming textures and repeated bids for pop-crossover success. If that’s the case, though, they haven’t been doing too well with it. Before this week, Weezer had charted on the Billboard Hot 100 exactly once in the past decade — with the 2009 single “(If You Are Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” which made it to #81 in 2009. (This has more to do with the way rock bands have faded from the pop charts than with anything Weezer may or may not be doing, but it’s the case nonetheless.) But now Weezer have found a way to return to the Hot 100.
Last month, responding to a viral Twitter campaign from one teenage fan in Ohio, Weezer covered Toto’s cheese-pop anthem “Africa,” which was a #1 single way back in 1983, when rock bands had a hope in hell of impacting the pop charts. (Weezer also covered “Rosanna,” another Toto hit.) And now, as Pitchfork points out, that “Africa” cover has managed to make it all the way to #89, making it Weezer’s biggest hit this decade.
Given that Billboard now weighs streaming hits differently, and that “Africa” was pretty much a streaming stunt, the song’s chart success isn’t that shocking. And it’s nowhere near Weezer’s biggest hit; that would be “Beverly Hills,” which made it all the way to #10 in 2005. (“Buddy Holly” didn’t even chart! What the fuck!) Still, it’s proof that a clever novelty campaign can get you something, even if you do happen to be a legacy rock band.