Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Album: Songs From The Big Chair (1985)
Charted: 2 1
  • This song is about the quest for power, and how it can have unfortunate consequences. In an interview with Mix magazine, the band's producer Chris Hughes explained that they spent months working on "Shout," and near the end of the sessions, Roland Orzabal came into the studio and played two simple chords on his acoustic guitar, which became the basis for the song. Said Hughes: "'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' was so simple and went down so quickly, it was effortless, really. In fact, as a piece of recording history, it's bland as hell."
  • This was the first US #1 hit for Tears for Fears. "Shout" went to #1 two months later.
  • "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" is a line from the 1980 Clash song "Charlie Don't Surf." Did Tears for Fears lift it? Joe Strummer of The Clash thought so. He recounted a story to Musician magazine about confronting Roland Orzabal in a restaurant, informing Orzabal that "you owe me a fiver." Strummer said that Roland reached in his pocket and produced a five pound note, ostensibly as compensation for poaching the line for his hit title.
  • Curt Smith, one of the two members of Tears for Fears, did a solo, acoustic version of this for the soundtrack to The Private Public, a 2001 movie where he made his acting debut.
  • Dennis Miller used this over the closing credits of his HBO TV show, which ran from 1994-2002.
  • Although musically this is quite a jangly and catchy song, its lyrical theme is actually pretty dark. "The concept is quite serious - it's about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes," Curt Smith explains on the band's website.
  • The song was covered by Lorde for the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, which was released by Republic. She reworked Tears for Fears' tune into a haunting dirge, bringing out its inherent darkness. The label's executive VP Tom Mackay explained to Billboard magazine that the New Zealand singer-songwriter was wrapping her Pure Heroine album at the time tracks were being solicited for the soundtrack. "There was not time for her to write a demo, submit it and come back after changes [are requested]," Mackay said. "Like a lot of songs on this album, it's an artistic leap. When we heard it, we were amazed how she reshaped it-it's hard not to think about President Snow and the Capitol in the film and in the book."
  • In a Season 2 episode of the TV series Mr. Robot, the character Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) sings a plaintive karaoke version of this song as she struggles through a moral crisis. "You really have a desire to rule the world?" a guy asks her when she comes to the bar. "Oh, my desires go way beyond that," she replies.
  • The band had trouble getting into the original incarnation of the song, which featured the lyric "everybody wants to go to war." When it was changed to the title phrase, everything clicked. "Once we got those lyrics, it was a joyful song," Orzabal explained.
  • This was used in the 1985 movie Real Genius, about a group of teen geniuses, led by Val Kilmer, who try to foil their professor's plot to sell their high-powered laser to the military. It was also featured in the 1997 comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino, the 2015 NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton and the '80s-themed Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One (2018).
  • This was featured in several TV shows, including ER ("Sharp Relief," 1998), Cold Case ("Greed," 2004), Malcolm in the Middle ("Lois Battles Jamie," 2005), Numb3rs ("Hot Shot," 2006), Brothers & Sisters ("States of the Union," 2007), The Wire ("React Quotes," 2008), Medium ("But for the Grace of God," 2008), Psych ("A Nightmare on State Street," 2014), and Riverdale ("Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Midnight Club," 2018).
  • Because "Shout" was the group's first single in the rest of the world, Tears For Fears thought it should also be their first release in the US, but the record label insisted "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" was better suited for their American debut. "Which is interesting in retrospect," Smith told " target="_blank">Consequence of Sound, "because it was one of those times when the record company was right and we were wrong, because for America, yes, it was a better first single."
  • The 30th anniversary re-release of the album contains a few different versions of the song, including a live performance from Canada's Massey Hall, an alternate single, and an instrumental rendition. Smith said of the instrumental: "When you strip a vocal off a track, you get to then appreciate how that track was built because you’re just listening to the elements of the music behind it."
  • Gloria Gaynor and the Glee Cast are among the artists to cover this song. Weezer included it on their 2019 covers collection known as The Teal Album.
  • In 2016, the musician Ted Yoder played this in his backyard on a hammered dulcimer. Streamed to Facebook Live, it got over 100 million views, earning Yoder the title, "Dulcimer Dad."

