Music / Tears for Fears
Left - Roland Orzabal. Right - Curt Smith.

"Shout, shout, let it all out,
These are the things I can do without,
Come on,
I'm talking to you,
Come on."

Tears for Fears is a British duo consisting of the core members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, although plenty of other musicians have been involved in the project throughout the years, many as named members of the band. The band, which was named for a primal therapy technique, formed in 1981, and like a lot of 1980's pop bands, they haven't had much success since the 1990's; in fact, Smith left the band in 1992, making the band essentially Orzabal's solo project. Smith rejoined in 2001 (contrary to certain reports in the media, the renewed attention to their music due to "Head Over Heels" and a cover of "Mad World" being used in Donnie Darko was not the cause of this; they had already been in contact before this point and decided to restart the band) and Tears for Fears put out a new album in 2004.

This band's three most famous songs come from their 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair. At least, these are the three songs that you hear on the radio all the time and in "best of the 80's" compilation albums as of February 19, 2010:
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
  • "Shout"
  • "Head over Heels"

Of course, many fans over at their Last.FM page would have you believe otherwise, and, to be fair, those three are far from the band's only songs to get radio airplay; their other well-known hits include "Mad World", "Pale Shelter", "Change", "Advice for the Young at Heart", "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains", and "Break It Down Again".

Besides Songs from the Big Chair, Orzabal and Smith did release three other albums. First there was The Hurting in 1983, which sounds more like an angst-ridden Depeche Mode album; this is where the single "Mad World" came from, which later got a more popular cover version by Gary Jules that was used on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Second was the aforementioned Songs from the Big Chair. The Seeds of Love came about in 1989, and was a lot more experimental, psychedelic and rockier than the previous albums, though it did spawn a couple of hits ("Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Woman in Chains"). After their breakup, Roland Orzabal would release two essentially solo albums under the band's name (with collaborators Alan Griffiths and, on Elemental, Tim Palmer co-producing and providing additional instrumentation; Griffiths also co-wrote most of the songs on these albums), before Smith rejoined the band and they released the reunion album Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, which picked up where Seeds left off.

Orzabal and Smith are currently in the studio recording new material, which Orzabal has described as darker and more dramatic, describing one song as "a combination of Portishead and Queen". The band recently released a cover of Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start" on SoundCloud, and they are planning to release a new album in 2017.

Do not confuse with the trope Tears of Fear.

Core discography:
  • 1983 - The Hurting
  • 1985 - Songs from the Big Chair
  • 1989 - The Seeds of Love
  • 1992 - Tears Roll Down*
  • 1993 - Elemental**
  • 1995 - Raoul and the Kings of Spain**
  • 1996 - Saturnine Martial & Lunatic***
  • 2004 - Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

* is a greatest hits album, which includes the single "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)", which only appears on compilations and which is the first song Orzabal recorded as Tears for Fears without Smith.

** denotes album recorded without Smith.

*** is a rarities collection spanning from 1983 to 1993.

Shout...shout...let it all out. These are the tropes I could do without:

