Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 24: Tears For Fears, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"

Artist: Tears For Fears
Song: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"
Album: Songs From The Big Chair
Year: 1985

While many may wish to argue it differently, the reality is that one uses the phrase "1980's pop hit," there is a certain bias or set of stereotypes that accompany the term.  Whether it is the image of wild hairstyles, a massive over-use of synthesizers, or a wide range of other images and sounds, it is amazing to consider the fact that many people attempt to pigeon-hole the entirety of 1980's pop music into a single sound.  The reality is that there was a massive amount of sonic diversity going on within the musical mainstream, as most musicians attempted to shake off the memories of the disco movement of the previous decade.  It was due to this truth, along with the fact that the "buying public" were at one of their most adventurous in terms of what sounds and structures they could get behind, that there was not only a wide range in the sound, but many groups found themselves experimenting with different approaches, and this has rarely been more true than in the case of Tears For Fears.  While their first album was largely a somber, if not mopey musical affair, their magnificent follow-up, 1985's Songs From The Big Chair, remains today one of the most impressive and important albums of the entire era.  Creating some of the most captivating musical arrangements, as well as a handful of outright iconic lyrics, the group quickly became international superstars, and there are few songs from the decade that stand as more memorable than Tears For Fears' phenomenal 1985 single, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World."

When it comes down to it, the intro on "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" is outright unmistakable, and whether it is due to the way the melody seems to wistfully dance across the track, or perhaps due to its perfect placement in a number of films, there is no question that it has become a musical institution onto itself.  It is the way that the guitar from Roland Orzabal cuts into the cadence from the bass and keyboards that is so stunning, as the simple, quick riff he creates brings an energy and mood to "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" that one cannot find anywhere else in music history.  This balance in tone created by the guitar and bass is in many ways the epitome of sonic bliss fot the era, and yet at the same time has an excitement and appeal that is unlike most other songs that take on such a term.  Furthermore, when Orzabal drops into a bit of a solo behind the bridge section, it adds more depth and sonic diversity to an already exceptional track.  Yet it is also the way that the bass guitar from Curt Smith creates so much movement all across the track that allows "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" to seem far shorter than it's four-minute run-time, and in many ways, this is the true sign of a superb musical achievement.  The manner with which these sounds blend, all on top of the almost mechanical drumming from Manny Elias creates a sonic journey that is completely unique for the decade, as well as for the overall catalog of Tears For Fears.

However, while there is no question that the overall mood and sonic structure on "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"was a massive shift from the sounds of their previous album, the track is also unique for the group in that Curt Smith handles the lead vocals.  While one can argue that there were few groups of the era that had voices which blended as perfectly as Smith and Orzabal, the reality here is that it is the energy and punch behind Smith's singing which is so fantastic.  There is a bounce to his vocals that brilliantly mirrors that of the music over which he is singing, and yet at the same time there is an almost airy, free spirit within them that makes it impossible not to sing along with every word.  However, even though Curt Smith seems to effortlessly work the entire vocal scale all across "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," most people miss the fact that within these gorgeous vocals and upbeat sound, Tears For Fears placed some of the most unapologetic and in many ways unnerving lyrics that one can find.  The truth of the matter is, the song speaks directly to the battle for power, if not world domination, that was certainly still an issue at the time, as one can find clear commentary on the horrors of war, and the almost directionless conquest seen by many governments.  Overall, there is a rather bleak picture that one can take from the song, and it is the fact that this often goes unnoticed due to the amazing vocal work that makes "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" such a special musical achievement.

Almost since the moment the song first appeared as a single, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" has been a constant part of popular culture in a wide range of mediums.  From the perfect placement at the end of the classic movie, Read Genius, to a massive number of television shows, and even appearances in video games, after nearly three decades, the song remains just as relevant and powerful as it was upon its initial release.  Yet this is not all that surprising, as "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" managed to break into the top five on the charts in nearly ten different countries, as well as becoming Tears For Fears' first number one song in the United States.  Over the years, dozens of artists have released their own cover versions of the song, and from more jazzy takes to recordings that are deep into the world of black metal, it seems that the song managed to find its way into every conceivable musical area.  However, the fact of the matter is that even if it had not been so heavily covered or used within popular culture, the song itself remains an amazing musical achievement, and it is all the more impressive when one compares it to the groups' previous work.  The fact that Tears For Fears were able to create such a beautiful musical work within a structure that was relatively new for them is a testament to their exceptional talents as musicians and songwriters, and even after nearly thirty years, there are few songs that can hold their own with Tears For Fears' iconic 1985 single, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World."

1 comment:

Dave Whitaker said...

One of my top ten favorite albums: