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Music / Tears for Fears

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From the Songs from the Big Chair era. Left, Curt; Right, Roland.

"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 1980s pop bands, they haven't had much success since the 1990s; in fact, Smith left the band in 1991, making it essentially Orzabal's solo project (although, as explained below under I Am the Band, perhaps not as much as is popularly assumed). 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 a year before this point and decided to be a duo again) 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 are featured in "best of the '80s" compilation albums in the 21st century:

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" (which, in the past decade or so, has become probably as well known as the three tracks above), "Pale Shelter", "Change", "Advice for the Young at Heart", "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains", "Break It Down Again", and "Closest Thing to Heaven".

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, although 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 Tim Palmer co-producing and providing additional instrumentation, alongside several other musicians on Raoul; 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 the former has said is darker and more dramatic, describing one song as "a combination of Portishead and Queen". The band released a cover of Arcade Fire's "Ready to Start" on SoundCloud, and they are hoping to complete a new album in 2021 (the original plan was that it would be ready in 2020, but it was delayed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic), tentatively titled The Tipping Point. They released "I Love You But I'm Lost", the first single from their new album, on October 12th, 2017, and also released a new best-of album on November 10th, 2017, called Rule the World, which featured sixteen songs, including two new songs, which are the aforementioned single, and "Stay".

Do not confuse with the trope Tears of Fear.


  • 1983 - The Hurting
  • 1985 - Songs from the Big Chair
  • 1989 - The Seeds of Love
  • 1992 - Tears Roll Down note 
  • 1993 - Elementalnote 
  • 1995 - Raoul and the Kings of Spainnote 
  • 1996 - Saturnine Martial & Lunaticnote 
  • 2004 - Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
  • 2006 - Secret World Live in Parisnote 
  • 2017 - Rule the World note 

Everybody wants to list the tropes:

  • '80s Hair: Baby mullets, rat tails and curls, oh my!
  • Aerith and Bob: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, respectively.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • 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").
    • Apart from the Title Track, Raoul and the Kings of Spain features another one in "Los reyes católicos (reprise)".
  • All Love Is Unrequited: "When in Love with a Blind Man" (the B-Side of "Head over Heels") is about being in love with a man who's oblivious to your romantic feelings.
    When in love with a blind man
    You watch what you say
    And you watch yourself burn
    With dreams of escaping
    Make love to the man who shapes your behaviour

    When in love with a blind man
    You love on your own
    To an occasional smile
    You never know why, but sometimes he smiles
    And sometimes just lies there
    So jealous
  • Apocalypse How/World War III: "Famous Last Words" describes a planetary class 3. invokedWord of God says it's a nuclear holocaust.
  • Arc Words: The verse "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 it was 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 with helping them get over their anger and grow emotionally and musically.
    Smith: You have something at home that's 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 it's a release and a joy. That's the way it should be.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun: In the "Head over Heels" music video, Orzabal has a toy gun which shoots out the message "Bang?" to his Love Interest.
  • 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.
  • Book-Ends: The opening and closing songs of Raoul and the Kings of Spain share harmonic elements and both provide an Album Title Drop. A smaller-scale example can be found with "Head over Heels", which is bookended on the album by versions of "Broken".
  • 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 fulfill their record contract there and save costly imports, but it 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, although 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"
  • Cool Car: In the "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" music video, Smith drives an antique mid-1960s Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III convertible sports car that was painted in British Racing Green.
  • Cool Shades: Smith sports a pair of round sunglasses in the "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" music video which was also used in promotional images.
  • 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 invokedonly 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), Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", and The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" (with altered lyrics).
    • The "reprise" of "Badman's Song" on disc four of The Seeds of Love box set quickly turns into a vamp on The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night".
  • Dissonant Serenity: "Pharaohs". As Chris Hughes comments in the Saturnine liner notes, "No matter how horrifying the conditions may really be the voice reading the shipping forecast is deliberately calm and relaxed." The song itself is also calm and relaxed.