Comments: 56

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenAs mentioned earlier, this song was what closed Real Genius, a dramady that dealt with world control. Very appropriate inclusion.
  • John from Mountain View, Ca.This song evokes powerful yet awesome memories. At the time I was a Flight Attendant for TWA and flying routes mainly throughout Europe & The Middle East and enjoying a fun and carefree life. I was downstairs one day in the airline employee Duty Free shop in Rome, Italy (FCO) and this song was playing on the radio. One of my co-workers proclaimed "I love this song; does anyone know the title?" A couple of us shouted out "Everybody wants to rule the world" by Tears for Fears. Soon thereafter, on subsequent flights, in one month alone I had Cher, Don Johnson and Michael Douglas on my flights into Madrid; all doing lucrative television commercials. Amazing memories of the beautiful 1980's. This song brings me back to that special time and place...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 30th 1985, Tears For Fears performed "Everyone Wants to Rule the World" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #54 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eleven weeks later on June 2nd, 1985 it would peak at #1 for two weeks...
    It also reached #1 in Canada and New Zealand and #2 in Australia, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the fore mentioned United Kingdom...
    Was track three from the British duo's second studio album, 'Songs from the Big Chair', and on July 7th, 1985 the album peaked at #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 10 chart; "Shout" {#1 for 3 weeks} and "Head Over Heels" {#3 for 1 week}.
  • L from London, United KingdomThis is a timeless classic, simple in its musical structure, almost barren in parts. The song, which was released in 1985, draws up images of the crises and worries of the mid 80s, particularly the Cold War.
  • Michael from Modesto, CaAn 80's Super classic. I always team Tears for Fears along with Level 42 as two of the greatest of the 80's. Thankfully, there were many more than these two. The 80's was just the best time for music.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxPlayed for the end credits of the movie "Real Genius." Great movie.
  • Al from Long Island, NyI graduated high school in 85... doesn't get better than this for an 80s classic. Music was so great back then, and we knew it.
  • Ken from Pittsburgh, PaThis song always reminds me of the summer I turned 16 and my first year of HS.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlAhhhhh...Love this band! Amazing song! Everytime I hear it, I HAVE to sing along!
  • Jessica from Logan, UtCurt Smith also did an acoustic cover of this song in 2010 on Season 5 of the TV show "Psych."
  • Paul from Detroit, MiI will never get tired of this song. I was never a fan of their follow up single, "Shout". None compare to "Sowing The Seeds of Love" for me, though. That song and it's video were pure genious. WHAT has happened to today's music? It's a pity.
  • Ronald from Richmond, VaThe house on that desert highway is the same house a friend of mine rented when I was stationed out in 29Palms California. It was made in Yucca Valley near Joshua Tree and not far from those awesome powerful windmills you also see in the desert valley not far from Palm Springs. I spent many hours off base riding those desert roads and they are truely majestic. The funny thing is I recently learned of this location as the song came out before I was stationed there.
  • Iztok from Kranj, Other - EuropeI got fond of this song kind of slowly. First I liked that guitar solo, which made me curious about the lyrics (English is not my native). Now I love it even though I am the one who never wanted to rule the world.
  • Norman from Oxnard, Ca"After 20 years, new wave is still popular"

    Not really.
  • Malena from Monterrey, Mexicowish i could be back in the 80's agian, i´m so glad that i lived my best years (before i got married) in the 80's.....
  • David from San Francisco, CaI was 14 when this song came out; I loved it then, I love it now - just a perfect song. One of the best pop rock songs of the 1980s - right up there with Say It Isn't So by Hall & Oates, Under Pressure by Queen, and No One Is To Blame by Howard Jones. But you just can't GET anymore '80s than this one. And y'know, despite the title I always thought he was singing "Everybody wants to move around". My wife laughs at me to this day over this.
  • Fulu Thompho from Limpopo, South Africai think it is true, we all want to rule the world. Fulu Thompho, South Africa
  • Kirk from Hollywood, CaIn response to Bertrand from France, this track was actually sung by Curt Smith.
  • Bertrand from Paris, FranceIn 1985 this song was everywhere and everything to music fans. It sports a highly accessible pop/dance beat, immediate and forceful melodies, and some power guitars at just the right moments. All of those elements add up to one of the '80s strongest singles, a tune that spotlights the soaring vocals of Roland Orzabal as well as some intriguing lyrical social commentary. As inspiring as the music may be, the words are downcast, maybe even dystopic, as the idea of "holding hands while the walls come tumblin' down" sounds a bit more like Nero than Martin Luther King.
  • Kirk from Hollywood, CaThere is a song by the Style Council called "Walls come Tumbling Down." Roland mentions the Style Council in the song "Sowing the Seeds of Love," so I feel like the connection may be more than just coincidence. Perhaps a tip of the hat to a contemporary artist and a song containing similar themes that may have inspired this work.

