Saturday, June 8, 1985

Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” hit #1

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Tears for Fears

Writer(s): Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley, Chris Hughes (see lyrics here)

Released: March 18, 1985

First Charted: March 16, 1985

Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 11 GR, 12 RR, 12, 2 AC, 2 AR, 1 CO, 2 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK, 0.69 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 236.98 video, 1192.05 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In the UK, Tears for Fears first made their impact with “Mad World” in 1982. The #3 hit was followed by two more top-five hits in support of their debut album The Hurting. Prior to the release of their sophomore album, Songs from the Big Chair, the band released “Shout,” (#4) and “Mother’s Talk” (#14).

However, it wasn’t until that album’s third single, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” that Tears for Fears, well, ruled the world. The new wave single about “the quest for power and how it can have unfortunate consequences” SF went to the top of the charts in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand and reached #2 in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The song was a last-minute addition to the Big Chair album. Roland Orzabal, who co-wrote the song, considered it “a lightweight that would not fit with the rest of the album.” WK Chris Hughes, who produced the song and was also one of the writers, said that “as a piece of recording history, it’s bland as hell.” WK However, he convinced Orzabal to record it and add a shuffle beat “in a calculated effort to gain American chart success.” WK The rhythm was inspired by the Simple Minds’ 1983 song “Waterfront.” WK

Although this is “quite a jangly and catchy song” musically, SF it is pretty dark lyrically. Curt Smith, who sang lead, said the song, whose main line was originally “everybody wants to go to war,” was “about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.” WK Pitchfork’s Tal Rosenberg pointed out how the “lyrics could be applied in different scenarios such as the environment (‘Turn your back on mother nature’), short-lived financial success (‘Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure/Nothing ever lasts forever’), dictatorial rule (‘Even while we sleep/We will find you’), and the Cold War (‘Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down’).” WK

Spectrum Culture’s Kevin Korber said the song was a “perfect representation of its time.” WK Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound praised it as a “timeless and influential composition.” WK Stanton Swihart of All Music Guide said the group “perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-‘80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic.” WK


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First posted 8/7/2020; last updated 7/14/2023.

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