In 2022, Planet Radio listed Toto’s Africa as the 3rd most streamed song for the period from 1970 through the 1990s (Oasis’s Wonderwall & Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody topped the list). Writing for Vice, Jessica Furseth commented: “Africa is so popular on the web it’s practically a meme.” Given its popularity, the song has been much covered.
Tyler Ward and Lisa Cimorelli’s cover of Africa stands out from the pack due to the duo’s focus on harmony and counterpoint melody. A further feature is the stripped-down piano-based instrumentation, which makes for a calmer version of the track, at least for the first two thirds of the song. Thereafter, the intensity builds to a satisfying climax.
A great aspect of Ward and Cimorelli’s cover is the extent to which they make the song their own – with a distinct arrangement – while keeping the spirit and the essence of the original. The surge in tempo in the chorus is a good example of how their version is both interpretation and tribute. MrFreddy511 humorously captures the tone of the Youtube comments: “Toto: We have the best version of Africa. Taylor and Lisa: hold our beer. Toto: we still have the best version but damn that was close”.
Tyler Ward and Lisa Cimorelli both found an audience through posting videos on youtube, except that Ward mostly posted as an individual, or collaborator, whereas Lisa Cimorelli is part of Cimorelli, which currently consists of 5 of the Cimorelli sisters (Lisa has 12 siblings, 7 of whom have been in the family band at some point). Africa is the 3rd duet posted by Tyler Ward and Lisa Cimorelli on YouTube. Their most popular song together is Ed Sheeran’s Perfect (9.8m views against Africa’s 4.8m)
Ward can sing, no question, but just like their take on Africa, a high point of their Perfect cover is Cimorelli’s high runs and confident harmonies. This is a benefit of her having perfect pitch. Between 2010-2015 her band, Cimorelli, was signed to Island records, but in 2015 the sisters decided to leave the pressures of the music industry and continue as an independent group.
In October 2020, Lisa Cimorelli married Chad Gilbert, the guitarist for the acclaimed pop-punk band New Found Glory. Near the end of 2021 Gilbert was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. The tumour was removed, but he later developed cancer in the spine, which has also been treated by surgery. Their daughter, Lily, was born on 17 July 2021.
According to Apple Music, Tyler Ward’s viral videos lead to him becoming one of the “most successful musical social media artists of the 2010s”. Having started out in his parent’s basement, Ward leveraged his social media fame to launch himself as a producer and touring musician while continuing to release both cover versions and original songs on youtube. He has also collaborated with The Beach Boys, Earth Wind and Fire, and others.
Notably, Ward is the driving force behind The Song House, which is about to feature in a premium docuseries. In a nutshell, a diverse group of Nashville-based musicians breaks up into different groups twice a week to write a hook in 30 minutes. The results are posted on TikTok and other platforms. If the hook is popular, The Song House collective works it up into a full song. Altogether, the Song House artists have over 1B TikTok views. In the words of Tyler Ward: “Through our unconventional approach, we’re kicking down doors and making our own way into the music industry”.
If you would like to see more from Lisa Cimorelli you can subscribe to her YouTube channel, if you would like to see more from Tyler Ward, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel or follow him on Facebook.