    Compare the lyrics:

    "There's a room where the light's wont find you/Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down."

    "Lights go out - walls come tumbling."
  • Sergio from El Salvador, OtherMy country was involved on a civil war by this days when i hear this song on a capital Radio Station called Radio 1080,i clear recall that first time, im from a Rural zone and often the armed forced people was firing like that day,Now it make me go back to those difficult but beautifull teen days.
    what a unique song, when i hear it now it make drop a tear for fear.
    Sergio Siva
    Jiquilisco, Uslutan El salvador
  • Curelove from Hungary Little Town, Hungaryi think my heart lost in the 1980s. i am into the 80s excellent colorful music, and sense and art.
    listen to The Cure-plainsong.
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjLove this song. It has an awesome 80s vibe to it
  • Amara from Victorville, CaBest 80s song out there! I've alwats thought it kinda represents the whole "Greed is Good" slogan from the 1980s used by money hungry yuppies. They think they have it all, and are able to rule whatevers around them. After 20 years, new wave is still popular.
  • Stephanie from Anaheim, CaI absolutely love this song and this was the song that made me love my boyfriend so much because he introduced me to it.
  • Brittany Edgeworth from Golden, MsI looove the song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears.. It reminds me of allottt of ppl i think who thinks they have to rule the world... But.. in some cases, i'm sure everybody feels like they wanna rule the world.. I know i do.. I know it's in the 80s but my moma inspired me with some songs in the 70s and 80s.. like Beegees, Michael Bolton, etc. But this song kinda relates to me.. and some people... obviously they know who they are..

    Right now music, you know like in this century, i like Keith Urban..
  • Scott from Palm Desert, CaThis song obviously inspired 2 songs that followed. In 1987 Rock & Hyde's "Dirty Water" and even more so in 1989 XTC's "King For A Day".
  • Sergio from Gijon, SpainThis song is included in the OST of the awarded pc strategy game World In Conflict. It's a game about USSR invasion of the USA.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkI was working a remote site in Alaska during the 80s. I had packed my walkman and six tapes. Three weeks into my shift I couldn't listen to them anymore. A coworker gave me this "Songs from the Big Chair" tape before catching the plane back to civilization. She had said she bought it before her shift and she NEVER wanted to hear it again. This song always takes me back to dark frozen tundra. Most of the music being traded around was "Country" and EWTRTW saved me from insanity. And Andrea from Chicago, quit hating yourself and your fellow Americans. The song applies to other countries too.
  • Alex from Oklahoma City, OkI was born Sept 22, 1981. June of 1985 is one of the earliest definitive memories I have of life. I know this because it was the month that "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" came out, and it was the same month that my oldest brother moved away (12 years my senior). I remember hearing this song on the radio when we drove him to the airport. So, when people ask me my first memory, the answer is simple: Tears for Fears.
  • Leonardo from Vancouver, CanadaI wish President Bush listened to this song, so he stops thinking to rule the world is the only option, and the lyrics apply greatly to his (Bush) actions.
    In the 80's there were good lyrics about war, freedom and stuff, Right now Rap is about luxury, drugs and money... Still don't get it.
  • Celia from Maputo, Africai love this song, and the vocals are so soft and charming. it was love at first «hearing».
    celia, maputo, moz.
  • Paul Jue from Indio, CaIn the music video, the water front scene is at the Salton Sea
  • T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsRoland and Curt initially wanted to release 'Shout' first, but that song didn't get airplay on the radio because it would be to long (6.33) and therefor they released 'Everybody wants to rule the world' first, because this would get airplay (4.11), but the funny thing is that Roland made a reference to Shout not getting airplay in this song. The lines:
    'So glad we've almost made it, so sad they had to fade it' Refer to that.
    Okay, finally Shout got airplay, so olso on the radio, but it's still a funny wink to the radio.

