The Importance of Being Earnest (and Maybe Just a Little Bit Cringe)

On hearing the drums echoing tonight, waking up to a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and throwing off inhibition.

Amy Colleen

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Photo by Crispin Jones on Unsplash

Somehow I managed to live twenty-eight years on this planet without once hearing the song “Africa” by Toto. Maybe I caught a few snatches from a grocery store sound system or heard a line or two in a video somewhere, but until recently, my only exposure to the song was the words of oft-quoted line “I bless the rains down in Africa” with no accompanying tune to create an earworm in my head.

When I finally did hear the song on Spotify, something in me latched onto it immediately. Was it the harmonies? The satisfying repetition? The easily-learned melody? The somewhat inexplicable lyrics? Whatever the draw, I wasn’t alone– Vice.com published a breakdown in 2017 of why “Africa” had become “the internet’s favorite song.” I was just six years behind the times, I guess.

As a homeschooled kid who grew up mostly sheltered from secular music, I’m usually a bit more than six years behind the times. So when I posted a somewhat self-deprecating tweet about my first experience with “Africa,” I expected to be gently ribbed for what was probably poor taste in music. But instead, my Internet friends almost unanimously responded in favor of the 1982 hit, with links to a capella covers and Weird Al renditions and recommendations of more Toto songs.

That Vice article I linked above does a better job of explaining the song’s nostalgic popularity than I could. The self-deprecation of the songwriter who clearly has never been to Africa (and maybe thinks it’s a country? unclear) and is in love with someone, whose connection to Africa is foggy, creates an intentionally vague track that ends up being, as the youths say, a vibe. The best explanation for how the song made me feel was summed up in a line spoken by Daniel Craig’s pseudo-Southern detective character in Knives Out: “It makes no dayum sense! …Compels me, though.”

The older I get, the more comfortable I am with admitting that the things I love sometimes make no dayum sense, but they compel me and that’s enough.

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Amy Colleen

I read a lot of books & sometimes I’m funny. I aspire to be a novelist, practice at humor & human interest writing, and am very fond of the Oxford comma.