“Congo” is the first single from the Genesis album Calling All Stations, released in September 1997. The single marked the debut of Ray Wilson as the lead vocalist for the band. It was a hit across Europe, although it became their first lead single since 1977 to not reach the UK Top 20, peaking at #29. It was also the band’s last Top 40 hit, and their only with Wilson.
The song is about two people who cannot get along with each other in their relationship, leaving them to want to be rid of each other and as distant as possible (“Send me to the Congo” is a metaphor for this). Musically, the song opens with a Caribbean drum beat while an African-style tribe is heard chanting “Congo the Congo”, before the song launches into a darker melody driven by synthesiser, guitar, and gated reverb drums. Appropriately, part of the song’s refrain takes its lyrical meter from the conga (Latin American rhythm). The album version features a synthesiser solo and extra verses that fade out, while the single version has an earlier fade-out.
The music video, directed by Howard Greenhalgh, features industrialised imagery, with the band playing in a heavily guarded shipyard manned with slave labour. Massive water cannons are used to control uprisings, and the band is doused with water quite often throughout the video. The video was shot at the Mediterranean Film Studios in Malta.
The song’s B-sides include “Papa He Said” and “Banjo Man”. “Banjo Man” was originally slated for inclusion on Calling All Stations, but it was removed from the album’s track listing at the last moment. The Enhanced CD version of the single had an edited version of “Second Home by the Sea” as the B-side.