  • 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The band's debut, The Hurting, was straight-up Synth-Pop before they switched to their eclectic rock style on subsequent albums. They are still frequently labelled a synth pop act to this very day, even though by the time of Songs from the Big Chair, the majority of their material was only peripherally connected to the style (although two of its biggest hits, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Shout", still arguably qualify as examples). By the time of The Seeds of Love, they were arguably a psychedelic/progressive rock band with synthesizers relegated to a background role at most, although the amount of Genre Roulette makes the album difficult to classify. Later material is equally eclectic.
  • 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. There's also the "Broken"/"Head over Heels/Broken (live)" suite, which is indexed as two tracks but doesn't really play that way; it reaches 8:02. Finally, various reissues of the album include several remixes that easily top the six-minute mark, the longest of which are the "U.S." mix of "Shout" (8:02), the "Beat of the Drum Mix" of "Mothers Talk" (8:54), and the "Preacher Mix" of "Broken/Head over Heels/Broken" (8:00).
    • 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). The 2020 five-disc reissue also contains several cuts that break the six-minute mark; the longest are "Year of the Knife (early mix, instrumental)" (8:39), "Sowing the Seeds of Love (alternate mix)" (7:19), "Badman's Song (early mix)" (7:58), "Badman's Song (Langer / Winstanley version, instrumental)" (7:28), "Woman in Chains (Townhouse jam)" (7:08), "Badman's Song (Townhouse jam)" (8:20), and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World (Townhouse jam)" (9:12), which is the longest studio track they have released to date.
    • From Elemental, "Mr. Pessimist" runs for 6:17.
    • From Saturnine Martial & Lunatic, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" is 6:21, and "Deja Vu & the Sins of Science" is 6:24.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: In The '80s, the band made it fashionable for straight men to wear earrings. Smith's left earlobe is adorned with a stud earring which is still there to this day. Orzabal's left ear is also pierced, and he had a pair of dangling metallic hearts, but they went missing before the release of the third album.
  • 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 it accurately describes their own and their fans' reaction to this development.
  • The Face: If we go by the traditional definition, Roland Orzabal is the frontman of the group because he's the main songwriter and the lead vocalist of most of their discography. However, it's the opinion of Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes in this interview that Curt Smith fulfills this role for the band, especially during the early part of their career. Moreover, Smith — who is more extroverted and is regarded as being more amiable (and more attractive) by the press than the introverted Orzabal — also dealt with the media more often, magazines occasionally put Smith on the front cover alone (or at least have Smith in focus) even when he and Orzabal were both featured in the interview, plus Smith was the only band member who made a thank you speech at the 1986 BRIT Awards despite Orzabal being present.
    Marc Almond (narrator): As time went on, many saw [Orzabal] as the band's driving force.
    Stanley: Roland was always the sort of brilliance of the group. Curt was the face, definitely.
    Hughes: Curt was very, very good at the being the kind of pop star front, and in the earlier songs, he was fronting the group in a sense.
  • Face on the Cover:
    • The iconic album cover of Songs from the Big Chair is a black-and-white close-up of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.
    • Orzabal and Smith stand side by side on the artwork for The Seeds of Love.
    • Orzabal stands alone on the Elemental cover.
  • Fading into the Next Song: A lot.
    • The Hurting:
      • "Mad World -> "Pale Shelter"
      • "Ideas As Opiates" -> "Memories Fade"
    • 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"
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Roland Orzabal released "Fish Out of Water" as a Take That! song to Curt Smith after the latter departed from the band. Orzabal is passionate about astrology, so the water imagery in the lyrics alludes to Smith being a Cancer, a water element zodiac sign. Smith's Answer Song is "Sun King", which refers to Orzabal being a Leo, a fire element zodiac sign ruled by the sun (which could essentially be described as a giant ball of "fire" fueled by nuclear fusion).
  • 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, although 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).