  • Album Title Drop: Apart from in the Title Track, Raoul and the Kings of Spain features another one in "Los reyes católicos (reprise)". Similarly, The Seeds of Love receives one not only in "Sowing the Seeds of Love" but also in "Badman's Song" ("At least the seeds of love will be sown").
  • Apocalypse How/World War III: "Famous Last Words" describes a planetary class 3. Word of God says it's a nuclear holocaust.
  • Arc Words: The phrase "The sun and the moon, the wind and the rain" appears in no less than three different songs on The Seeds of Love. They also appear in the band's live cover of "All You Need Is Love", featured on Going to California.
    • These things are also displayed on the cover. This was the working title for the album but changed because of the popularity of the single "Sowing the Seeds of Love".
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Both Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal have credited the birth of their children as the main reason they calmed down. With kids to care for, music became less of a pressure and stressor.
    Curt Smith: ďYou have something at home thatís far bigger and far more important than any of this business crap. The upbringing of my two daughters is far more important than any Tears For Fears record. Now making music is more enjoyable because itís a release and a joy. Thatís the way it should be.Ē
  • Baroque Pop: On The Seeds of Love and Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. To a lesser extent, some of Elemental and Raoul and the Kings of Spain could also be considered to fall into this.
  • B-Side: Most of their singles have non-album B-Sides. They in fact never used an album track as a B-Side (unless it was an alternate version). A generous 18 of these were collected on the B-Sides compilation Saturnine Martial & Lunatic. It was initially intended only as a US release to fulfil their record contract there and save costly imports, but was later pressed in the UK and Europe too due to demand.
  • Call-Back/Call-Forward: These are scattered throughout their lyrics. For example, "Advice for the Young at Heart" refers to the previous album's "The Working Hour", while "Badman's Song" makes a lyrical reference to the following song, "Sowing the Seeds of Love". The song title "Secret World" also appears in "Advice for the Young at Heart", three albums earlier, although it's more likely the former is a reference to the latter than the other way around. Meanwhile, the band's live cover of "All You Need Is Love" mentions Raoul and the Kings of Spain several years before the release of the album of the same title.
  • Canon Discontinuity: They vetoed the inclusion of the B-Side "Saxophones as Opiates" from the reissue of The Hurting, just because they thought it was cheesy. They did include the B-Side "Wino" which had never been on CD before, though a large part of the reason was that the record company forgot about the "Suffer the Children" single.
    • Their cover of Radiohead's "Creep" did not appear on the Raoul and the Kings of Spain reissue, which otherwise included all the B-sides from the album's singles. It was partly for time reasons and partly for cost of licensing, but nevertheless could easily be forgotten due to the rarity of those singles.
  • Careful with That Axe: Orzabal has a pretty effective scream when he wants to use it. The end of the album version of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" contains some good examples.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase:
    • Raoul and the Kings of Spain
    • "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"
  • Cover Version: The band has covered Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song", David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes", and Radiohead's "Creep". The band's own "Mad World" was later Covered Up by Gary Jules.
    • In 2013, they covered Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start", Hot Chip's "(And I Was a) Boy from School" and Animal Collective's "My Girls" and released them on Soundcloud as a trial run for new material. They were quite well received. They later released them as a Record Store Day exclusive vinyl EP called "Ready Boys and Girls", which was only released in the US, much to the frustration of UK and other international fans.
    • Live, the band has covered quite a few other songs as well, including the gospel hymn/jazz standard "When the Saints Go Marching In" (most famous in Louis Armstrong's version, probably) and The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" (with altered lyrics).
  • Downer Ending: The Seeds of Love ends with "Famous Last Words", which is pure Tear Jerker. (Considering that it's about a couple perishing in each other's arms during a nuclear holocaust, it'd pretty much have to be). Some of the band's other albums also end this way, including "Goodnight Song" from Elemental, about how the singer no longer feels like his music is artistically successful, and "Los reyes católicos (reprise)" from Raoul and the Kings of Spain, which isn't that much of a downer lyrically but is quite downbeat musically.
  • '80s Hair: And again...!
    • Baby mullets, rat tails and curls, oh my!
  • Epic Rocking:
    • From Songs from the Big Chair, "Shout" is 6:35, "The Working Hour" is 6:34, and "Listen" is 6:55. "Shout" was frequently even longer when performed live (the Going to California version runs for around nine minutes), and some re-releases of the album have extended mixes of some of the songs which also, naturally, fall into this trope.
