Mad World

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This article is about the Tears for Fears song. For other uses, see Mad World (disambiguation).
"Mad World"
Single by Tears for Fears
from the album The Hurting
  • "Ideas as Opiates"
  • "Saxophones as Opiates" (12")
Released 20 September 1982
Recorded 1982
Genre Synthpop[1]
Length 3:32
Writer(s) Roland Orzabal
Tears for Fears singles chronology
"Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)"
"Mad World"
Music sample

"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. In the same time, 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.[2]

Two decades later, "Mad World" made a popular resurgence when it was covered in a much slower and sombre minimalist style by 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. More recently, Jasmine Thompson made a cover version which she released as part of her EP Another Bundle of Tantrums.


"Mad World" was originally written on acoustic guitar when Orzabal was 19, it was a deliberate attempt to write something in the vein of Duran Duran's "Girls on Film". After a few false starts with Orzabal on vocals, Smith took over and "suddenly it sounded fabulous".[3]

It began life intended to be the B-side for the band's second single "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)". At Polygram's insistence, 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 producer Chris Hughes, a former drummer with Adam and the Ants.[4]

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"![5]

— 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.[5]

— 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.[6]

— Curt Smith


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.[7]

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 the 2005 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.[5]

— 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.[5]

— Curt Smith

Music video[edit]

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 of 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.

According to Curt Smith, "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."[3]

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

Track listings[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 (Australia, Europe) / TOS 1411 (South Africa)
  1. "Mad World" (World Remix) – 3:42
  2. "Ideas as Opiates" – 3:54
7" double pack: Mercury / IDEA33 (United Kingdom)
  1. "Mad World" – 3:32
  2. "Mad World" (World Remix) – 3:42
  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]

Chart (1982–83) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[8] 12
Germany (Official German Charts)[9] 21
Ireland (IRMA) 6
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[10] 25
South Africa (RiSA) 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[11] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12] 3

Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version[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 15 December 2003
Format CD
Genre Alternative rock, soft rock
Length 3:06
Label Sanctuary

"Mad World" achieved a second round of success almost 20 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 mellotron imitating a cello, very light touches of electric piano, and modest use of a vocoder on the chorus. The collaboration came about after Andrews asked Jules, a childhood friend, to add lyrics.[13] Their version was originally released on CD in 2002 on the film's soundtrack, but an increasing cult-following spawned by the film'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 Christmas number one single in the UK.

The music video was directed by Michel Gondry. The song's success in the United Kingdom however did not translate to the United States, where it reached number 30 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in the issue dated March 27, 2004. Gary Jules performed "Mad World" with Mylène Farmer on her Timeless 2013 Tour.[14] Later in 2006, the song was included in the commercial to the videogame Gears of War,[15] which helped move it up the charts.[16] A performance on the eighth season of American Idol by Adam Lambert also briefly increased its sales and interest in the song.[17][18] The song reached No. 11 on the Rock Digital Songs chart.

Track listings[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

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2003–10) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[19] 28
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[20] 13
France (SNEP)[21] 23
Canadian Digital Singles Chart 1
Danish Singles Chart 6
French Digital Singles Chart[22] 11
German Singles Chart 3
Irish Singles Chart 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[23] 4
New Zealand Singles Chart 37
Portuguese Singles Chart[24] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 10
Swiss Singles Chart 53
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[26] 1
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 30

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2004) Position
German Singles Chart[27] 14
Chart (2000–2009) Peak
UK Top 100 Songs of the Decade 53[28]


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Germany (BVMI)[29] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[30] Platinum 50,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Platinum 600,000^

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

Popular culture[edit]

Other versions and covers[edit]

In addition to the Andrews/Jules version, "Mad World" has been a successful cover for following artists:

  • Adam Lambert (as a contestant) during American Idol in 2009 and an acoustic rendition on his Acoustic Live! EP. A recording of this performance was subsequently released as a digital single and reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009. Billboard listed it at number 97 in "Top 100 'American Idol' Hits of All Time" list.[33]
  • Twenty One Pilots recorded a cover of the song, released to their YouTube channel in 2014.
  • Halsey's cover of the Andrews/Jules version was used by Taco Bell in their "Bacon Mall" advertisement to promote the Bacon Club Chalupa.
  • Swedish death metal band Zonaria released a cover of the song on their 2008 album The Cancer Empire.
  • Mylène Farmer performed the song with Gary Jules live on her Timeless 2013 Tour. This rendition was subsequently officially released on the tour's live album.

Chart positions for Adam Lambert's version[edit]

Chart (2009) Peak
Canadian Hot 100 10
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 19
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 30


  1. ^ Buckley, Jonathan; Lewis, Justin (1996). Rock: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. ISBN 9781858282015. ...brooding synth-pop... 
  2. ^ Brian Currin. "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (T)". Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  3. ^ a b Interviews by Dave Simpson. "Tears For Fears: how we made Mad World | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  4. ^ "Mad World by Tears for Fears Songfacts". 2005-09-29. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  5. ^ a b c d Cranna, Ian (1999). In The Hurting: Remastered & Expanded [CD booklet]. London: Mercury Records.
  6. ^ Curt Smith. "It's a Mad Halargian World." Curt Smith: The Official Site. October 11, 2010.
  7. ^ Toby Creswell (2007), 1001 Songs, Hardie Grant Publishing, pp. 87–88, ISBN 978-1-74066-458-5 
  8. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Mad World". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  9. ^ " – Tears for Fears Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  10. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Mad World". Top 40 Singles.
  11. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Mad World". Swiss Singles Chart.
  12. ^ "Tears for Fears: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company.
  13. ^ "One-Hit Wonders at the BBC". 17 April 2015. BBC Four.  Missing or empty |series= (help)
  14. ^ Julien AUTIER, Philippe LEZE, Guillaume DATEZ & Sarah HOFER. "Mylène Farmer - Infos sur le premier concert Timeless 2013 à Bercy". Mylene.Net. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  15. ^ Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter - Tom Bissell - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  16. ^ a b Miller, Ross (2006-11-27). "Mad World: Gears ad propels song to #1 on iTunes". Joystiq. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  17. ^ "More American Idol-related sales numbers!". 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  18. ^ Kaufman, Gil (2009-04-08). "Adam Lambert's 'Mad World': The Story Behind The Cover". Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  19. ^ " – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  20. ^ " – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  21. ^ " – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World" (in French). Les classement single.
  22. ^ Steffen Hung. "Les charts français". Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  23. ^ " – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  24. ^ [1][dead link]
  25. ^ " – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World". Singles Top 60.
  26. ^ "Archive Chart: 2003-12-21" UK Singles Chart.
  27. ^ [2][dead link]
  28. ^ Radio 1 Official Chart of the Decade, as broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on Tuesday 29 December 2009, presented by Nihal
  29. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules; 'Mad World')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  30. ^ "Italian single certifications – Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules – Mad World" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Michael Andrews feat. Gary Jules in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  31. ^ "British single certifications – Michael Andrews ft Gary Jules – Mad World". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Mad World in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  32. ^ Stolen Voices Buried Secrets Premieres January 10th. YouTube. 21 December 2010. 
  33. ^ Top 100 'American Idol' Hits of All Time by Billboard Retrieved 1 January 2015

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Changes" by Ozzy Osbourne & Kelly Osbourne
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Andrews/Jules version)

21 December 2003 – 10 January 2004
Succeeded by
"All This Time" by Michelle McManus
Preceded by
"Sound of the Underground" by Girls Aloud
UK Christmas number-one
Succeeded by
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid 20