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Music / Tears for Fears

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

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. Formed in 1981 in Bath, England and named for a primal therapy technique, the band — like a lot of 1980s pop acts — haven't had much success since the 1990s; in fact, Smith left the group 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 has probably become as well known as the three tracks above), "Pale Shelter", "Change", "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains", "Advice for the Young at Heart", "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 and the Kings of Spain; Griffiths also co-wrote most of the songs on these albums) before Smith rejoined the group. The duo released the reunion album Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, which picked up where Seeds left off.

"I Love You But I'm Lost", a non-album single, was released on October 12, 2017, which was then followed by a new best-of compilation on November 10, 2017 called Rule the World, which featured sixteen tracks, including two new songs, which are the aforementioned single, and "Stay". Touring in support of the album in 2017 was interrupted by the death of Roland's wife, Caroline, and he took 2018 off to recover emotionally before returning to the road in 2019.

The Title Track for The Tipping Point eventually saw release as a single on October 7, 2021, with the album releasing on February 25, 2022.

Do not confuse with the trope Tears of Fear.

Studio Discography:

Live Discography:

  • 2006 - Secret World Live in Paris
  • 2021 - Live at Massey Hall note 


  • 1992 - Tears Roll Down note 
  • 1996 - Saturnine Martial & Lunatic note 
  • 2017 - Rule the World note 

Miscellaneous Releases:

  • 1983 - "The Way You Are" note 
  • 1991 - "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (Fluke Remix)" note 
  • 2014 - Ready Boy & Girls? note 

Everybody wants to list the tropes:

  • '80s Hair: Baby mullets, rat tails and curls, oh my! During their heyday, the band's mullets were just as famous as their music. In fact, they're still being mocked for their '80s hairstyles to this day. Smith finds it unfair that he and Orzabal seem to be picked on more often for their past hairdos than most other musical acts from that decade.
    Smith: The downside of videos is, they're a reminder of all the bad fashion you went through. Our videos are kind of embarrassing, especially "Shout", but they're an endless source of amusement for my children: "Oh my God, you've got braids in your hair!" They laugh hysterically. It's not like we looked worse than anyone else. There were people who looked even worse than we did. So on a scale, we were somewhere in the middle.
  • Abusive Parents: "Tears Roll Down" (the B-Side of "Sowing the Seeds of Love") and the single "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" mention an abusive mother.
    And when your mother's violence
    Sent your soul underground
    Where tears roll down
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable:
    • Due to the rhythm of the song requiring it, the chorus "Cumpleaños chica, no hay que preocuparse" in "Listen" is uttered as "CUMpleaños chica, no hay que preoCUparse" rather than "cumpleAños chica, no hay que preocuPARse". note 
    • "Los reyes católicos" is grammatically correct Spanish for "The Catholic Kings", but it's not pronounced correctly for at least most dialects of the language, although this was probably done 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).
  • Aerith and Bob: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, respectively.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • Besides the Title Track of The Hurting, the line "When we've denied the hurting?" appears twice in "Watch Me Bleed".
    • 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)".
    • The title of The Tipping Point is sung multiple times on its Title Track.
  • 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.
  • All Take and No Give: In "The Conflict" (the B-Side of "Change"), the narrator observes that he and his partner switch roles between being the Taker and the Giver, and this unhealthy dynamic creates a vicious cycle in their relationship.
    When one of us is making
    The other is taking
    There's no end to end
    When one of us is trying
    The other is lying
    There's no end to end
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: The song "Shout" is about how healthy it is to verbally lash out against injustices from a higher power.
  • Animal Motifs: Horses are prominent in the "No Small Thing" music video.
  • Animated Music Video:
    • Both versions of "Tears Roll Down" received ones, based around abstract Mayincatec and African imagery. The "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" video in fact reuses brief snippets of footage from "Tears Roll Down" and intersperses it with both new animations and rotoscoped footage of Roland Orzabal.
    • "Break the Man" uses a CGI animation of men marching through an M.C. Escher-inspired landscape.
  • Apocalypse How: "Famous Last Words" describes a planetary class 3. invokedWord of God says it's a nuclear holocaust.
  • Arc Words: On The Seeds of Love, the verse "The sun and the moon, the wind and the rain" appears in no less than three different songs ("Woman in Chains", "Year of the Knife", and "Famous Last Words"). These elements are also visually depicted on the cover, and the original title for the album itself was The Sun, the Moon, the Wind and the Rain. It's also included in the band's live cover of "All You Need Is Love", featured on the Going to California concert film.
  • 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's character 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.
  • Beneath the Mask: In "Watch Me Bleed", the narrator behaves normally on the surface, but there's great emotional turmoil underneath his calm facade.
    You see the torture on my brow
    Relates to neither here nor now

    Although my face is straight, it lies
    My body feels the pain and cries

    Here, the table is not bare
    I am full, but feeling empty
    For all the warmth, it feels so cold
    For one so young, I feel so old

    It's not allowed to be unkind
    But still the hate lives in my mind

    I'll make no noise, I'll hide my pain
    I'll close my eyes, I won't complain
    I'll lie right back and take the blame
    And try to tell myself I'm living
  • Big Brother Is Watching: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World":
    Even while we sleep
    We will find you
    Acting on your best behaviour
  • Birds of a Feather: The friendship between Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal was forged through their similarities: they were born less than two months apart, they both lived on a Council Estate, they were the middle child of three sons within their families, their fathers were mostly absent from their lives, they were the same below-average height with a slender build, they shared the same sense of humour along with a passion for music and a fascination with primal therapy, and they were Sensitive Guys who felt stifled by their Stiff Upper Lip environment which promoted a rigid form of manliness that was wholly incompatible with their personalities. Orzabal and Smith have been very honest about the mental health issues they developed during the turmoil of their childhoods, and they became each other's primary source of emotional support.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: A verse in "I Love You But I'm Lost" has a (metaphorical) birth which is then quickly followed by death: "Came to life in my arms and then turned to dust".
  • Bookends:
    • A smaller-scale example can be found with "Head over Heels", which is bookended on the album by versions of "Broken".
    • The opening and closing songs of Raoul and the Kings of Spain share harmonic elements and both provide an Album Title Drop.
  • 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.
  • Bully Magnet: In "The Hurting", the narrator is severely depressed because (among other things) he's ridiculed by a bully, and he compares it to a nightmare.
    Is it an horrific dream?
    Am I sinking fast?
    Could a person be so mean
    As to laugh and laugh?
  • Call-Back/Call-Forward: These are scattered throughout their lyrics.
    • "Advice for the Young at Heart" alludes to the previous album's "The Working Hour".
    • "Badman's Song" makes a lyrical reference to the following song, "Sowing the Seeds of Love".
    • 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.
    • In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, Brittany Murphy's character encounters several fishes "swimming" in the sky; they're literally "Fish Out of Water"!
    • The song title "Secret World" was taken from "Advice for the Young at Heart".
    • "Me and My Big Ideas" from Raoul and the Kings of Spain calls back to "Head Over Heels" from Songs From the Big Chair by mentioning a "four leaf clover"; in "Head Over Heels", the four leaf clover representated the narrator's hope that he would end up with the woman he was pursuing, while in "Me and My Big Ideas", it being blown away represents an end to a relationship.
    • "Break the Man" from The Tipping Point prominently samples the descending synth arpeggio that appears midway through "Listen".
  • Camera Abuse:
    • In the "Pale Shelter" music video, the camera lens is wet when it emerges from the pool and moves towards Orzabal, who looks blurry in the distance strumming his guitar while standing next to a tree.
    • In the Scenes from the Big Chair documentary, Smith accidentally hits the camera next to him during the "Broken" reprise, so the footage is briefly shaky as a result.
  • Canada, Eh?: Live at Massey Hall showcases the Canadian maple leaf on its front cover (plus the back and spine of the CD) with the red and white colours of the Canadian flag to indicate that the concert was recorded in Canada (Toronto, more precisely). It's one of the most — if not the most — Canada-centric artworks ever designed for a music album (especially one which isn't a compilation of Canadian music), which is unexpected for a British band. TFF have never used the Union Jack as part of their discography's art direction, yet they chose to display another country's national symbol so prominently with their name superimposed on it. If you didn't know that the group halied from England, you might have thought that they were Canadian based on the cover art alone.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • They vetoed the inclusion of the B-side "Saxophones as Opiates" from the 2013 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.
    • "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" is the only track on Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82–92) that wasn't carried over to its successor compilation Rule the World: The Greatest Hits, owed in part to the fact that it was a very blatant diss track against Curt Smith that was rendered moot by his return to the band in 2001 (although it did resurface on 2001's Shout: The Very Best of Tears for Fears, 2006's Tears for Fears - Gold, and the 2023 NOW That's What I Call Music! compilation NOW Yearbook '92). Because of this, it's also their only single not available on streaming services.
    • 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.
  • Celebrity Song: "Brian Wilson Said" is a Beach Boys pastiche.
  • Character Action Title: "Brian Wilson Said"
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase:
    • Raoul and the Kings of Spain
    • "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams"
  • Childhood Friends:
    • Orzabal and Smith were introduced to each other as 13-year-olds through a mutual friend named Paul. Music has been an integral part of their friendship since Day 1 because during their first meeting, Roland heard Curt singing to Blue Öyster Cult's "Then Came the Last Days of May", and the former was impressed enough that he immediately asked the latter if he wanted to be the lead singer of his band. Curt replied yes, and the duo became best friends and musical partners from that point forward.
    • Caroline Johnston was friends with Curt and Roland when they were young teenagers growing up in Bath, and she later became the wife of the latter. She sang the child vocal in the band's first single "Suffer the Children", she illustrated the hands on the cover art for the 1983 "Pale Shelter" single, she appeared briefly in the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video, and she's the subject of the songs "The Tipping Point" and "Please Be Happy".
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • "Suffer the Children" is centered around this topic, as Roland Orzabal elucidates in the liner notes of the 1999 The Hurting remastered CD.
      Orzabal: We were really big on this at the time — we really thought children were born innocent and good and holy... When you've got kids of your own, you realize how bloody difficult it is. But it's that kind of thing — saying look at what you're doing with your child.
    • "Swords and Knives":
      A waking world of innocence
      So grave those first born cries
      When life begins with needles and pins
      It ends with swords and knives

