Music / Tears for Fears

"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. That said, these are far from the band's only songs to get radio airplay.

To be fair, 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, 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.

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:

  • 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.
    • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" and Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song". The band's own "Mad World" was later Covered Up by Gary Jules.
    • In 2013, they covered Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start" and Hot Chip's "(And I Was a) Boy from School" and released them on Soundcloud as a trial run for new material. They were quite well received.
  • 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).
  • '80s Hair: And again...!
    • Baby mullets, rat tails and curls, oh my!
  • Epic Rocking: "Year of the Knife" clocks in at 7:08. "Badman's Song" is even longer at 8:33.
  • 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: The last three songs on The Seeds of Love do this, as does the reprise of "Broken" into "Listen".
  • Goth: The album The Hurting has a significant gothic influence, as does the period B-side "The Conflict".
  • 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).
    • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 more slick 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.
  • Protest Song:
    • "Shout" is a bit of a meta example; the lyrics themselves don't actually protest anything in particular, but they encourage protest.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. There are also some examples on Elemental ("Gas Giants" -> "Power" -> "Brian Wilson Said") and Raoul and the Kings of Spain ("Los Reyes Católicos" -> "Sorry").
  • 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.