    • From The Seeds of Love, more than half the album qualifies. The longest song is "Badman's Song", which clocks in at 8:33, and was even longer still live (the Going to California version runs for over eleven minutes). Other lengthy songs include "Year of the Knife" (6:55), "Woman in Chains" (6:30), "Sowing the Seeds of Love" (6:19), and "Swords and Knives" (6:20).
    • From Elemental, "Mr. Pessimist" runs for 6:17.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is the album released after the duo reunited and rekindled their friendship and accurately describes their own and their fans' reaction to this development.
  • Fading into the Next Song: A lot.
    • The entire second side of Songs from the Big Chair, starting with "I Believe".
    • The last three songs on The Seeds of Love.
    • Elemental:
      • "Dog's a Best Friend's Dog" -> "Fish Out of Water"
      • "Gas Giants" -> "Power" -> "Brian Wilson Said".
    • Raoul and the Kings of Spain:
      • "Raoul and the Kings of Spain" -> "Falling Down"
      • "God's Mistake" -> "Sketches of Pain"
      • "Los reyes católicos" -> "Sorry" -> "Humdrum and Humble"
      • "I Choose You" -> "Don't Drink the Water"
      • "Me and My Big Ideas" -> "Los reyes católicos (reprise)"
    • Everybody Loves a Happy Ending:
      • "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending" -> "Closest Thing to Heaven"
      • "Who You Are" ->" The Devil"
      • "Secret World" -> "Killing with Kindness" -> "Ladybird"
  • Goth: The album The Hurting has a significant gothic influence, as does the period B-side "The Conflict".
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Raoul and the Kings of Spain features Spanish lyrics in "Los reyes católicos" and its reprise. The song title is grammatically correct Spanish for "The Catholic Kings", but is not pronounced correctly for at least most dialects of the language, though this may be to fit the rhythm of the lyrics (the stress in "católicos" should be on the "ó", which is what the acute accent indicates, and it should be a long vowel sound).
  • Homage/Musical Pastiche:
    • Word of God admits that "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Schrödinger's Cat" are both pastiches of "I Am the Walrus" (Orzabal also notes that the piano break on "Schrödinger" is "reminiscent of [Thunderclap Newman's] 'Something in the Air'"). These were far from the only Beatles pastiches the group recorded; large parts of The Seeds of Love and Everybody Loves a Happy Ending bear clear Beatles influence (although maybe not quite this clear). "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending" and "Who Killed Tangerine?" could almost be lost Beatles tracks, for example.
    • "Brian Wilson Said", as might be expected from the title, is a The Beach Boys pastiche (it also alludes to Van Morrison's track "Jackie Wilson Said", which appears on Saint Dominic's Preview, though if there is any other Morrison influence on the track, it's oblique at most). The clearest influence on the song is "Good Vibrations", but it contains several other references, both musical and lyrical, to Wilson's work as well (such as to "California Girls").
    • With "Lord of Karma", Orzabal says the group were "trying to get somewhere between the Happy Mondays and Jimi Hendrix's 'Crosstown Traffic'".
    • "I Believe" is such a clear Robert Wyatt homage that the band covered his track "Sea Song" for the B-side. The album's liner notes further lampshaded it by stating "Dedicated to Robert Wyatt (if he's listening)", referencing the song "Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening" by Soft Machine, which Wyatt was previously a member of.
    • Orzabal admitted that he was listening to Art Of Noise when "Empire Building" was recorded.
  • I Am the Band: Orzabal is the only well-known band member on Elemental and Raoul and the Kings of Spain. "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)", which was a minor (at least compared to the three songs listed in the band bio) hit, also falls under this trope. However, Alan Griffiths co-wrote almost all the songs from this period with Orzabal, and provided additional instrumentation and co-produced the albums (Tim Palmer also provided additional instrumentation on and co-produced Elemental). Griffiths also worked on Orzabal's solo album Tomcats Screaming Outside, but was not involved with Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.
  • In the Style of...: "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" is essentially the lyrics of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" rapped over the chord pattern of "Shout" in a trip-hop style with "a Talking Heads-style chorus".
  • Large Ham: Orzabal. He was a bit of a ham back in the days of Songs from the Big Chair, but interestingly enough, he older he got, the hammier he was. Smith, while more understated at times, still had his moments. But they are both twice as hammy when performing live.
  • Last of His Kind: Roland Orzabal, for whatever reason, wanted to keep the band alive so much that, during the 1990's, almost all of his solo work would be released under the band's name. Tomcats Screaming Outside, which he made in 2001, was his only album that he released under his name (perhaps because it's Something Completely Different: it's a Drum And Bass album).