  • Guyliner: Orzabal sometimes puts on eyeliner for live performances. In The '80s, both he and Smith were occasionally given eye make-up for a photo session in order to make them look more attractive for the magazine's female audience.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith have been best friends since they were 13 years old (albeit with a break in between 1991 and 2000), and they describe their musical partnership as a marriage. Smith claims that they're almost telepathic in this interview.
    Smith: I may be joking on the telepathic side [...], but we know what we're thinking. After fifteen years, you're bound to. And obviously, you have in-jokes and things that other people wouldn't understand. But because we've been together for so long, you normally know what the other person is thinking or feeling about someone, or something, or anything. And so it really goes beyond words, to be honest.
  • Hollywood Nerd: In the "Head over Heels" music video, Nerd Glasses were put on Curt Smith and Canadian model Joan Densmore in an attempt to make them appear as a dorky library custodian and a nerdy librarian, respectively. However, Smith's prettiness is still very apparent (in fact, he liked the look enough that he kept the fake glasses on during a CBC interview), and Densmore's character is a Hot Librarian.
  • Homage/Musical Pastiche:
    • invokedWord 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, although 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 too much Art of Noise" when "Empire Building" was recorded.
    • "The Conflict" strongly resembles the work of Japan, in particular "Ghosts" and "The Experience Of Swimming".
  • I Am the Band: Orzabal is the only famous 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, while the popular perception is that these are essentially Orzabal solo albums, this trope has always been, at most, downplayed. Orzabal has never actually run Tears for Fears as his solo project, and even his actual solo album, Tomcats Screaming Outside, is something of a collaboration. On the whole, he's always written the bulk of his material with others; the one exception was The Hurting, on which all but one song are credited solely to him. Further details:
    • Elemental and Raoul: Alan Griffiths co-wrote almost all the songs on both albums with Orzabal. On Elemental, nine songs are credited to Orzabal/Griffiths and only "Cold" is credited to Orzabal alone. On Raoul, nine songs are Orzabal/Griffiths compositions, with only "Falling Down", "Sketches of Pain", and "I Choose You" credited to Orzabal alone. The instrumentation and production also aren't solely Orzabal's work; Griffiths and Tim Palmer co-produced both Elemental and Raoul and provided additional instrumentation on Elemental. Additionally, the band members listed on Raoul are Orzabal, Griffiths, Jebin Bruni, Gail Ann Dorsey, Brian MacLeod, and Jeffrey Trott. Wikipedia lists Orzabal as the only actual band member on these albums, but the CD packaging doesn't make any such distinction.
    • Tomcats Screaming Outside: Eight of twelve songs credited to Orzabal/Griffiths; only "Low Life", "Hypnoculture", "For the Love of Cain", and "Hey Andy!" credited to Orzabal. Orzabal is one of four musicians and co-produces with Griffiths.
    • Saturnine Martial & Lunatic: Orzabal's only solo songwriting credit on the entire collection is the first song, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams". (From this we can also extrapolate that he probably wrote the main chord sequence to "Shout" and the lyrics to the verses of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" by himself, since this song incorporates both.)
    • As far as older albums, Songs from the Big Chair has only two solo Orzabal credits ("I Believe" and "Broken"). Most songs were written by Orzabal with some combination of Smith, Ian Stanley, Manny Elias (all of whom were band members at the time), and Chris Hughes.
    • Similarly, Orzabal co-wrote five of the eight songs on The Seeds of Love with Nicky Holland, who, while she also performs keyboards or backing vocals on all five of these songs, is not credited as a band member. Since "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is credited to Orzabal and Smith, Orzabal's only solo songwriting credits on this album are "Woman in Chains" and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World", although two of the B-sides included on the 1999 remaster ("Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" and "Music for Tables") are also solo Orzabal compositions.