    Oh yeah, DC, the name Tears For Fears isn't from Sybil, but from the book 'Primal Scream Therapy' by Athur Janov. Olso, a big part from the work of Tears For Fears (and surely from The Hurting) are based on those ideas. :)
  • Tom from New York, NyOn October 11, 1986, Gorbachev and Reagan met in ReykjavÃ?k, Iceland to discuss reducing intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. To the immense surprise of both men's advisors, the two agreed in principle to removing INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. This culminated in the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 1987. During the meeting the American Secret Service had this song played in the background, it is believed today in some parts of the American intelligence agencies that this song was the most instrumental "tool" in ending the cold war.
  • Andrea from Chicago, IlThis song, hits close to home because it foreshadow and repeats how stupid we are as americans
  • T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsTFF Rules! And they definatly rule(d) the world! :D
  • Mel from South Australia, Australiaomg...how cute is it in the video when the two little black guys do their little dance! it makes me love this classic even more...
  • Matt from Yucaipa, CaThe Video is filmed near palm springs, the scene with the dinosaurs in the back is specifically named the cabazon, the rest is shot at rest stops and the highway between yucaipa and palm springs i belive, which is in california.
  • Linus from Hamilton, On, CanadaEast coast rapper Nasir Jones, stagename "Nas", samples this in a song by the same name (everybody wants to rule the world).
  • T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsGood song and great video! It always gives me a good feeling. And that Micheal Jackson used that part, I didn't know.
    Funny thing is olso, that when the song came out, it broke the guys in pretty much the rest of the world, and therefor the magazines shouted: 'Out to rule the world, that's Tears For Fears' The right song at the right time. ;)
  • Jameson from Lexington, KyAndrew from CA: The drum beat is nearly identical to the one in the Michael Jackson song "The Way You Make Me Feel" off the "Bad" album. Of course, Tears For Fears had it first, but both songs don't suck. :)
  • AnonymousI was 11 when I heard this song. At the time I was not a good student. I fell in love with the song the minute I heard it. Summer of 97 I was watching HBO late night, as I do in the summer: late night, heard the song. It was an preview of the next movie: Real Genius. The movie didnt particularly appeal to me, but damn the song is good. After watching the movie and hearing the song, I realized being smart is cool. I am now 21 and am at one the premier colleges for what I want to go into. This song rocks!
  • Steve from Fenton, MoThis song and Shout are good songs, but this group looks so full of themselves on their videos, it makes me want to laugh.
  • Jim from North Billerica, MaI still remember the first time I heard this song, it was right when it was released and I was driving from Texas to New Hampshire. This came on the radio Just as I was crossing the Mississippi into Memphis. the sun was at my back and setting Which was casting a red hue into the city. I heard it about 5 or 6 more times through the night as I pased through tennesse into Virginia. Every time I hear this, I still think of that incredble sunset.
  • Carrie from Roanoke, VaWell, if the vocals for this song were recorded in a bathroom, that explains why they have that nice echo effect. I love this song and the opening drum beat. It's very relaxing, although there's a tension between the ideas expressed in the song and in the singers' voices that fits very well with the subject matter. Why doesn't anyone ever make music like this anymore? Sigh. I am 21 years old and I love the '80's!
  • Andrew from West Covina, CaThis song would have to be one of my top 5. I love how the song has that Michael Jackson drum beat in the begining-I forgot from what MJ song though...I don't know something about this song gets me into a good mood-I don't know if you guys will agree with me, but this song helps me reflect a lot about the world and how we live our daily lifestyle from continent to continent. Anyways, I don't know to much about the lyrics, but like what steve said, the song would sound better if they were to put "war" in it because it will definitly make alot of sense. and I am only 18 and I really love the 80's!
  • Keith Major from Bristol, EnglandOne of my favourite songs from the Eighties
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanI love the opening guitar riff. What a well-written song.
  • Edward Pearce from Ashford, Kent, EnglandIn the UK this won a BRIT Award (the British version of Grammies) for Best Single in 1986.
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaThe original title and lyrics were "Everybody wants to go to war." Franky Goes To Hollywood had a single out at the time called "When two tribes go to war." They didn't want to get confused with this song so they changed the lyrics and title to "Everybody wants to rule the world."
    It's really too bad, the original version makes much more sense. Still a great song! As people may recall, Curt and Roland had a big split back in the late 80's. They have gotten back together and hopefully they may grace us with more great music in the future.
  • Dave from Marieta, GaThe vocals for this song and most of the songs on 'Songs From the Big Chair' were recorded in Roland Orzabal's bathroom!
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song returned to the charts a year after it's initial release, and second time around was called "Everybody Wants To Run The World" as part of a campaign called Sport Aid.
  • Dc from Hilo, HiThe name of the TEARS FOR FEARS album SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR is taken from the book SYBIL, which was made into a TV movie starring Sally Field as a woman who has multiple personality disorder and only feels safe and whole in her analyst's "big chair." The movie prompted the B-side "The Big Chair," which has audio clips from the movie throughout the song.
  • Hans from Oakdale, CaTears For Fears is an Awesome band!
  • Mary from North Fort Myers, FlThis is played over the closing credits in "Real Genius", featuring a teenaged Val Kilmer.
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