      God save those born to die
  • Color Wash:
    • The birthday party segment in the "Mad World" music video has a slight orangish hue to reinforce the delight of the partygoers and to further juxtapose the bleak mood of Curt Smith's character in the background.
    • Most of "The Way You Are" music video was filmed with an orange filter, but some shots of the female photographer working in her studio has Unnaturally Blue Lighting.
    • A lot of scenes in the "Advice for the Young at Heart" music video are mildly pink-tinged to heighten the romance and joy of the newlywed couple.
  • Comfort the Dying: In "Last Days on Earth", the narrator reassures his ailing loved one that he'll be by their side until they pass away.
    I told you
    I'd hold you
    'til the last days on Earth
  • 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 Old Guy: Now both in their 60s, Roland and Curt have managed to win over the younger generation, as evidenced by the hot anticipation of their comeback album The Tipping Point.
  • 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.
  • Covers Always Lie: A peacock is on the cover of "The Way You Are" single, and the lyrics have absolutely nothing do with peacocks (or any other animal, for that matter). It's a Job Song about a Dangerous Workplace where the factory's machines regularly injure the workers.
  • 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 made them available on SoundCloud as a trial run for new material. They were quite well received, so the band later released the songs as a 2014 Record Store Day exclusive vinyl EP called Ready Boy 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".
  • Dangerous Workplace: The setting of the song "The Way You Are" is a factory where on-site injuries are so common that everyone is apathetic whenever they occur, and the employees seemingly get hurt at random ("Not for rhyme and not for reason"). The first two verses hint that the narrator had lost his hands in a workplace-related accident, so he has prosthetics as replacements. The second stanza begins with machinery slowing down (the narrator associates this sound with a dying heartbeat), which is reminiscent of the noise it generated when it killed a colleague who was recently buried by his co-workers. They are so emotionally numb that they don't appear concerned that he's dead (or that any of them could be next to die on the job).
    These fingers aren't my fingers
    These hands are not my hands
    No one sees and no one cares what gets broken
    Not for rhyme and not for reason
    What gets broken, what gets broken

    And the rhythm of machinery
    Slows to a heartbeat
    Echoing ghost just laid by those who whistle while they work
  • Death Song: "The Tipping Point" is about the tipping point between life and death, and it was based on Roland Orzabal's harrowing experience of watching his wife Caroline die slowly of liver cirrhosis. Curt Smith does share some of the anguish because Caroline was his Childhood Friend, hence the reason why the song is a duet. At the time of this single's release in 2021, it marked only the second time that both men's vocals carried equal weight in the band's 40-year-long history, so it's a testament to how deeply personal Caroline's illness and eventual death were for the duo.
    Silver tongue, they'll soon be gone
    When the sunlight hits the room
    Lay down with them if you want
    Watch their breath and feel the cold

    Winter done, they'll soon be gone
    From this unforgiving place
    To that vague and distant void
    Where the sunlight splits the I

    Life is cruel, life is tough
    Life is crazy, then it all turns to dust
    Will you let 'em out?
    Will you let 'em in?
    Will you ever know when it's the tipping point, the tipping point?

    So who's that ghost knockin' at my door?
    You know that I can't love you more
    What's that shape climbin' over my wall?
    You know that I can't love you more
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The "No Small Thing" music video consists entirely of black-and-white found footage, while the "Break the Man" video is almost entirely in black and white apart from the final shot.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)" music video, Curt Smith only appears thrice for a few seconds; he hits a triangle the first two times, and in the third, he's dressed to the nines in a tuxedo while he taps his champagne glass with a knife. It's an early sign that he's gradually being pushed aside by Roland Orzabal from the band's creative process.
  • Dissonant Serenity: "Pharaohs", the B-Side of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". 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.
  • The Diss Track:
    • In "Wino", Roland Orzabal (who has told the media that he hates his dad) depicts his father as a pathetic loser who doesn't want to do anything but drink and smoke all day, seemingly content to die slowly from his addictions.
      You're happy dying, you don't wanna change
      Remove your fix and you feel your pain

      You're a wino
      A cigarette smoker
      You have a good time
      They call you a joker, don't they?
    • In "Fish Out of Water", Roland Orzabal deplores how frivolous Curt Smith had become after they achieved global stardom, the latter being constantly distracted by the glamorous lifestyle that his newfound wealth and fame afforded him. Orzabal feels that Smith was lazily coasting on the band's success with his good looks and charm while contributing little to the music in comparison to Orzabal, who's the main songwriter. From Orzabal's perspective, Smith would be nothing without him, so now that Smith has severed all ties to Tears for Fears, Orzabal likens his ex-best friend to a fish that's wholly out of its element, an aimless dreamer who will either (figuratively) suffocate on land or get lost at sea without Orzabal's talent.
      With all your high class friends you think you've got it made
      The only thing you made was that tanned look on your face
      With all your cigarettes and fancy cars
      You ain't a clue who or what you are

      You're dreaming your life away
      Fish out of water
      Go swim in the tide today
      Fish out of water
    • Smith's Answer Song "Sun King" paints Orzabal as a spiteful, narcissistic, reclusive despot who's exhibiting signs of mental instability. The former believes that the latter is out of touch with reality because a lot of Orzabal's decisions are based on the Western Zodiac, which includes rationalizing his psychological abuse of Smith. note  Just to add extra salt on the wound, Smith also taunts his ex-partner by telling him that he looks ugly now that he's ageing, probably as payback to Orzabal for badmouthing Smith to the press by claiming that the latter was a talentless Pretty Boy. Despite Orzabal's inflated ego, Smith views his former friend as a miserable, pitiful wreck.
      The evidence is on the page
      Not much to show for so much rage
      It makes me smile
      You lost it somehow

