Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” Lyrics Meaning

Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” is being relayed from the perspective of an individual who can be described as a disenfranchised youth. He has certain issues with the way things flow that seem unresolvable. For instance, he witnesses the mundane, depressing reality of the workforce. And the idea that he may be on the path to a similar fate has him longing for “no tomorrow”. 

Also such feelings of alienation and despondency date back to his childhood. Indeed he does not perceive his gloomy disposition as one only he is subject to. Rather he implies that from our early years, people are not shown the adequate love and attention necessary to make them grow into positive human beings.

So both the past and future have the singer upset. Or another way of looking at it is that he perceives a cycle. And one of the defining attributes of a cycle is that it never ends.  And it is this reality that has made him conclude that the world is indeed “mad”.

In his understanding, ‘running in circles’ to realize a fate which you already can see from the onset is a depressing one is ‘madness’. Yet such is what people tend to do. And being unable to discern a way in which he himself can escape this trend, the singer has become disturbed.  So conclusively, it can be argued that this song is expressed from the viewpoint of a despondent young man trying to make sense of the world.

“Mad World” Facts

“Mad World” is recognized as being Tears for Fears’ first hit song. The track was released on 20 September 1982 as the third single from their debut album, “The Hurting”.

The song which served as the B-side to “Mad World” is entitled “Ideas as Opiates”.

Both of these tracks were influenced by the works of American psychologist Art Janov (1924-2017).

Clive Richardson served as the director of this song’s music video. It was the first music video Tears for Fears had ever done.

Tears for Fears’ member Roland Orzabal wrote “Mad World” when he was 19 years of age. His musical inspiration was a song entitled “Girls on Film” (1981) by Duran Duran.

In the concluding chorus of this song, the words “Halargian world” are uttered. This phrase has usually been misinterpreted considering “Halargian” isn’t even a word. Or rather, it is actually a phrase that only Tears for Fears were familiar with, as in it belonging to their own inner-clique slang. And Curt Smith, who handled the vocals on “Mad World”, accredited its origin to either Ross Cullum or Chris Hughes, the track’s two producers.

Originally Roland Orzabal wrote this song with the intent of singing it himself. However, he didn’t like the sound, gave it to his partner to try. He evntually concluded that Curt Smith’s rendition “sounded fabulous”.

“Mad World” peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart. The song also charted in Australia, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.

Moreover in Tears for Fears’ homeland of the United Kingdom, this song has received Silver certification, meaning it sold at least a quarter-million copies.

A cover of “Mad World” by Gary Jules in 2003 was actually more successful than the Tears for Fears’ original. And this caused great joy to Roland Orzabal, who was by then middle-aged and well pass his musical heyday. Indeed by that time he could no longer relate to the “teenage menopause” which inspired him to write this and other of the band’s songs.

Meaning of the “dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”

In the chorus, when he refers to “dreams in which (he’s) dying” as “the best (he’s) ever had”, some may even say he’s alluding to suicide. (But in actuality it’s more along the lines of literally dreaming about dying as a form of stress release).

2 Responses

  1. Shauna says:

    This is great. Thank you for writing this as it does give so much more information about the real meanings in the song. I loved “Tears for Fears” and their music came at the right time for me in my life. Their songs were somewhat ground-breaking because they sang about the reality of life, rather than the fairytale illusions we are all caught up in day to day. I will always play their music even though I am now 65 because they can really sing, unlike many of today’s technologised warblers. Thank you “Tears for Fears” from a grateful Australian fan.

  2. Diannagagnon502@gmail.com says:

    I CAN’T GET THIS SONG OUT OF MY HEAD, I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK AND I THINK THE LYRICS ARE UNDERSTANDABLE.

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