"Mad World" is a song by the British band Tears for Fears. Written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith, it was the band's third single release and first chart hit, reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982. Both "Mad World" and its B-side, "Ideas as Opiates", appeared on the band's debut LP The Hurting the following year. The song eventually became Tears for Fears' first international hit, reaching the Top 40 in several countries in 1982 and 1983, peaking notably at #2 in South Africa.[1]

Two decades later, the song made a popular resurgence when it was covered in a much slower, minimalist style by composers Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the soundtrack to the movie Donnie Darko in 2001. This version reached #1 in the UK in December 2003, and also became an international hit.


 [hide*1 Background


"Mad World" began life as the intended B-side for Tears for Fears' second single "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)". The band instead decided it may be something people would like to hear on the radio and held back its release, waiting to issue the song as a single in its own right after re-recording it with Chris Hughes, a former drummer with Adam and the Ants.[2]

That came when I lived above a pizza restaurant in Bath and I could look out onto the centre of the city. Not that Bath is very mad – I should have called it "Bourgeois World"![3]

—Roland Orzabal

"Mad World" was the first single off the finished album. The intention was to gain attention from it and we'd hopefully build up a little following. We had no idea that it would become a hit. Nor did the record company.[3]

—Curt Smith

Curt Smith's ad lib in the song's final chorus resulted in a mondegreen. Smith clarified the actual lyric in 2010:

With Mad World's again-resurgent popularity, I'm getting asked more frequently about the last line on the album version from The Hurting, a line which I occasionally also sing in concert. The actual line is: "Halargian world." (Not "illogical world", "raunchy young world"(!), "enlarging your world", or a number of other interesting if not amusing guesses.) The real story: Halarge was an imaginary planet invented by either Chris Hughes or Ross Cullum during the recording of The Hurting. I added it as a joke during the lead vocal session, and we kept it. And there you have it.[4]

—Curt Smith==Meanings[edit]==

[2] The song was influenced by the theories of Arthur Janov, author of The Primal Scream.[citation needed] The lyric "the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had" suggests that dreams of intense experiences such as death will be the best at releasing tension.[5]

Lyrically the song is pretty loose. It throws together a lot of different images to paint a picture without saying anything specific about the world.[3]

—Roland Orzabal

It's very much a voyeur's song. It's looking out at a mad world from the eyes of a teenager.[3]

—Curt Smith==Song versions[edit]==

The 7" version of "Mad World" is the same mix of the song found on The Hurting. The song had only one remix on its initial release, the World Remix that was featured on a 7" double-single. This mix is very similar to the album version, with the most notable differences being the additional echo added to the intro and middle sections and the subtraction of a subtle keyboard part from the bridge. A later remix by noted British music producer Afterlife was featured on the2005 reissue of the Tears for Fears greatest hits collection Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82–92).


"Ideas as Opiates" is a song that originally served as the B-side to the "Mad World" single. It was later re-recorded for inclusion on The Hurting. The song takes its name from a chapter title in Arthur Janov's book Prisoners of Pain and features lyrics related to the concept of primal therapy. The song is musically sparse, featuring just a piano, drum machine, and saxophone. An alternative version of this song titled "Saxophones as Opiates" was included as a B-side on the 12" single and is mostly instrumental.

That's the chapter from Janov, and it's really a reference to people's mindsets, the way that the ego can suppress so much nasty information about oneself – the gentle way that the mind can fool oneself into thinking everything is great.[3]

—Roland Orzabal

It really was all about that kind of thing – the psychological answer to religion being the opiate of the masses, whereas we thought ideas were, more than anything else.[3]

—Curt Smith==Music video[edit]==

[1][2]Curt Smith in the "Mad World" music video

The promotional clip for "Mad World", filmed in late summer 1982, was Tears for Fears' first music video. It features a gloomy looking Curt Smith staring out a window, while Roland Orzabal performs a bizarre dance outside on a lakeside jetty. A brief party scene in the video features friends and family of the band, including Smith's then-wife Lynn.

The clip was directed by Clive Richardson who was notable for his work at that time with Depeche Mode.