      Solitude was your only choice
      Bitterness your only voice
      I saw your face
      The time is talking now

      Boy you looked so bad

      A small, imbalanced, vain recluse
      You use the planets to excuse
      Your costumed smile
      Your childish abuse

      Boy you looked so sad
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue of the "Head over Heels" music video jumps ahead a few decades to show Orzabal's character and his Love Interest as an old married couple.
  • The Dividual: "Change" is about the end of a very close friendship, and the narrator feels that he and his former friend were so emotionally attached to each other that they both lost their sense of individuality when they were together, essentially behaving like a single person.
    We walk and talk in time
    I walk and talk in two
    Where does the end of me
    Become the start of you?
  • 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.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • "Wino":
      Could you be wrong
      To choke on the smoke and the drunkenness
      Drowning in sorrow with each breath
    • "Mad World":
      Their tears are filling up their glasses
      No expression, no expression
      Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
      No tomorrow, no tomorrow
    • "Closest Thing to Heaven":
      There's been a lot of drinking
      Looking at ghosts of you
    • "Who You Are":
      Someone's drinking all alone
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: When Curt Smith was younger, he was rather feminine-looking, especially during his long hair phase. TFF collaborator Michael Wainwright had genuinely mistaken a photo of Smith for that of an attractive woman.
    Wainwright: I just clicked on this pic because I thought it was a hot girl. It's not. It's a hot Curt. ("pervy" eyes emoji) @curtsmith #woops
  • 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.
  • Eastern Zodiac: In the song "Rhythm of Life (Demo)" note , it's repeated twice that Lucy is lucky that her astrological sign is the dragon.
    She's got luck
    Lucy's sign is the Chinese dragon, oh
  • Eat the Rich: The bridge of "Closest Thing to Heaven" instructs the listener to "eat the countries that are making billions" and "save the crumbs for all the starving millions."
  • Either/Or Title:
    • "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)"
    • "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)"
  • 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 (Fluke Remix)" is 6:21, and "Déjà Vu & the Sins of Science" is 6:24.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Curt Smith was beautiful enough to turn the heads of at least two men he has worked with.
    • Roland Orzabal seems to have a man crush on his best friend based on comments like "I just wanted to see Curt jogging every morning with his hairy legs and shorts, all smiley and handsome" (another guest on the talk show was so stunned that a supposedly straight guy would ogle at his male buddy that he asked the band if they were gay). Orzabal also affirms that he thought Smith was especially good-looking in the Classic Albums - Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair documentary.
    • TFF collaborator Michael Wainwright admitted in a tweet that Smith was hot, hot enough that Wainwright initially believed that he must have been staring at a photo of a hot woman.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Close-Up: The "Change" music video ends with a freeze-frame of Curt Smith's mouth.
  • 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 (e.g. only Smith appears the front cover of the 1983 tour program). 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 portrait 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.
  • Fade to White: This occurs at the end of the 1986 "Mothers Talk" music video to denote that the family has perished in a nuclear blast.
  • 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"
  • Family of Choice: As stated in this interview, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal view themselves more "like brothers than best friends" and they can "read each other like books." Their sibling-like connection still endures when they're both 60 years old.
    Smith: When you've known each other as long as we have, and have worked together as long as we have, there's a bond there that becomes familial. So it's different from a friendship, and it's different from a marriage. It's literally like that's your brother. It's the kind of bond that you can't really break. It can fall apart at times. You separate for periods, which I also think is healthy, really. But in the end, we always seem to find each other again.
  • Female Rockers Play Bass: Raoul and the Kings of Spain bassist Gail Ann Dorsey is the only woman who has been credited as a band member on a Tears for Fears album; she also receives a co-writing credit for "Pullin' a Cloud" from Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. (However, several other women have performed on Tears for Fears albums, most famously Oleta Adams, who played keyboards and sang co-lead vocals on several tracks. Also notable is Nicky Holland, who played keyboards, sang backing vocals, and co-wrote five songs on The Seeds of Love.)
  • Fire Purifies: "Badman's Song" evokes this trope with the verse "Fire can cleanse your soul".
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Orzabal is passionate about astrology, so both fire and water (which are two of the four elements in the Western Zodiac) will occasionally show up in a song or the band's promotional materials.
    • On The Seeds of Love album cover, Orzabal's blue suit & umbrella with a fish ornament attached and Smith's gold suit & staff with a sun ornament at its tip symbolize the water and fire elements associated with Cancer (Smith's zodiac sign) and Leo (Orzabal's zodiac sign), respectively.
    • The red splotch with the small gold paint blobs on the "Woman in Chains" artwork signify fire, which is a masculine element in western astrology, while the blue swirls signify water, a feminine element. The song is about the oppression of women in a patriarchal world.
    • Orzabal released "Fish Out of Water" as The Diss Track to Smith after the latter departed from the band. The water imagery in the lyrics alludes to Smith being a Cancerian. Smith's Answer Song is "Sun King", which refers to Orzabal being a Leo (the sun could essentially be described as a giant ball of "fire" fueled by nuclear fusion).
    • In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video (which is the first one the group has done since they reformed as a duo), lightning strikes a sailing ship, and a shower of sparks fall into the ocean below. This short "fire meets water" event is a subtle nod that a Leo (Orzabal) has reconciled with a Cancerian (Smith).
    • "I Love You But I'm Lost", a song co-written by Orzabal and Smith, contains both fire and water metaphors for Loving a Shadow because you cannot physically grip a flame or liquid water for very long (the former will burn your hand if you touch it and the latter will eventually flow away), just as you cannot physically hold the idealized version of your beloved (as opposed to their true self).
      From a flame to the spark of an ember
      To a fire on the fifth of November
      We escaped from the light, now we count the cost