    • In fact, after The Hurting, the album with the highest number of solo Orzabal songwriting credits is... *drumroll* Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, the reunion album, with a whopping four out of twelve songs (or fourteen on the European edition). Most of the songs on this album are credited to Orzabal, Smith, and Charlton Pettus (Smith's songwriting partner); "Who You Are" is a Smith/Pettus composition, and the four songs credited to Orzabal are "Size of Sorrow", "Quiet Ones", "The Devil", and "Secret World".note  Suffice it to say that Orzabal seems to benefit from having someone else to bounce his songwriting ideas off of (and, for that matter, so does Smith).
  • Indecipherable Lyrics:
    • The Careful with That Axe parts at the end of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" can fall into this. There's one part where Orzabal is saying, "What about the workers?", but this isn't included in the lyrics and isn't easy to make out in the studio version (it's more easily decipherable in some of the live versions).
    • "Year of the Knife" also contains a similar example: the screamed line after "I made my bed on love denied" is "And now I ain't gonna sleep tonight."
    • There are also some heavily processed vocal parts in some of their songs that can be very difficult to understand, most prominently "Cold".
    • A strange example in "Badman's Song". After "When I hear soft whispers at the break of day", the line "I'm in trouble every step of the way" is printed in the liner notes. No known performance of the song actually contains this line; there's just a pause in the singing for a measure.
  • Insult Backfire: Roland Orzabal composed "Fish Out of Water" as a Take That! to Curt Smith for quitting the band, and the former describes some of the lyrics as "pure vitriol." Instead of being offended, Smith was actually flattered that Orzabal hated him that much and expressed it publicly through music. Smith considers it his favourite Tears for Fears song that didn't have his input.
    Smith: It's a compliment, in some ways.
    Orzabal: Absolutely, it means I cared deeply for him. (laughs) That's one way of interpreting it, anyway...
  • 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".
    • "I Believe" is in the style of Robert Wyatt. The song was originally offered to Wyatt, but he declined. They also covered his "Sea Song" from Rock Bottom on the B-side.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: In this interview, Curt Smith discloses that both he and Roland Orzabal are sensitive guys, and this influences their music.
    Interviewer: I was once chatting with Patti Smith and had mentioned how much I enjoyed her version of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". She said there was a "girlish" quality to that song. Do you agree there is an inherent femininity to the lyrics and to the song itself?
    Smith: Are you calling me a girl? (laughs) [Roland Orzabal and I] definitely were more in touch with our feminine sides. We are not "men's men," per se. We talk about emotions, we talk about feelings, we talk about a lot of things that men of our generation didn't really talk about much. In England, it was more about having a stiff upper lip, being a strong man, the head of the household kind of thing, which is so not who we are. So, in that sense, I can see where Patti is coming from.
  • Large Ham: Orzabal. He was a bit of a ham back in the days of Songs from the Big Chair, but interestingly enough, the 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 1990s, almost all of his "solo" work would be released under the band's name (although this has frequently been overstated; see I Am the Band above). 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).
  • Lead Bassist: Curt Smith is popular among fans because he's the lead singer on some of the band's biggest hits (e.g. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Mad World"). It also helps that Smith was gorgeous when he was younger — it's often said that he had the voice of an angel and the face of an angel. And he's no slouch on his instrument, either.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Prominent in interviews with both Smith and Orzabal, the bickering is bountiful.
  • 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.
    • Averted with Steven Wilson's 2020 surround sound remix of The Seeds of Love, which doesn't have any dynamic range compression applied to it. The CDs are moderate examples, mostly coming in at DR8 (disc four comes in at DR9), which makes them louder than the original CD, but quiet by modern standards; tracks on Andrew Walter's CD remaster range from DR7 to DR9, and the bonus tracks on the remaining three CDs range from DR5 ("Tears Roll Down") to DR12 ("Year of the Knife - 'The Mix'" and "Woman in Chains - reprise - electric piano only").
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Mad World" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", subsequently ignored by cover artists.
