Everybody Wants To Rule The World: the meaning of Tears For Fears’ song

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If we put aside history books, either because they are not very stimulating or not very valuable, music is the most reliable tool to recover the past, in the tastes, ideas and fears that characterize it.

Unfortunately and fortunately, who’s talking to you right now didn’t live through the 1980s. On the one hand he imagined them, dreamed them; on the other hand he has read its vices and virtues. But above all, he heard them from a stereo, being fascinated by them for better or for worse, pervaded by that romantic feeling that human beings inevitably nurture towards the past.

Reliable voice of the aesthetics of their time, Tears For Fears propose themselves as ideal companions on a journey between light and shadow. Yet, among their songs there are some that seem to embody the spirit of every era, and Everybody Wants To Rule The World is one of these always valid posters. If every generation has its nightmares, this song, which under the reassuring sound of the New Wave hides an intertwining of cynicism, desire for supremacy and mirages of a distant freedom, is an anti-hymn to the visions that torment the imagination of us all . Regardless of the time we live in.

Track from the album Song from the Big Chair (one of the group’s greatest hits) dating back to 1985, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, included in the project at the last moment, is a reference to the Cold War still in progress. Roland Orzabal initially plans to name it Everybody Wants To Go To War, realizing afterwards that it didn’t sound right.

The words of the young singer are dictated by the collective suspicion of a possible nuclear war, as well as by the fear of the unknown that lies in the total uncertainty of the future to come. Assumptions that allow the lyrics to emerge from the war situation and become more generally valid, an incredibly catchy rant against the thirst for power of those “personal dictators” – such as an authoritarian parent or an overbearing superior at work – who would always like to order us what to do, guiding every action of our existence.

The opening lines, made of an almost frightening inevitability, lead us to a sort of Orwellian world, a system based on constant and oppressive surveillance:

Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behaviour
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world

Once you become aware of being alive, you also acquire the awareness of being continually observed and judged, rewarded or punished by a power claimed and “justified” by the mere fact of being up there. A control, that of those who impose themselves, which cannot be escaped and which can only make us think of the grip in which the digital revolutions of the new millennium have tightened reality, now reduced and regulated by the anxious principle of acceptance and beauty. There is no escape from tyrants as there is no escape from the big eye of public opinion, hungry for errors to be condemned and ridiculed.

The notes flow and little by little other paranoia and fragility of modern man are revealed:

It’s my own design
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

Living for consuming, consuming in order to fully enjoy a precarious and temporary freedom, threatened on all sides by clouds that promise storm, the terrible spell of a few rulers. Beyond the few joys, a desolate scenario: tensions between the United States and the USSR, nuclear tests, dreams of collapsing buildings (Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down / When they do I’ll be right behind you).

The song “speaks to the anxieties of all ages”: this is what they said and it’s hard to disagree.

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