      In a dream, at the edge of a river
      Where we swam, when I watched you shiver
      Came to life in my arms and then turned to dust
  • Floating Water: In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, the play has an upside-down ocean situated above the clouds in the sky.
  • Flowers of Femininity:
  • Flying Seafood Special: In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, Brittany Murphy's character is travelling in a hot air balloon, and she's amazed that there are goldfishes that can "swim" in the sky.
  • Four-Leaf Clover: This is the motif of "Head over Heels"; the verse "This is my four-leaf clover" is sung twice, numerous animated four-leaf clovers briefly swirl around the screen in the music video, and the Picture Disc edition is shaped like a four-leaf clover.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending:
    • The final shot of the "Change" music video is a still of Curt Smith's mouth. He was lip-syncing the lyrics, and then the footage abruptly halts even though the music and the vocals haven't finished yet.
    • The first "Mothers Talk" music video comes to a close with a freeze-frame of Roland Orzabal playing his guitar.
    • It's used to imply the family's death at the end of the 1986 "Mothers Talk" music video.
  • Friendless Background: The narrator in "Mad World" is lonely because he's ignored by his classmates and his teachers due to his timid personality.
    Went to school and I was very nervous
    No one knew me, no one knew me
    Hello teacher, tell me what's my lesson
    Look right through me, look right through me
  • Genre Mashup: On some of their albums. See the description for The Seeds of Love in New Sound Album below for one example.
  • Goth: The album The Hurting has a significant gothic influence, as does the period B-side "The Conflict".
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Salam, the Arabic salutation meaning "peace," appears in "Floating Down the River".
  • Gratuitous French: "Change (New Version)" (plus its variant "Change (Canadian New Version)") contains the lyrics "C'est la vie" ("It's life" in English).
  • Gratuitous Japanese: "Floating Down the River" has neru, the Japanese word for "sleep."
  • Gratuitous Latin: "Floating Down the River" includes the word ave, which is Latin for "hail" and was used as a greeting in Ancient Rome.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "Los reyes católicos" ("The Catholic Kings") and its reprise have Spanish lyrics.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The only two that the band were directly involved with are Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82–92) and Rule the World: The Greatest Hits. There are at least a dozen more that were produced without their input.
  • The Great Flood: If taken literally, the first stanza in "Closest Thing to Heaven" describes a cataclysmic global flood.
    28 days of rain
    Flashfloods in February
    Back in our boats again
    While all the world is sinking
  • Guyliner: Orzabal sometimes puts on eyeliner for live performances (the most notable example is the Scenes from the Big Chair documentary), and on at least one occasion, Smith did the same on Italian TV. In The '80s, they were occasionally given eye make-up for a photo session in order to make them look more attractive for the magazine's female audience.
  • Happily Married:
    • Orzabal and his wife Caroline seem to have been happily married from 1982 until her death in 2017 from liver cirrhosis. Orzabal developed severe health problems in 2018 as a direct result of his grief. He withdrew from touring on his doctor's advice, but recovered and resumed touring in 2019.
    • Smith's first marriage ended in divorce, but he has been happily married to his current wife since 1996.
  • 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.
  • 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 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".
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Roland Orzabal wrote the lyrics for "When in Love with a Blind Man" (which is about unrequited love for a man who's oblivious to one's romantic feelings), and Curt Smith is the lead vocalist on the song, so this strongly implies that the character who's pining for a (presumably straight) guy he can't have is male, and thus he would be gay or bisexual. note 
  • House Husband: When Curt Smith wasn't recording music or touring, he was a stay-at-home dad (and refers to himself as such) to his two daughters while his wife did the daily office grind as a marketing executive.
  • Humble Pie: In "Sowing the Seeds of Love", a politician is told to eat her humble pie for all the mistakes she has made while in office.
    Time to eat all your words
    Swallow your pride
    Open your eyes
  • Hunk: When Ian Stanley was part of the band, he was the resident hunk, being tall with a large build and manly, the antithesis of the main duo (who were short, slight Pretty Boys). Roland Orzabal has divulged that Stanley actually received more sexy fan mail than himself and Curt Smith!
    Interviewer: What's the strangest fan letter you've ever had?
    Smith: I don't get the strange ones — Roland gets them all.
    Orzabal: You should read Ian's! He gets quite a few sexy ones. This girl wanted to bathe with him in jelly.
  • 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 (Fluke Remix)". (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:
    • Most listeners have trouble discerning the backing vocals on "Head over Heels" at the 2:04 mark, so Curt Smith clarified in a tweet that the verses are:
      Nothing ever changes when you're acting your age
      Nothing gets done when you feel like a baby
      Nothing ever changes when you're acting your age
    • The Careful with That Axe parts at the end of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" can fall into this. Roland Orzabal at one point says "What about the workers?", but it's not printed on the lyrics sheet and isn't easy to make out in the studio version (it's more easily decipherable in some 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".
    • There are two verses in "Who You Are" which are so distorted that they almost sound like the "wah-wah" noises spoken by the adults in Peanuts cartoons.
      Someone's folding paper planes
      Someone's on the line again
  • Insult Backfire: Roland Orzabal composed "Fish Out of Water" as The Diss Track 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...
  • Interspecies Friendship: In the "Head over Heels" music video, Curt Smith's character is friends with the chimpanzee, as they share a high-five and engage in Platonic Kissing. The behind-the-scenes footage on the Scenes from the Big Chair documentary also shows clips of Smith monkeying around (pun intended) with the chimp in between takes.
  • In the Style of:
    • According to Orzabal, "Mothers Talk" was an attempt at mimicking the style of Talking Heads.
    • "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.
    • "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."
    • The "No Small Thing" music video takes after the experimental non-narrative film Koyaanisqatsi.
  • 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 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.
    • In the original 1981 single version of "Suffer the Children", the verses sung by Smith convey the band's rejection of the "boys don't cry" mentality.
      Hold him, tell him that you love him
      Tell him he's allowed to cry, it's alright
    • In "Head over Heels", the verse "It's hard to be a man when there's a gun in your hand" criticizes the idea that a man must engage in violence in order to prove his masculinity.
    • At the beginning of the "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" music video, a kid in a cowboy costume (cowboys are an icon of American machismo) points his toy pistols at Smith — a Long-Haired Pretty Boy dressed in pink — who simply ignores the child's "tough guy" posturing as he drives away. This mirrors the group's disdain for toxic masculinity, subtly blaming America's aggressive "cowboy culture" for its role in the Cold War (which is the subject of the song).
    • The verse "Free her" in the feminist anthem "Woman in Chains" has double meaning; it's not just about liberating women from the shackles of patriarchy, but it's also about allowing men to freely express their feminine sides. According to Orzabal in this interview:
      So when I sing "Woman in Chains", I'm singing about the oppression of women around the world, but I'm also singing about the repression of the female anima within myself. At the end when I sing, "Free her", I'm also saying, "Free me."
  • Introverted Cat Person: Orzabal, who's sufficiently taciturn that a German photographer had described him as being cold (which was the inspiration behind the song "Cold"), had two pet cats in the '80s: Zero Algebra Waldorf Churchill, and her son Silas Ferdinand Marin Churchill. (He joked that they were "quite aristocratic.") In 2014, he uploaded pics of his cat Schro (which is short for Schrödinger, and Orzabal did compose "Schrödinger's Cat", the B-Side of "Break It Down Again") on his now-defunct Twitter account that was only active for a few short years. He's currently not active on social media, which further accentuates his reluctance to interact with others, whether in person or online. Being an astrology enthusiast, Orzabal's Leonine nature (Leo is the sign of the Lion) would give him a special connection to felines.
  • The Invisible Band:
    • Besides a brief shot of a framed photo of the band, Orzabal and Smith are completely absent from the "I Love You But I'm Lost" music video.
    • The duo are also missing from the "No Small Thing" music video.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The play in the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video begins exactly like this: it's nighttime with torrential rain, strong winds and lightning.
  • Job Song:
    • In "The Way You Are", the narrator works at a factory and describes it as a Dangerous Workplace. The song's mechanized beats are the musical equivalent of the repetitive sounds generated by the machines that habitually maim (and even kill) the employees.
    • As Curt Smith explains in this interview, "The Working Hour" is about the stress of meeting the demands and deadlines of the band's pushy record company. He and Roland Orzabal resented being bossed around in this fashion because the final product ended up being a failure in the duo's eyes.
      Smith: "The Working Hour" was written at the time of "The Way You Are" because of all the work, the pressure of work. It was getting like a job all of a sudden. One line is "We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes", and that's about being used as guinea pigs, basically: "Get another record out, your career's going down the drain!" So you put out a record that's a flop...
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Smith, who's known for being the most friendly band member, used to care for five cats during the '80s: Treasure (the mother), her daughters Garp and Ben, and her sons Charlie and Emmy.
  • Large Ham: Roland 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. Curt Smith, while more understated at times, still had his moments. But they are both twice as hammy when performing live.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Sorry". The chorus overall is pretty serene, but ends with the line "Cut off my nose to spite my face". The last time Orzabal sings this, he repeats this as his voice and the backing instrumentation are increasingly pitch-shifted. Then some of the words are dropped from repetitions: "Cut, spite, face", then finally just "Cut". This segues straight into "Humdrum and Humble".
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • To a lesser extent, various other bassists can take this role on specific tracks or albums, although obviously none are as clearly linked with Tears for Fears as Smith is. When you have Pino Palladino play bass (he appears on "Woman in Chains", "Badman's Song", and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World"), it's almost inevitable that he'll take this role as a Type A and/or D (some of these songs verge into genres such as jazz in which the bass is a lead instrument). Gail Ann Dorsey's parts on Raoul and the Kings of Spain can also qualify as Type A and/or D.
  • Let's Duet:
    • On the album version of "The Hurting", Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith sing all the non-chorus lyrics in unison to impart to their listeners that they both suffer from the same psychological pain. However, when performed live, Orzabal sings the final 8-verse stanza on his own.
    • "Woman in Chains" is a duet with Orzabal and Oleta Adams, and they take turns singing different verses.
    • Orzabal and Smith sing "The Tipping Point" in its entirety together. The song is a tribute to Orzabal's late wife Caroline, who died of liver cirrhosis, and since Caroline was Smith's Childhood Friend, he would also be affected by her passing to some degree. Both men share the lead vocals to express their mutual sadness at the loss of a person who was very dear to them and whom they've known since they were young teenagers.
  • Life/Death Juxtaposition: On The Seeds of Love album cover, there's a fish ornament on Roland Orzabal's umbrella (it's implied to be "dead" because fish can't survive outside a body of water) and his brooch is a stylized fish skeleton (so both fishes signify death), whereas Curt Smith's brooch is a stylized eye (only living creatures have eyes) with eyelashes adorned with a five-pointed star (which symbolizes the universe in general), the crescent moon (which rules Smith's zodiac sign Cancer) and the sun (which rules Orzabal's zodiac sign Leo). In other words, Smith's brooch is a whimsical representation of life being influenced by the cosmos (Orzabal is big on astrology, so he genuinely believes that celestial bodies determine our personalities and our destinies).
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Prominent in interviews with both Smith and Orzabal, the bickering is bountiful.
  • Limited Lyrics Song:
    • "The Prisoner" consists of a single stanza sung twice between lengthier instrumental passages.
    • The four-minute long "The Conflict" features one stanza repeated twice.
    • For all of its nearly seven-minute runtime, "Listen" has only two proper stanzas, both of which are only two verses long. The other lyrics are mostly just repeating "Cumpleaños chica, no hay que preocuparse" and a brief mutter of the Title Drop, with the vast majority of the song being a pseudo-ambient synth piece.
    • "Tears Roll Down" is a Single Stanza Song where the vocals take up only 32 seconds out of its 3:16 length, and the verse "Where tears roll down" is sung four times.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams" is named after a work by Sylvia Plath.
  • Live Album:
    • Secret World Live in Paris: The concert tracks were taken from the band's Everybody Loves a Happy Ending reunion tour. The album also features three studio tracks: the outtake "Floating Down the River", the radio edit of the Title Track, and the previously-released Curt Smith solo song "What Are We Fighting For?".
    • Live at Massey Hall was a 2021 Record Store Day exclusive, documenting a show from the supporting tour for Songs from the Big Chair.
  • Longest Song Goes First: Raoul and the Kings of Spain opens with the 5:16 Title Track, the only song on the album to surpass five minutes.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: From the band's inception in 1981 to around the spring of 1985, Curt Smith's long, curly locks were either tied up in thin braids or a ponytail, and they made his already gorgeous visage seem even more androgynous-looking.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: All the female models on the "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains" and "Advice for the Young at Heart" single covers have long hair.
  • Loudness War:
    • Both Everybody Loves a Happy Ending and The Tipping Point come it at just DR5 compared to the '80s albums' DR12-13 and the '90s albums' DR9.
    • 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").
  • Love Cannot Overcome: "Swords and Knives" features the verse "And it's sad love's not enough to make things better".
  • Love Floats: In the "Head over Heels" music video, Orzabal's character floats from the ground floor to the upper floor (and vice versa) of the library because he's so head over heels for the Hot Librarian.
  • Loving a Shadow: This is the meaning behind "I Love You But I'm Lost", as Orzabal explains:
    This song is about the haziness, the blurred lines within a relationship, the sense of having someone and losing someone in the same instant; like putting your arms around that person only for them to instantly disappear into vapours, the idea or ideal of someone who is impossible to pin down or own.
  • Lunacy:
    • This is the theme of the band's cover version of Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song", which served as the B-Side to "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)". Roland Orzabal is deeply fascinated by astrology, so it's no surprise that he's drawn to the lunar, nighttime and sea imagery, as all three are the domain of Cancer, Curt Smith's zodiac sign. Orzabal is firmly convinced that Smith's moodiness stems from the latter's Cancerian nature because their emotions, like the tides, are controlled by the moon, just as the "transformations" of the narrator's Love Interest are dependent on the lunar phases.
      You'll be different in the spring
      I know, you're a seasonal beast
      Like the starfish that drift in with the tide
      With the tide
      So until your blood runs
      To meet the next full moon
      Your madness fits in nicely with my own
      With my own
      Your lunacy fits neatly with my own
    • While Smith isn't preoccupied with astrology like Orzabal is, he reluctantly agrees that his changeable temperament and even the shape of his face are governed by the moon.
      Interviewer: So what sign are you?
      Smith: I'm a Cancerian.
      Interviewer: Ah! So that means you're moody. And emotional and secretive and sentimental, and you've got a face that looks like the moon!
      Smith: Yeah, I'm all those things. I'm a typical Cancerian, unfortunately.
    • Depending on how literal you wish to interpret the lyrics of "Call Me Mellow", either the woman goes crazy in the presence of the moon, or she's an actual werewolf.
      Last time I saw her, she was howling at the moon
      Roaming the forest, lupine and rabid
      Woah, is she wild?
      But then she knows it's like a curse