    • The B-side to "Everybody", "Pharaohs", also counts, containing a voice reading "horrifying" shipping forecasts in a "deliberately calm and relaxed" manner; the music is "calm and relaxed" to match.
  • 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 (although it is a song about misogyny).
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Early in their career, the band posed bare-chested for a photo shoot.
    • Orzabal is shirtless in the "I Believe" music video.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: SHOUT! SHOUT! LET IT ALL OUT!
  • The Muse: Curt Smith is this to Roland Orzabal (the main songwriter) according to this interview, as the latter reveals, "He's always been my muse."
  • Muse Abuse: Roland Orzabal has named Curt Smith as his lifelong muse. After their debut album, Orzabal grew increasingly tyrannical and egotistical when it came to what he regarded as solely his (and not their) music. note  This led to Smith being sidelined more and more as time went on, to the point where guest performer Oleta Adams had a bigger presence than he did on the band's third album. Smith was so angered by his greatly reduced role note  that he quit in 1991. An infuriated Orzabal then wrote the song "Fish Out of Water" as a Take That! to Smith for leaving him. In Smith's Answer Song "Sun King", he outright calls the mistreatment he endured from Orzabal as abuse.
  • 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.
  • The Not-Remix: A very positively received example of this trope in 2014 with Songs from the Big Chair, courtesy of veteran Progressive Rock producer Steven Wilson. Wilson outright refused to touch the stereo mix of The Seeds of Love, contending that it was already "pretty much perfect," but did make a 5.1-channel surround sound mix of the album, which was the centrepiece of the 2020 box set of the album. (The complexity of The Seeds of Love's mixes is a major reason for the long delay between the two re-releases.)
  • Parental Neglect: invokedWord of God is that "Pale Shelter" is about the pain and insecurity that stems from not receiving enough (or any) warmth and affection from one's parents.
    I asked for more and more
    How can I be sure
    When you don't give me love
    You gave me pale shelter
    You don't give me love
    You give me cold hands
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Halargian world..." in "Mad World", which was an in-joke among the two. Some covers changed it to "Enlarging your world..."
  • Pretty Boy: In their early years, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal were marketed as a boy band in various magazines, and they were frequently photographed in typical '80s boy band poses. Smith in particular fit the "boy band ideal" of that era (androgyny was trendy at the time) because he was a Long-Haired Pretty Boy with cherubic facial features who could appear quite feminine. In BBC's Classic Albums - Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair documentary, Orzabal acknowledges that their physical beauty was part of their mass appeal.
    Orzabal: We were young, we were both good-looking, especially Curt (chuckles), and we had the right music.
  • 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 globalization and colonialism:
      Let me explain this. It's another example of what I was saying earlier, the thing about womb-like containment, the oceanic realm of the imagination and picking up things in a subconscious manner. There's a line that goes, "Man, I never slept so hard, I never dreamt so well/Dreaming I was safe in life/Like mussels in a shell." The vibe is one of containment and safety and peace and solitude. "Rolling and controlling all the basements and the backroads of our lives" is a reference to how you get rid of all the shit and the dirt of life — it's swept under the carpet, or, at the very least, out of sight.

      I think music is still cathartic for me. Certainly it's got me from A to B. It's been a friend. But what I've done in this case is use the Third World as a symbol for everybody's dumping ground. It's a place that's barren, without life and full of abuse and exploitation. The line, "Standing on the corner of the Third World" brings to me this feeling of containment, yet, just in the background you're slightly reminded that there's this massive grey and barren area that needs attention.
    • Although 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", although it's fairly cryptic there as well.
  • Progressive Rock/Psychedelic 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.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • Roland Orzabal has confirmed that "so low" in "Laid So Low" is a pun on "solo," which is basically what Tears for Fears had become after Curt Smith's departure.
    • "Pharaohs" is a play on the Faroe Islands, which are mentioned in the shipping forecast sampled in the song.
    • "Sketches of Pain" is a pun on Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.