  • Literary Allusion Title: As mentioned below, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" is named after a work by Sylvia Plath.
  • Loudness War: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, as well as all their remasters. Fans were justifiably annoyed about the brickwalling of The Hurting reissue because it included many tracks that were on CD for the first time, but it turns out the band wanted them mastered that way. Averted by the original releases of the early albums; the original release of The Seeds of Love, for example, is DR13. Probably a case of Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Mad World" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", subsequently ignored by cover artists.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Referenced in "Raoul and the Kings of Spain":
    When the seventh son of the seventh son
    Comes along and breaks the chains...
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: "Shout" is apparently all about this, given the times in which the song was released.
  • Misogyny Song: Inverted with "Woman in Chains", which is overtly feminist. (Though it is a song about misogyny).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: SHOUT! SHOUT! LET IT ALL OUT!
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: On some of their albums. See the description for The Seeds of Love in New Sound Album below for one example.
  • New Sound Album: Basically all of them.
    • Songs from the Big Chair expanded the original album's synth-pop template with influence from jazz and electronica (as well as a Robert Wyatt-style ballad in "I Believe").
    • The Seeds of Love took influence from '70s Progressive Rock and '60s psychedelia, particularly The Beatles. It also upped the jazz influence and threw in some world, new age, and gospel music influence for good measure.
    • Elemental had a slicker modern sound with a more cinematic scope.
    • Raoul and the Kings of Spain was a Concept Album about Orzabal's Spanish heritage and incorporated a lot of influence from flamenco and other styles (although this was not present on every track).
    • Everybody Loves a Happy Ending went back to the psychedelia-influenced sound of The Seeds of Love, but was in general substantially brighter and more modern.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Halargian world..." in "Mad World", which was an in-joke among the two. Some covers changed it to "Enlarging your world..."
  • Protest Song:
    • "Shout" is a bit of a meta example; the lyrics themselves don't actually protest anything in particular, but they encourage protest. Curt Smith also indicates that the song "encourages people not to do things without actually questioning them. People act without thinking because that's just the way things go in society."
    • Played straighter on some other songs, such as "Sowing the Seeds of Love", which is an attack on the Thatcher government. On the same album "Woman in Chains" protests patriarchy, "Famous Last Words" could be interpreted as protesting nuclear war, and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" attacks globalisation. Maybe.
    • Though it's not obvious in the song, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was originally conceived as a commentary on the Cold War. Orzabal noted the original title was "Everybody Wants to Go to War", which producer Chris Hughes nixed as not catchy enough. More Cold War commentary shows up on the album's closing track "Listen", though it's fairly cryptic there as well.
  • Pun-Based Title:
  • Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock: These were both major influences on The Seeds of Love. Everybody Loves a Happy Ending also bears strong psychedelic rock influence, and there is some psychedelic influence on Elemental as well. While The Seeds of Love isn't usually considered a prog album, Steven Wilson likes it enough that he's working on a 5.1-channel remix of the album, which, given its complexity, is no small task; this may help bolster its prog credentials somewhat. (He's already remixed Songs from the Big Chair.) This article argues that all their work has strong prog credentials.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: After many years of estrangement it was routine paperwork that led to the reunion. Smith flew in from the USA to see Orzabal as he had to sign off on something Orzabal had signed. They ended up having dinner together and that led to the reconciliation.
  • Rearrange the Song: This has been done several times.
    • "Pharaohs", the B-side to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", incorporates the main melody of the song at its end, but it is much slower and instrumental (although it features a spoken word voice reading what appear to be weather forecasts).
    • "Tears Roll Down" and "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" share melodic and rhythmic elements, but the former is almost entirely instrumental and is mostly in 7/4, while the latter features a traditional chorus/verse structure and is mostly in 4/4 (though it uses polyrhythms).
    • "Break It Down Again" and "Raoul and the Kings of Spain" were given acoustic arrangements for B-sides; these were later included on the reissue of Raoul.
    • "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" uses the chord sequence of "Shout" and the lyrics of "Sowing the Seeds of Love", and is performed in a Trip Hop style with "a Talking Heads-style chorus".