      And though it's gravity that drags down my balloon
      She stays in orbit way after midnight
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Mad World" is an upbeat-sounding piece about depression and how meaningless life is.
    • The cheerful and danceable melody of "The Way You Are" juxtaposes the grim lyrics. The song is about a Dangerous Workplace where injuries (and the occasional death) are so frequent that "No one sees and no one cares what gets broken". It's implied that the narrator has prosthetics to replace his missing hands ("These hands are not my hands"). He also mentions the burial of a co-worker who was recently killed at the factory ("Echoing ghost just laid by those who whistle while they work").
    • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" sounds very bright and lively, but this radio-friendly tune deals with the threat of nuclear annihilation and the widespread misery that desiring power brings, sprinkled with references to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
    • "Pharaohs" contains 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.
  • Match Cut: In the "Pale Shelter" music video, a shot of an iron being pressed on to clothing immediately switches to a large iron-shaped imprint on a runway with jets of steam emanating from the ground.
  • Meaningful Background Event: It's easy to miss if you're not paying close attention, but during the birthday party sequence in the "Mad World" music video, Curt Smith's character is at the back of the room gazing out the window instead of joining the festivity that's taking place in the foreground. It's a visual shorthand that he suffers from depression because he obviously doesn't want to socialize with anyone, preferring to sulk on his own than potentially ruining the merry mood of the guests (who don't seem to care about his emotional state).
  • Mercy Kill: In "Last Days on Earth", the narrator's loved one has terrible chronic pain, and the patient wants to undergo euthanasia to end their suffering.
    Tired of this elegant life
    With the best will in the world
    It's a thorn in your side

    Dazed, not a little confused
    Let the patient do the work
    They got nothing to lose