    • "Brian Wilson Said" refers to The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, the song's main influence, as well as Van Morrison's song "Jackie Wilson Said".
  • Putting the Band Back Together: After nine years of estrangement, it was routine legal 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.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: "Sowing the Seeds of Love":
    Everyone, read about it
    Everyone, scream about it
    Everyone (everyone, yeah)
    Everyone (everyone) read about it, read about it
    Read it in the books, in the crannies and the nooks, there are books to read
  • 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 (although 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.
    • Orzabal's tendency to do this to his own material in the studio is part of the reason some of the albums took so long to record. "Badman's Song", according to cowriter Nicky Holland, went through arrangements reminiscent of Barry White, Little Feat, and Steely Dan before the band settled on the jazz/gospel-inspired arrangement found on the album, and co-producer Dave Bascombe commented that the recorded version of the song bore almost no resemblance to the original demo because it had gone through so many changes. (The demo recorded with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley found on the fourth disc of the Seeds of Love box set may be the arrangement Holland compared to Steely Dan, and indeed, it sounds like a completely different song.)
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red of the bombastic Roland Orzabal to the blue of the mellow Curt Smith. However, some would say that Orzabal's shy, private nature in public would make him blue, while Smith's energetic, welcoming disposition would make him red.
  • 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. It also samples the film Breaker Morant.
    • The dialogue in "The Big Chair" is sampled from the film Sybil, which inspired it.
    • "Pharaohs" features a calm voice (Bryan Perkins of BBC Radio) reading some often alarming shipping forecasts (making it also a case of Dissonant Serenity).
    • The synth "scream" from "The Hurting" may be sampled from Peter Gabriel's "Intruder"; if not, it's almost certainly a Shout-Out, as it sounds very similar.
  • Scenery Porn: The "Shout" music video was filmed at Durdle Door in Dorset, England, which has spectacular rocky cliffs and a stunning coastline.
  • Science Is Bad: "Schrödinger's Cat" and "Deja Vu & the Sins of Science".
  • Self-Deprecation: The liner notes from Saturnine Martial & Lunatic are often wry examples of this. For instance, describing "The Big Chair", Chris Hughes writes, "I always felt this piece was a soundtrack to the Middle Ages. Perhaps [Sybil]'s childhood horrors stemmed from those times; certainly the Fairlight II we used to make it did." Orzabal is sometimes even more blunt, saying of "The Way You Are", "I think this was the point at which we realized we had to change direction."
  • Shout-Out:
    • The band name is a reference to primal therapy. Also, in "Shout", they take this trope literally.
    • "The Hurting" has an ominous guitar riff that's similar to one used in Peter Gabriel's "Intruder". Both songs are the opening tracks on their respective albums.
    • At the end of the In My Mind's Eye concert film, Orzabal's farewell to the crowd is "You've been a lovely audience, we'd like to take you home with us," which is nearly identical to the verses "You're such a lovely audience / We'd like to take you home with us" from The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
    • "Empire Building" is inspired by Breaker Morant, a film about The Second Boer War.
    • "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.
    • "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. (The reference to the Style Council is probably more of a Take That!, evidently due to Orzabal's preference of the Jam's music.)
    • "Year of the Knife" contains a reference to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
    • "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).
    • "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.
    • "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 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.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: If Orzabal and Smith are interviewed together, they'll sometimes spew curse words at each other.
  • Solar and Lunar: Because Roland Orzabal is an astrology devotee, the sun and the moon that are featured on The Seeds of Love artwork represent himself and Curt Smith, respectively, as the sun is the ruler of Leo (Orzabal's zodiac sign) note , and the moon is the ruler of Cancer (Smith's zodiac sign). There's even a promotional image of the band that has the astrological symbols for the sun (a circle with a dot at its center) and the moon (a crescent with its points facing left) which makes the connection abundantly clear to those who have studied astrology. note  "The sun and the moon" are also Arc Words on the album, and both celestial bodies appear in the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video and the tour program.
