In 1981, Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith banded together to form Tears for Fears. After emerging as part of the new wave scene, they later achieved international stardom when they began incorporating more elements of mainstream rock and pop into their sound. After a decade of success, escalating tensions led the band to go their separate ways in 1991. In 2000, they finally reunited, and are currently tipped to release their much anticipated seventh studio album in early 2022. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Tears for Fears songs of all time.
10. Mothers Talk
As Live About says, by pushing for greater commercial success on 1984’s Songs from the Big Chair, Tears for Fears inevitably incorporated some dated sonic elements to its formerly edgy new wave sound. But while that takes some of the gloss off Mothers Talk, Roland’s Orzabal’s songwriting is so strong, it’s easy enough to overlook the mechanical-sounding keyboards. Released as the lead single from the album in August 1984, it took the band to No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart.
9. Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love)
Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love) is one of the two singles (the shimmery Suffer the Children is the other) that Tears for Fears produced as demos in order to secure their first record contract with Phonogram in 1981. It was released as a single in early 1982, but failed to make any kind of an impression on the charts. It enjoyed better fortune on its re-release the following year, at which time it peaked at No. 5 in the UK and reached the Top 40 in numerous other countries.
After trying and failing to crack America with the first few releases, Tears for Fears finally hit paydirt with their fourth and final single from 1983’s The Hurting. A gorgeous burst of shimmering synth-pop, it became their second UK top five and their first single to reach the US Billboard 100, peaking at No. 73 in January 1983.
7. Memories Fade
According to Song Facts, Roland Orzabal, who takes the lead on vocals on Memories Fade, wasn’t entirely happy with how the song turned out. “‘Memories Fade’ is an incredibly wordy song,” he said. “It’s got a good feeling, but I find the actual indulgence in the words a bit too much.” Apparently, other people did too, as the song sunk without trace on its release in 1983. But there’s beauty in Orzabal’s words and enough hypnotic appeal in his performance to make the song one of the band’s most compelling to date.
6. Head Over Heels
There’s something about the amazing combo of the main riff, the bass, the vocals, and the la la la’s that makes Head Over Heels utterly irresistible. A joyful anthem whose surging melodies and stirring bridge conceal surprisingly melancholic lyrics, it became one of the band’s biggest hits, peaking at No. 12 in the UK and No. 3 on the US Billboard 100. It also managed to reach the top 40 in several other countries, including No. 11 in Canada and No. 21 in Australia. It would remain their most successful single until 1989’s Sowing the Seeds of Love.
5. Advice For The Young At Heart
1989’s The Seeds of Love was a major hit, reaching No. 1 in the UK and the top ten in the US and several other countries. The incorporation of jazz, soul, and Beatlesque pop into their signature sound was critically applauded – which, considering the album cost over 1 million GBP to make (the equivalent of around 2.5 million GBP today), was kind of fortunate. One of the album’s chief highlights is Advice For The Young At Heart. Released as a single in February 1990, it became a top 40 hit in the UK, France, Canada, The Netherlands, and Ireland.
With its power chords, thunderous percussion, silvery synth solos, and epic guitar solo, Shout pushed the band further away from their new wave beginnings and further into arena rock territory. But while fans can sometimes be resistant to change, this time around, they welcomed it. Released in November 1984, Shout became one of the band’s most successful singles of all time, prompting Chris True of All Music to describe it as “Tears for Fears signature moment”. A top 40 hit in numerous countries, it peaked at No. 4 in the UK and stayed at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
3. Mad World
A muted, haunting piece of synth-pop, Mad World is one of Tears for Fears’ most recognizable songs. In 2003, Gary Jules beat off competition from Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) by The Darkness to become the UK Christmas No. 1 with his version, holding on to the top spot for three weeks. But while Jules’ interpretation is unquestionably lovely, there’s something about the poignant delivery and deep melancholy of the original that gives it the edge. First released in 1982 as the band’s third single, it reached No. 3 on the UK Single’s Chart and charted in the top 40 in several countries.
2. Sowing The Seeds Of Love
On Sowing The Seeds Of Love, Tears for Fears ventured further away from new wave and embraced a score of musical styles and recording techniques. They also got more political than they ever had before, referring to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s recent electoral victory with the line “Politician granny with your high ideals, have you no idea how the majority feels?” The socialist sentiments and musical experiments could have been offputting, but fans lapped it up, sending the song to the top ten in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and No. 2 in the United States.
1. Everybody Want’s To Rule The World
On Everybody Want’s To Rule The World, Curt Smith takes the lead on vocals. Backed by Orzabal’s thrusting guitar and tasty hits of synth, he delivers a performance of such magnitude, there was never any question that this would become one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. Which is exactly what it was, reaching No. 2 in Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom and No. 1 in Canada, New Zealand, and on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the US, it now ranks as the 345th best-charting single of all time.