    Talk away the pain for the very last time
    Like an echo in a cave
    Let it die in your mind
  • Minimalistic Cover Art:
    • The Hurting: A child weeps in the corner against a solid white backdrop, punctuated only by the band and album logotype.
    • Live at Massey Hall: It's basically the Canadian flag (minus the red bands on the sides) with a stylized white tree serving as the maple leaf's "veins." Simple, yet elegant.
  • Misogyny Song: Inverted with "Woman in Chains" and "Break the Man", which are both overtly feminist (although they are songs about misogyny).
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ever since the band first formed in 1981, there has been rampant speculation that Orzabal and Smith are a gay couple despite the fact that they both identify as straight and both have been married to women for most of their adult lives. These two Pretty Boys (Smith bordered on Dude Looks Like a Lady when his hair was long) who openly embraced their feminine sides were widely perceived as being effeminate during The '80s. The British press had utilized terms such as "wimps" and "painfully sensitive" to emphasize the duo's total lack of machismo. Orzabal and Smith have brought up in interviews that they liked to visit a gay vegetarian disco when they were younger, so of course this also fed the rumours (including a variation which surmises that they are mostly straight, but they were bi-curious with each other during their youth). Even in the 21st century, the closeness and intensity of their bromance could be mistaken for an actual romance; in 2005, a guest on a French talk show outright asked the group if they were gay.
  • Mood Whiplash: They employ this fairly often, often overlapping with Fading into the Next Song:
    • The most famous example is quite likely the "Broken"/"Head Over Heels"/"Broken (live)" segment, in which one of the band's most famous and serene songs is bookended by two separate performances of a comparatively frantic piece. In turn the applause from the last of these fades into "Listen", one of the most relaxing songs in the band's discography.
    • An even more extreme example is probably "Los reyes católicos" into "Sorry", in which one of the most reflective songs on Raoul unexpectedly segues into a song that's probably as close as Tears for Fears will ever come to performing heavy metal. "Sorry" itself features several examples, transitioning between the main borderline-metal riff and an almost jazzy chorus... then ending with a creepy Last Note Nightmare that itself leads straight into "Humdrum and Humble", a very subdued track with elements of Trip Hop and Psychedelic Rock, amongst other genres.
  • Monochrome to Color: The "Break the Man" video is almost entirely in black and white until the very end, where the camera zooms out to reveal a Mother Nature figure in a vividly verdant tunnel, tying in with Curt Smith's explanation about the song expressing the need for a more matricentric society.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Pretty Boys Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith rarely expose a lot of skin, but there are several noteworthy exceptions.
  • 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." Intriguingly, even after Smith's departure from the group due to the Muse Abuse he experienced, Orzabal's creativity continued to be fueled by his absent muse.
    Orzabal: But really, I never stopped writing for him. It would have been very easy to get Curt in on Elemental and sing those songs. They were built for him. I hadn't stopped writing for his voice. I was just singing them myself.
  • 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 "Fish Out of Water" as The Diss Track to Smith for leaving him. In Smith's Answer Song "Sun King", he outright calls the mistreatment he endured from Orzabal as abuse.
    • After they reunited, "Smith says the pair now realize the tension that drove them apart is what fuels their creativity." Orzabal also adds that the conflicts between them are necessary in their partnership.
      I'm a bit of a perfectionist. If you're going to partner with someone like that, you have to be pretty tough. If they're tough, you're going to have arguments. It wouldn't have worked if I'd been with someone less feisty.
  • Nerd Glasses:
    • In the second "Mothers Talk" music video, Orzabal has horn-rimmed glasses in the scene where he's surrounded by newspapers to convey that his character is a Bookworm.
    • Smith wears large, square-ish spectacles in the "Head over Heels" music video in order to portray a geeky library janitor.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Near the beginning of the "Pale Shelter" music video, there's a close-up of an alligator opening its eye (it's now fully alert because it detects a potential prey nearby, so this specific shot enhances its menacing, predatory nature) before it enters a swimming pool. It then quietly approaches its target, and the woman doesn't notice the alligator until it's right next to her. She screams in terror, but the camera cuts away before the alligator (presumably) attacks her.
  • 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.
  • Night and Day Duo:
    • On The Seeds of Love cover art, Roland Orzabal's blue suit represents the nighttime and Curt Smith's gold suit represents the daytime. It's a visual metaphor that the two band members are as different as night and day, and that they act as Foils to each other. This mirrors their astrological signs (Orzabal is an avid follower of the Western Zodiac) because sun-ruled Leos (Orzabal) and moon-ruled Cancerians (Smith) have opposite personalities. note  In theory, the duo's astrological association with night and day is supposed to reflect that their contrasting natures complement and balance each other musically, but in reality, they often fought during the recording process because Orzabal had near-total control over the group at this time, and as a result, Smith's involvement on the album was rather minimal. Their creative differences eventually tore their musical partnership apart because Smith split from the band two years later.
    • The duo's astrological link to night and day is revisited in the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video (it's the first one which starred both Smith and Orzabal since they revived their musical partnership) which features nighttime and daytime scenes in a play. The two band members perform in the orchestra pit and they provide the soundtrack to the story unfolding on stage, the significance being that a Cancerian (Smith) and a Leo (Orzabal) have finally found a more harmonious way to create music together while still maintaining their disparate personalities.
  • Non-Appearing Title:
    • "The Prisoner"
    • "Ideas as Opiates"
    • "The Conflict"
    • "Pharaohs"
    • "Sea Song"
    • "Famous Last Words"
    • "Gas Giants"
    • "Brian Wilson Said"
    • "The Madness of Roland"
  • 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 he did make a 5.1-channel surround sound mix of the album, which was the centerpiece 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.)
  • One-Word Title:
    • "Change"
    • "Wino" note 
    • "Shout"
    • "Broken"
    • "Listen"
    • "Pharaohs" note 
    • Elemental and its Title Track
    • "Cold"
    • "Power"
    • "Secrets"
    • "Sorry"
    • "Ladybird"
    • "Stay"
  • Opposites Attract: It's Orzabal's opinion that his and Smith's contrasting personalitiesthe former is an introvert, the latter is an extrovert — are what drew them together, and although their differences can lead to numerous clashes (which includes a 9-year-long break-up), they can also complement and balance each other's strengths and weaknesses. Since Orzabal cares a lot about the Western Zodiac, it's worth noting that astrology confirms that Cancerians (Smith's sign) and Leos (Orzabal's sign) have opposite temperaments.
    Smith: [Roland] was kind of a nerd. He was more studious. Both his parents were very educated. Mine were definitely under-educated. So I guess, even though we grew up along the same lines, he was from a very different background.
    Orzabal: I remember the first time I met Curt, he wasn't allowed out because he'd been in a fight. He'd dumped someone down the stairs. Yeah, he was a lot more rebellious. It's the attraction of opposites, isn't it? I never looked up to him, but I've ended up in my life with people who are more fiery than me, and bring out the fire, like my wife. I didn't marry someone timid and conservative. I guess it's one of those psychic — relating to the mind, you know? — sort of things you bring into your life, things that hopefully bring the best out in you.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: There's a small Asian-style dragon flying towards the band on the left side of The Seeds of Love cover art, possibly alluding to the Eastern Zodiac verse in "Rhythm of Life (Demo)" ("Lucy's sign is the Chinese dragon, oh") even though that song wasn't officially included in the group's discography until the 2020 super deluxe edition. This dragon has no legs and its wings are fan-like.
  • Ouroboros: There's an animated spinning ouroboros in the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • "Suffer the Children" focuses on the profound loneliness that a child feels because of his absent parents.
      It's a sad affair
      When there's no one there
      He calls out in the night
      And it's so unfair
      At least it seems that way
      When you gave him his life

      And all this time he's been getting you down
      You ought to pick him up when there's no one around
      And convince him
      Oh just talk to him
      'cause he knows in his heart you won't be home soon
      He's an only child in an only room
      And he's dependent on you
      Oh he's dependent on you
    • 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'm calling you, I'm calling you
      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 band about a fictional planet named Halarge. Some covers changed it to "Enlarging your world..."
  • Platonic Kissing: Because they're Heterosexual Life-Partners who have known each other since they were 13 years old, Roland Orzabal considers it to be perfectly normal for him to kiss Curt Smith in public, and this has been part of their friendship since at least their pre-TFF Graduate days in 1980, when they were around 18 or 19 years old (depending on the month the television performance was filmed). note  The Stiff Upper Lip culture that they grew up in discourages men from expressing affection to each other in this manner, but being Sensitive Guys, Orzabal and Smith rebelled against the masculine ideal, and they don't see anything wrong with two heterosexual Englishmen exchanging kisses.
  • The Power of Love: The message of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is that love can solve the world's problems.
    Sowing the seeds of love
    Seeds of love
    Sowing the seeds

