Beautiful World
by Devo

Album: New Traditionalists (1981)


  • Don't let this one fool you. Most of this song is about how wonderful the world is, a "sweet romantic plac with beautiful people everywhere." But at the end, it turns around with the line, "But not for me."

    Jerry Casale of Devo told Songfacts: "We wanted to get everybody into a mood where people thought Devo was saying the world was really nice and saying the world was beautiful, then it turns out to be one man's opinion, which is mine, which is, while the world could be beautiful, it's not for me because of what I'm seeing."
  • Devo was founded by Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, who were both at Kent State University when four unarmed students were shot to death by the US National Guard. This had a profound effect on Jerry and Mark, who developed the idea of "De-evolution," meaning that humans were devolving rather than evolving. Devo made short films to accompany their songs with the idea of releasing them on Laser Disc, a promising technology that was a huge failure. Even though Laser Discs didn't work out, MTV launched in 1981 and created a market for music videos. With very few videos to choose from, they put Devo's "Whip It" in heavy rotation, but when music videos became more common, MTV abandoned Devo.
  • Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale tried to sing like Stan Ridgway of Wall Of Voodoo ("Mexican Radio") on this track. "I don't know why, but we could imagine Stan singing that song," Mothersbaugh said. "So we were both trying to fake his accent and Jerry did a great job so he ended up singing on the record."
  • The song was written with the video in mind. "The video idea preceded the song," Jerry Casale told Songfacts. "We start off with silly imagery taken from archival film libraries of just stupid stuff - Americana pop culture stuff from the past and silly imagery of silly people, then slowly start warping it over darker and darker things - Ku Klux Klan race riots, war, suffering, atomic bomb, starvation. It transforms from one thing to another."
  • Rage Against The Machine covered this on their 2000 album Renegades, the last album the band released. They turned the song into a sad, sentimental dirge. When they played it live, they performed it on acoustic guitars.
  • Many of Devo's songs have been used in commercials. The ads often misinterpret the songs or clash with Devo's philosophy that people should think for themselves. Says Casale, "Today, when people use Devo's music in commercials, they either completely miss the point or excise the irony on purpose. Target used 'It's A Beautiful World,' and of course, left out the line 'For you, for you, but not for me.' They just made it a beautiful world straight up."
  • When Devo's songs are used in commercials, the band re-records them so they can keep the performance rights. Early on, they signed some bad contracts and never made much money from their songs. Allowing their songs to be used in commercials means they can finally make some money from them.

    As for how they feel about their songs being used to sell products, Mothersbaugh says: "We were so far out of left field that we were always intrigued with the idea of making commercial art and fine art intersect. We were always really impressed with people that did a good job of it and felt like there was much more of a chance to change things then to just butt heads. Some of our better successes were things that were more subversive."
  • Mothersbaugh runs Mutato Muzika, a company that makes music for many TV shows, movies and commercials. Casale is a successful director who has worked on many music videos and commercials. He directed all of Devo's videos.

Comments: 7

  • Sandy from KansasWhen my son was very young, he would have nightmares about the "Byooful World Man", the big-headed guy on the video.
  • Andrew from Melbourne, AustraliaThis is one of the best songs (and videos) I can remember from the 1980s. Yet you never hear it on the radio anymore. Scandalous! Devo are still too clever for most people.
  • Karen from Manchester, NhI LOVE Devo videos! My boyfriend (at the time) and I even designed a Devo album cover when I was about 16: it showed a tiny little country/park type landscape being dwarfed by a huge Devo hat.
  • Landon from Winchester, OhRage Against the Machine did a cover of this.
  • Kevin from Hood River, OrI had no idea Mark Mothersbaugh was in Devo!!

    That totally rocks!! I became a fan through his soundtrack work, namely the Royal Tennenbaums score.
    I wonder if Mothersbaugh and Casale know Joe Walsh? If my memory serves me, he was a student at Kent State at the time of the massacre as well.
  • Heidi from Kingsland, GaI had no idea that Devo was a fan of Wall of Voodoo. Rock on!!!!
  • Art from Milwaukee, WiThis is one of the best videos ever created. Pure art.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Zakk Wylde

Zakk WyldeSongwriter Interviews

When he was playing Ozzfest with Black Label Society, a kid told Zakk he was the best Ozzy guitarist - Zakk had to correct him.

Trucking Songs That Were #1 Hits

Trucking Songs That Were #1 HitsSong Writing

The stories behind the biggest hit songs about trucking.

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt

Experience Nirvana with Sub Pop Founder Bruce PavittSong Writing

The man who ran Nirvana's first label gets beyond the sensationalism (drugs, Courtney) to discuss their musical and cultural triumphs in the years before Nevermind.

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"They're Playing My Song

Chris and his wife Tina were the rhythm section for Talking Heads when they formed The Tom Tom Club. "Genius of Love" was their blockbuster, but David Byrne only mentioned it once.

Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New York

Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New YorkSong Writing

Can you be married in one country but not another? Only if you're part of a gay couple. One of the first famous singers to come out as a lesbian, Janis wrote a song about it.

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)Songwriter Interviews

Mike Rutherford talks about the "Silent Running" storyline and "Land Of Confusion" in the age of Trump.