  • 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.
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Smith's role on The Seeds of Love and, to a lesser extent, Songs from the Big Chair and Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (although he did sing two of the best-known songs from two of these albums, namely "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Advice for the Young at Heart").
    • Also, Oleta Adams on "Woman in Chains", "Badman's Song", and "Me and My Big Ideas", although she's more a Guest-Star Party Member.
  • Take Over the World: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", which is about the Cold War.
  • Take That!:
    • "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is a Take That! at the Margaret Thatcher government. "The Body Wah" is also a more subtle Take That! at Thatcher (the liner notes indicate that the song incorporates a sample describing "a well-known female politician," but neither the notes nor the song mentions her by name).
    • "Badman's Song" is this to some members of the band who were criticizing Roland 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 the singles associated with it feature sunflowers. It could be said that the wilted sunflowers represent 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.
    • "Cold" takes a swipe at the band's former manager Paul King, who'd apparently been embezzling from them (he was eventually convicted of later, unrelated fraudulent activities). This may have been a contributing factor to Orzabal and Smith's split at the time, as Orzabal evidently became convinced that Smith was unwilling to drop King as their manager.
  • Talk About the Weather: Orzabal's character in "Head over Heels" wants to chat about the weather with his Love Interest as an excuse to be near her.
    I wanted to be with you alone
    And talk about the weather
  • Title Track:
    • "The Hurting"
    • "Elemental"
    • "Raoul and the Kings of Spain"
    • "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending"
  • 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: As a duo, Smith and Orzabal definitely play up the competitive man-pride game by bickering and poking fun at one another. Smith stated in this interview that his and Orzabal's "main means of communication would be sarcasm."
  • Vocal Tag Team: Originally with The Hurting, Smith and Orzabal were this, but Orzabal began taking more lead vocals afterwards, to the point where Smith only sings "Advice for the Young at Heart" on The Seeds of Love. On Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, Smith has lead vocals on "Size of Sorrow" and "Who You Are", although he has co-writing credits on about half the album.
  • Western Zodiac: Astrology is Serious Business for Roland Orzabal, so it's occasionally alluded to in the band's music and public image.
    • Throughout The '80s, as Orzabal grows out his hair, it resembles more and more like a lion's mane as time passes, which reflects his Leonine personality.
    • The song "I Believe" contains the verses:
      And I believe that if it's written in the stars, that's fine
      I can't deny that I'm a Virgo, too. note 
    • The artwork for The Seeds of Love album has a Solar and Lunar theme because Orzabal's zodiac sign (Leo) is ruled by the sun while Curt Smith's zodiac sign (Cancer) is ruled by the moon. The astrological symbols for the sun and the moon appear on a promotional image.
    • Orzabal's Take That! song to Smith is "Fish Out of Water", and it features aquatic-related metaphors because the latter's Cancerian nature means that Smith is a water element zodiac sign. The first verse is "You always said you were the compassionate one," and compassion is a trait that's typically associated with Cancerians. It's then followed by "But now you're laughing at the sun"; the sun represents Orzabal because it's the ruler of his sign Leo.
    • The "Elemental" music video includes the astrological symbols for Aquarius (left), Capricorn (second from the right) and the sun (right). note 
    • The astrological symbols for Saturn, Mars and the moon are on the cover art for Saturnine Martial & Lunatic. note 
    • Smith's Answer Song to Orzabal is "Sun King", which refers to the latter being a sun-ruled Leo. Smith accuses Orzabal of using astrology to justify his abusive behaviour. note  Orzabal exhibited the dark side that Leos are known for, which includes a fiery temper, selfishness, and being controlling (i.e. "ruling" with an iron fist, so to speak, hence the "king" in the title), and this contributed to Smith leaving the group.
      You use the planets to excuse
      Your costumed smile
      Your childish abuse
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "My Life in the Suicide Ranks" is pretty much pure nonsense because the entire song was more or less made up on the spot.


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