    High time we made a stand
    And shook up the views of the common man
    And the lovetrain rides from coast to coast
    Every minute of every hour
    I love a sunflower
    And I believe in love power
    Love power

    An end to need
    And the politics of greed
    With love
  • Pretty Boy: In their early years, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal were marketed as a boy band in various magazines (the latter notes, "if you're signed to a major label, two young pretty boys, they're going to push you into doing the poster pop"), 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, and his popularity as a pop star pin-up is demonstrated by the fact that he was once ranked as the #7 Most Fanciable Male Human Being. 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.
  • Produce Pelting: In "Sowing the Seeds of Love", this is how angry protesters express their dissatisfaction towards a politician: "There's egg on your face and mud on your shoes".
  • 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 did a 5.1-channel remix of it, which, given its complexity, was no small task; this may help bolster its prog credentials somewhat. (He had already remixed Songs from the Big Chair.) This article argues that all their work has strong prog credentials.
  • Prone to Tears: In "I Believe", the narrator's emotional vulnerability is expressed by how easily he cries.
    And I believe that if I'm crying while I write these words
    Is it absurd, or am I being real?
    I believe that if you knew just what these tears were for
    They would just pour like every drop of rain
  • 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 being catchy enough. More Cold War commentary shows up on the album's closing track "Listen", although it's fairly cryptic there as well.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • "Pharaohs" is a play on the Faroe Islands, which are mentioned in the shipping forecast sampled in the song.
    • 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.
    • "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 to London 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.
  • Rags to Riches: Both band members were from single-parent families and lived on a Council Estate. Curt Smith described his impoverished background as "We had nothing, so I would go and steal things. It was a very poor, basic upbringing." Roland Orzabal recalled that when he and his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Caroline Johnston were living together, their financial situation was so dire that "Even Curt brought [us] food, we were that poor." Once the band became famous, "[we] had money beyond the dreams of working-class kids like us."
  • "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.
    • "The Working Hour" reuses the melody of the much more minimalistic and downbeat "When in Love with a Blind Man".
    • "Mothers Talk" was completely re-recorded from the ground up for its 1986 US single release (although it was erroneously labeled a remix). Similarly, the single release of "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)" uses a live recording instead of the studio version.
    • "Pharaohs", the B-side to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", incorporates the main melody of the single at its end, but it is much slower and instrumental (although it features a spoken word voice reading of what appears to be weather forecasts).
    • "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" is a redone version of the B-Side "Tears Roll Down" and shares melodic and rhythmic elements with its predecessor. While "Tears Roll Down" is almost entirely instrumental and is mostly in 7/4, "Laid So Low" features a traditional chorus/verse structure and is mostly in polyrhythmic 4/4.
    • "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".
    • "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.
    • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Roland Orzabal wears a skeletal fish brooch on The Seeds of Love artwork, and it's a visual metaphor that Curt Smith's importance in the band is waning (water is the element of the latter's zodiac sign Cancer) because Orzabal purposely set out to minimize Smith's contribution on the album. After Smith split from the group, Orzabal later released the song "Fish Out of Water" as an insult to his ex-bandmate, which includes the verse "[...] you will be food for killer whales", which is his way of expressing that Curt is now "dead" to him.
    • The cover of the "Break It Down Again" single is a picture of Orzabal holding a bunch of wilted sunflowers. The previous album The Seeds of Love and two of its singles feature sunflowers as a Flower Motif, so the wilted sunflowers signify the end of his friendship and musical partnership with Smith.
    • In "The Tipping Point" music video, a vase with red roses represents Orzabal's wife Caroline (who was also Smith's Childhood Friend), while the table sliding beneath it symbolizes that she's approaching the end of her life. When the vase falls off the table's edge, it means that she has reached the tipping point between life and death. The vase and the roses are later seen scattered on the floor, which conveys that she has died.
    • Wild horses are an emblem for individual freedom in the "No Small Thing" music video, whereas their domesticated counterparts are an emblem for collective responsibility.
  • Sampling:
    • "Mothers Talk" samples strings from an unspecified Barry Mannilow song.
    • "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 picturesque forest and lake seen in the "Mad World" music video are located in Knebworth Country Park, Hertfordshire, England. The band loved it there so much that they even brought some of their family and friends along.
      Smith: It is a dark song, but it brings back happy memories. When we made the video in a country estate on the cheap, we bussed all our friends and family up from Bath and had a fun day. The woman who's having the birthday party in the video is my mum.
    • 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 "Déjà Vu & the Sins of Science".
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: When played backwards, Roland Orzabal's hidden message at the beginning of the original 1982 single "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)" is "The sickness in the system is an amplification of the sickness in the individual."
  • Sea Serpents: In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, a giant sea serpent is seen at the beginning and at the end. Although it roars at Brittany Murphy's character, it doesn't attack her, and later, it swims away from her sailing vessel.
  • 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."
  • Sharp-Dressed Man:
    • In the "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)" music video, there's a brief shot where Smith is at a fancy dinner party, and he looks extremely handsome and elegant in a tuxedo with a white bowtie. He must also share this opinion because he would later wear the same outfit at public events.
    • When Orzabal and Smith were part of the pre-TFF band Graduate, matching suits were crucial to their mod revival style.
  • 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.
    • "Pale Shelter" is named after a 1941 Henry Moore drawing titled "Pale Shelter Scene", depicting families taking refuge from the Blitz during World War II.
    • In the "Pale Shelter" music video, there's a Culture Club poster in the teenage girl's bedroom.
    • 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.
    • For the sequence with the large gathering of people singing in the studio in the "Shout" music video, Smith confessed that "Yeah, we did pinch the idea from that Beatles video 'Hey Jude'."
    • Smith also affirms that the index cards flying out of the library drawer in the "Head over Heels" music video is a rip-off of Ghostbusters (1984).
    • "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).
    • "Power" cites Star Trek with "Phasers switched and set to stun".
    • "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" name-drops Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
    • Along with its ties to Orzabal's zodiac sign Leo, "Sun King" was also the royal title used by Louis XIV, so Smith was equating Orzabal to a French king who was famous for being a tyrant. It's worth noting that Orzabal has French ancestry and can speak French fluently.
    • "Out of Control" (a bonus track available only on the UK release of Everybody Loves a Happy Ending) also references Frida Kahlo.
    • "I Love You But I'm Lost" brings up Guy Fawkes with "To a fire on the fifth of November".
    • The landscapes in the "Break the Man" video are directly inspired by the works of M.C. Escher, most prominently Relativity.
  • 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.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Tears Roll Down" is mostly instrumental, but it does contain one stanza, and half of the verses is "Where tears roll down" repeated four times. note 
  • 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 and an official T-shirt that have the astrological symbols for the sun (a circle with a dot at its center) and the moon (a crescent with its points facing left). 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.
    • In the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, a crescent moon is part of the starry sky backdrop during the play's nighttime sequence above the storm clouds. When the scene switches to daytime, a stylized sun lights up the backdrop with the blue sky and white clouds. Considering that this was the first music video the band produced after they reunited, it was important to the astrology-minded Orzabal that both the sun and the moon — the rulers of their zodiac signs — be included to denote that his and Smith's Leonine-Cancerian musical partnership has been renewed.
  • The Something Song:
    • "Sea Song"
    • "Badman's Song"
    • "Goodnight Song"
  • Songs of Solace: "Famous Last Words":
    Hand in hand we'll do and die
    Listening to the band that made us cry
  • Special Guest:
    • Phil Collins plays the drums on "Woman in Chains" starting from 3:32 (the earlier parts are performed by French jazz drummer Manu Katché, a well-known session musician in his own right); Collins was specifically asked to play on the song in order to get a climactic drum fill in the vein of his earlier song "In The Air Tonight".
    • 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.
    • Brittany Murphy starred in the "Closest Thing to Heaven" music video, which is the only time a major Hollywood actor has played a role in the band's promotional materials.
  • Splash of Color: In the 1986 "Mothers Talk" music video, all the scenes with the 1950s family are sepia-toned, but the fires are yellow (such as the one burning in the fireplace and the flames that consume the newspaper the father was reading), plus the screen of their TV set displays broadcasts in full colour.
  • 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.
  • Studio Chatter:
    • An offhanded comment of "Let's take another five minutes" plays during the intro to "Famous Last Words".
    • At the end of the album version of "Secret World", we hear clapping in the recording studio and then a faint male voice saying, "Thank you, thank you very much."
  • Sunny Sunflower Disposition: Sunflowers are the Flower Motif of The Seeds of Love, and they're used as the late 1980s equivalent of the 1960s flower power movement. The sunflower is thus an emblem for hope, peace and love.
  • Take Over the World: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", which is about the Cold War. As Curt Smith elaborates:
    The concept is quite serious — it's about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.
  • Take That!:
    • "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is The Diss Track to 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.
    • "Fish Out of Water" from Elemental is The Diss Track to 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"
    • "The Tipping Point"
  • The Titling: The Hurting and its Title Track.
  • Towering Flower: At the end of the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video, the Earth orbits around a sun-sized sunflower.
  • 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.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The first "Mothers Talk" music video has an extremely vivid blue tint to highlight the laboratory setting that the young girl is trapped in while she's being monitored by scientists.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: "Power":
    We'll sacrifice the virgin white
    Her death will be the life of me
  • 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 is the lead singer on "Size of Sorrow" and "Who You Are", although he has co-writing credits on eight tracks on the album.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: One of the Sybil dialogue samples from "The Big Chair" (the B-Side of "Shout") is "The devil has the power to assume a pleasing shape".
  • 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
    • The artwork for The Seeds of Love album has both Solar and Lunar and Fire/Water Juxtaposition themes because Orzabal's fire element zodiac sign Leo is ruled by the sun while Curt Smith's water element zodiac sign Cancer is ruled by the moon.
    • The astrological symbols for the sun and the moon appear on a promotional image and an official T-shirt.
    • The verse "Chewed the bone down too low" in the "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" single evokes the lion-like conduct of the Leonine Orzabal, who acknowledges that he had gone too far with the Muse Abuse of Smith note , hurting his (ex-)bandmate in order to gain new ideas to "feed" his songwriting.
    • Orzabal had built a private recording studio before he worked on Elemental, and his description of it screams "water element." Although Smith had already quit the group by this point, Orzabal nonetheless embellished Neptune's Kitchen (Neptune is the Roman god of the sea) with an aquatic motif which he closely links to his Cancerian muse.
      Orzabal: It was called Neptune's Kitchen, and we used a lot of copper that was doused in acid to look like it's been underwater and all the colours are sort of greens and blues like the sea. And there's a weathervane on top of the building which is a whale.
    • The Elemental cover is a photo of a solitary Orzabal standing in a desolate, arid landscape. The dry scenery is emblematic of Smith's absence (who had left the band two years prior) because his Cancerian water element is no longer there to balance Orzabal's Leonine fire element, hence the reason why the album's title is Elemental.
    • Stylized flames decorate the Elemental CD disc because Orzabal's sign Leo has fire as its element.
    • The track "Cold" has the lyric "And Capricorn is rising, yes I'm cold". The reign of Capricorn begins on the winter solstice, so those who are born under this sign tend to be aloof (cold weather = frosty temperament), like the narrator in the song.
    • Orzabal's The Diss Track to Smith is "Fish Out of Water", and its aquatic-related metaphors are connected to the latter's watery Cancerian nature. 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. "You're dreaming your life away" is part of the chorus, and Cancerians are noted to be dreamers, although Orzabal disparages Smith for focusing too much on his idealized vision of how things should be (including their past friendship) instead of reality.
    • 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, and the latter also adorns the CD disc. 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. 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 make the Earth revolve
      You make the camera sing
      No conscience can absolve
      The Sun King