Track listings[edit]Edit

7": Mercury / IDEA3 (United Kingdom) / 812 213-7 (United States)
  1. "Mad World" – 3:32
  2. "Ideas as Opiates" – 3:54
7": Mercury / IDEA3 (Ireland) / 6059 568 (AustraliaEurope) / TOS 1411 (South Africa)
  1. "Mad World" (World Remix) – 3:30
  2. "Ideas as Opiates" – 3:54
7" double pack: Mercury / IDEA33 (United Kingdom)
  1. "Mad World" – 3:32
  2. "Mad World" (World Remix) – 3:30
  3. "Suffer the Children" (Remix) – 4:15
  4. "Ideas as Opiates" – 3:54
12": Mercury / IDEA312 (United Kingdom) / 6400 677 (Europe)
  1. "Mad World" – 3:32
  2. "Ideas as Opiates" – 3:54
  3. "Saxophones as Opiates" – 3:54

Chart positions[edit]Edit

Year Chart Position
1982 UK Singles Chart 3
1983 Australian Singles Chart 12
1983 German Singles Chart 21
1982 Irish Singles Chart 6
1983 New Zealand Singles Chart[6] 25
1983 South African Singles Chart 2
1983 Swiss Singles Chart 10

Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version[edit]Edit

"Mad World"
Single by Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules
from the album Donnie Darko (Original Soundtrack) and Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets
B-side "No Poetry"
Released 2001

15 December 2003

Format CD
Recorded 2000
Genre Piano rock
Length 3:06
Label Sanctuary

"Mad World" achieved a second round of success almost twenty years later after it was covered by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the film Donnie Darko (2001). While the Tears for Fears version featured synthesizers and heavy percussion, the Andrews/Jules version was stripped down; instead of a full musical backing, it used only a set of piano chords, a cello, and modest use of a vocoder on the chorus. Their version was originally released on CD in 2002 on the film's soundtrack, but an increasing cult-following spawned by the movie's DVD release finally prompted Jules and Andrews to issue the song as a proper single. The release was a success in late 2003, becoming the Number One single over the Christmas holiday in the UK, a feat Tears for Fears themselves never accomplished. The music video, directed by Michel Gondry, has since been very popular on YouTube, with its most popular posting garnering over 60 million views by September 2013.[7] It is included on the DVD compilation Michel Gondry 2: More Videos (Before and After DVD 1). The song was later included in the commercial to the videogame Gears of War.[8] Its success did not translate to the United States, where it reached number 30 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Gary Jules recently performed "Mad World" with Mylène Farmer on her Timeless 2013 Tour.[9]

Track listings[edit]Edit

CD1: Sanctuary / SANXD250 (United Kingdom)
  1. "Mad World" – 3:06
  2. "No Poetry" – 3:59
  3. "Mad World" (alternate version) – 3:37
CD2: Sanctuary / SANXD250X (United Kingdom)
  1. "Mad World" (Grayed Out Mix) – 6:45
  2. "The Artifact & Living" – 2:26
  3. "Mad World" (video) – 3:20

Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (2003/2004/2007/2009/2010) Peak


UK Singles Chart 1
US BillboardModern Rock Tracks 30
Australian Singles Chart 28
Austrian Singles Chart 13
Belgium Flanders Singles Chart 23
Canadian Digital Singles Chart 1
Danish Singles Chart 6
Dutch Singles Chart 4
French Digital Singles Chart[10] 11
German Singles Chart 3
Irish Singles Chart 2
Portuguese Singles Chart[11] 1
Swedish Singles Chart 10
Swiss Singles Chart 53
New Zealand Singles Chart 37

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (2004) Position
German Singles Chart[12] 14
Chart (2000–2009) Peak


UK Top 100 Songs of the Decade 53[13]


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Germany (BVMI)[14] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[15] Gold 25,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Platinum 600,000^

  • sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone

Chart positions for Adam Lambert's version[edit]Edit

Chart (2009) Peak


Canadian Hot 100 10
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 19
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 30

Popular culture[edit]Edit

Other versions and covers[edit]Edit

In addition to the Andrews/Jules version, "Mad World" has been recorded over the years by the following artists:

Samples and quotations[edit]Edit

  • Wale (rapper) samples a version of the song on his track "Vanity" on his album The Gifted.
  • Prozak samples the song on the track "American Princess", from the Strange Music compilation Strictly Strange 08 (2008).
  • British dubstep artist The Bug, with vocalist Warrior Queen, included the song "Insane" on the album London Zoo (2008). The song ends with a quote from "Mad World".
  • Orbital sampled the song on "The Moebius", the first song on their debut album.
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