    • "The Working Hour" reuses the melody of the much more minimalistic and downbeat "When in Love with a Blind Man".
    • The band has taken to performing Gary Jules' arrangement of "Mad World" when playing it live recently.
    • As performed live in 2017, "Change" has a modern four on the floor beat.
  • Sampling:
    • "The Body Wah" is constructed around a sample of a woman describing "a well-known female politician" with the words, "Because she has power, she has personality".
    • "Elemental" is constructed around a sample of a guitar using the wah-wah pedal from the band's own "Lord of Karma".
    • "Empire Building" is constructed around a two-second sample of an early Simple Minds track "Today I Died Again". Intentionally or not, the title can be seen as both a reference to the album "Today" was on (Empires and Dance) and the fact that the song is built from the sample.
    • The dialogue in "The Big Chair" is sampled from the film Sybil, which inspired it.
  • Science Is Bad: "Schrödinger's Cat" and "Deja Vu & the Sins of Science".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The band name is a reference to primal therapy. Also, in "Shout", they take this trope literally.
    • "The Big Chair" (which also inspired the title Songs from the Big Chair, although it does not appear on the original album) is inspired by the film Sybil and samples it.
    • "Empire Building" is inspired by Breaker Morant, a film about The Second Boer War.
    • "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams", a Trip Hop remake of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Shout" (with what Orzabal describes as "a Talking Heads-style chorus"), derives its title from a book by Sylvia Plath.
    • "Dog's a Best Friend's Dog" contains a reference to Waiting for Godot. It may or may not be mispronounced depending on whether Beckett intended the name to be pronounced as in French (accounts apparently differ, but since the play itself was written in French, it's likely, in which case Orzabal did mispronounce it).
    • "Don't Drink the Water" drops in a reference to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
    • "Out of Control" (a bonus track available only on the UK release of Everybody Loves a Happy Ending) also references Frida Kahlo.
    • "Sketches of Pain" is a Pun-Based Title referring to Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain. Given the Spanish theme of Raoul and the notable flamenco influence on "Sketches" in particular, it fits.
    • "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is apparently named after an obscure English folk song called, well, "The Seeds of Love". The song also refers to The Jam, the Style Council, and MC5's Kick Out the Jams.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: On "Songs from the Big Chair", the sixth track, "Broken", segues directly into the seventh track, "Head over Heels", which itself segues directly into a reprise of "Broken". These latter two are almost always played together on the radio and live, and sometimes the "Broken" reprise isn't even noted on the track listing. Depending upon how one defines the trope, quite a few of the band's other song transitions can also qualify; these are listed above under Fading into the Next Song.
  • Special Guest:
    • Phil Collins plays the drums on "Woman in Chains".
    • Legendary trumpeter and world musician Jon Hassell plays on "Standing on the Corner of the Third World".
    • Oleta Adams sings guest vocals on "Woman in Chains", "Badman's Song", and "Me and My Big Ideas", as well as some live versions of "I Believe" (see Going to California for one example). She also plays piano on "Badman's Song" and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World". Orzabal and Smith are basically responsible for discovering her.
    • Information on most of the band members apart from Orzabal and Smith can be found here, although it looks like it hasn't been updated since shortly after the release of Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.
  • Take Over the World: Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
  • Take That!:
    • "Badman's Song" is this to some members of the band who were criticising Orzabal, whilst staying in a hotel room next to his. They thought he couldn't hear them, but the walls were thin.
    • Perhaps as a Take That! at Curt Smith, the cover of the "Break It Down Again" single features Orzabal holding a bunch of wilted sunflowers. The previous album The Seeds of Love and singles associated with it feature sunflowers. It could be said that the wilted sunflowers are a reference to the end of his friendship with Curt.
    • "Fish Out of Water" from Elemental is a Take That at Curt Smith, who later responded with "Sun King," from his Mayfield album.
    • "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is a Take That! at the Margaret Thatcher government.
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "Tears Roll Down" is mostly in 7/8. One of the riffs from this song reappears in "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" for brief periods, but it's used as a polyrhythm and the song is in 4/4.
    • The chorus of "Ladybird" jumps all over the place (if you're wondering, the exact pattern is two bars of 5/8, one bar of 9/8, two bars of 5/8, then one bar of 6/8). The rest of the song is in standard 6/8.