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"Mad World" is a song by the Britishmarker 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", would turn up on the band's debut LP The Hurting the following year. The song would eventually become Tears for Fears' first international success, reaching the Top 40 in several countries between 1982 and 1983.

Two decades later, the song made a popular resurgence when it was covered in a much slower, ballad-like style by composers Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the soundtrack to the movie Donnie Darko. This version reached no.1 in the UK in December 2003. It was also later used in trailers for the video game Gears of War and the 2010 virus outbreak movie The Crazies.


"Mad World" began life as the intended B-side for Tears for Fears' second single "Pale Shelter ". The band decided, however, that it may be something people would like to hear on the radio and held back its release, instead waiting to issue the song as a single in its own right after re-recording it with Chris Hughes, a former drummer with Adam and the Ants.


Song versions

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 the 7" double-single. This mix is very similar to the album version, with the most notable difference being the additional echo added to the intro and middle sections. More recently, a remix by noted British music producer Afterlife was featured on the 2005 reissue of the Tears for Fears greatest hits collection Tears Roll Down .


"Ideas As Opiates" is a song that originally served as the b-side to the "Mad World" single. It would later be 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.

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 a window, while Roland Orzabal performs a bizarre dance outside on a lakeside jetty.The clip was directed by Clive Richardson who was notable for his work at that time with Depeche Mode.

Track listings

7": Mercury / IDEA3 (United Kingdommarker) / 812 213-7 (United Statesmarker)
  1. "Mad World" (3:32)
  2. "Ideas As Opiates" (3:54)

7": Mercury / IDEA3 (Irelandmarker) / 6059 568 (Australia, Europe) / TOS 1411 (South Africa)
  1. "Mad World [World Remix]" (3:30)
  2. "Ideas As Opiates" (3:54)

2x7": Mercury / IDEA33 (United Kingdom)
  1. "Mad World" (3:32)
  2. "Mad World [World Remix]" (3:30)
  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

Year Chart Position
1982 UK Singles Chart #3
1982 Australian Singles Chart #12
1982 Irish Singles Chart #6
1983 German Singles Chart #21
1983 South African Singles Chart #2

Michael Andrews / Gary Jules version

"Mad World" would achieve a second round of success beginning almost twenty 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 various synthesizers and percussion, the Andrews/Jules version was stripped down; instead of a full musical backing, it used only a set of piano chords, a cello, and modest use of a vocoder on the chorus. Their version was originally released on CD in 2002 on the film's soundtrack, but an increasing cult following spawned by the movie's DVD release finally prompted Jules and Andrews to issue the song as a proper single. The release was a runaway success in late 2003, becoming the Number One single over the Christmas holiday in the UKmarker, a feat Tears for Fears themselves never accomplished. The music video, directed by Michel Gondry, has since been very popular on Youtube, garnering over 16.5 million views as of November 2009. It is included on the DVD compilation Michel Gondry 2: More Videos .

Track listings

CD1: Sanctuary / SANXD250 (United Kingdommarker)
  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)

Chart positions

Chart (2003/2004/2007/2009) Peak

UK Singles Chart 1
USA Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks 30
Australian Singles Chart 28
Austrian Singles Chart 13
Belgium Flanders Singles Chart 23
Canadian Digital Singles Chart 1
Danish Singles Chart 6
Dutch Singles Chart 4
German Singles Chart 3
Irish Singles Chart 2
Portuguese Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 10
Swiss Singles Chart 53
New Zealand Singles Chart 37

Chart positions for Adam Lambert's Version

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

Popular culture

In late 2006, a condensed version of the Andrews/Jules cover of "Mad World" was featured in the award-winning commercial for the video game Gears of War. The advertisement has been credited with helping propel the song to #1 on the iTunes sales chart.It is also used as a spoof in one of the Battlefield: Bad Company Trailers.In addition to its usage in numerous advertisements and fan-made YouTube videos, the Andrews/Jules cover has also become a popular choice for background music in television dramas, having appeared in the following series:

In 2006, the song appeared on Broadwaymarker as the closing number in Butley starring Nathan Lane.

The song resurged in popularity again with the Gary Jules version performed by Adam Lambert on American Idol TV show in April 2009. Lambert chose this performance as his encore during the Season 8 finale, May 19, 2009.

The song featured in the teaser trailer for the 2009 remake of George Romero's movie The Crazies.

Other versions and covers

In addition to the Andrews/Jules version, "Mad World" has been recorded over the years by the following artists:

Samples and quotations

  • Prozak samples the song on the track "American Princess", from the Strange Music compilation Strictly Strange 08 (2008).
  • British dubstep artist The Bug, with vocalist Warrior Queen, included the song "Insane" on the album London Zoo (2008). The song ends with a quote from Mad World.


  1. Billboard

External links

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