      A small, imbalanced, vain recluse
      You use the planets to excuse
      Your costumed smile
      Your childish abuse
  • We Used to Be Friends: Considering that the band are Heterosexual Life-Partners who have compared their bromance to a marriage (plus their 9-year-long separation to a divorce), it's unsurprising that their friendship break-up songs are no less passionate or poignant than those that are about a romance gone sour.
    • In "Change", the narrator is upset over the loss of a profound friendship where the connection between himself and his companion was so intense that the two of them became The Dividual. Although he's aware that their relationship is now damaged beyond repair, he still wishes that his former friend would change back to the way he was so that they can be together again.
      I lost your honesty
      You lost the life in you

      We walk and talk in time
      I walk and talk in two
      Where does the end of me
      Become the start of you?
      When it's all too late
      It's all too late

      You can change

      What has happened to
      The friend that I once knew?
      Has he gone away?
    • In "Memories Fade", the chorus spells out that it's a failed friendship which is causing the narrator so much pain that he questions whether it's possible for him to love another person that deeply again.
      Memories fade, but the scars still linger
      Goodbye, my friend
      Will I ever love again?
      Memories fade, but the scars still linger

      No, don't pretend you can justify the end
      Memories fade, but the scars still linger
    • "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" was the first TFF single after Curt Smith terminated his friendship and musical partnership with Roland Orzabal, which meant that the latter had become a solo artist ("so low" is a pun on "solo"). Some of the verses are about Orzabal recognizing that he made Smith utterly miserable note , which then destroyed their close-knit bond, and Smith even crossed the Atlantic Ocean note  and moved to another continent to get away from Orzabal and everything related to Tears for Fears. Inflicting hurtful words wasn't completely one-sided, though, as Orzabal brings up Smith's Brutal Honesty as a major source of their discord.
      Chewed the bone down too low
      Got fed on tea and sympathy
      Blew the sail like the wind
      I wish you were my enemy

      Drew the blade way too slow
      Was shackled by your honesty
      Made a mess I, guess I, should have known
    • In "Fish Out of Water", Orzabal recalls how he bonded with Smith while learning about primal therapy as a way to cope with their difficult upbringing, but he now feels that Smith has mostly forgotten about how vital their past friendship was to their emotional survival as teenagers, and therefore is ungrateful for all the moral support that Orzabal once provided to him when they were at their most fragile psychologically. Orzabal is so enraged that Smith had abandoned their whole relationship that his home recording studio (which is called Neptune's Kitchen and its weathervane is shaped like a whale) becomes the site where his ex-best friend is wholly "eviscerated" (derided) on The Diss Track.
      We used to sit and talk about primal scream
      To exorcise our past was our adolescent dream
      But now it's sink or swim since your memory fails
      Now in Neptune's Kitchen you will be food for killer whales
  • White Void Room:
    • A plain white background is depicted on the cover art for The Hurting album.
    • In the 1986 "Mothers Talk" music video, the band perform in a featureless white room.
  • 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.
  • World Gone Mad: "Mad World":
    And I find it kind of funny
    I find it kind of sad
    The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
    I find it hard to tell you 'cause I find it hard to take
    When people run in circles it's a very, very
    Mad world
  • The X of Y:
    • "Start of the Breakdown"
    • "Sowing the Seeds of Love"
    • The Seeds of Love
    • "Standing on the Corner of the Third World"
    • "Year of the Knife"
    • "Rhythm of Life" note 
    • "Lord of Karma"
    • "Sketches of Pain"
    • "Queen of Compromise"
    • "The Madness of Roland"
    • "War of Attrition"
    • "Size of Sorrow"