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Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World (1985)

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“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a song by English pop rock band Tears for Fears. It was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley, and Chris Hughes and produced by Hughes. The song was first released on 18 March ...

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a song by English pop rock band Tears for Fears. It was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley, and Chris Hughes and produced by Hughes. The song was first released on 18 March 1985 by Phonogram, Mercury, and Vertigo Records as the third single from the band’s second album, Songs from the Big Chair (1985). “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a new wave song with lyrics that detail the desire humans have for control and power and centre on themes of corruption.

Music critics praised “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in their retrospective reviews, with some including the song in their respective decade lists. It is regarded as the group’s signature song, along with “Shout” (1984). It garnered success on charts internationally, peaking at number two in Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom and at number one in Canada, New Zealand, and on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified gold by both Music Canada (MC) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

Nigel Dick directed the music video, which received promotion from MTV. It shows bassist Curt Smith (who sings lead vocal) driving an antique Austin-Healey 3000 sports car around Southern California intercut with shots of the band performing the song in a studio. In 1986, the song won Best Single at the Brit Awards. The group re-recorded the song as a charity single for the Sport Aid campaign. New Zealand singer Lorde recorded a cover of the song, which was included in the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

Background and release

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes, and produced by Hughes. The song was a “last-minute” addition during recording sessions of Songs from the Big Chair (1985). The decision to include the song in the album came after Orzabal played two chords on his acoustic guitar for Hughes. It was recorded in two weeks and added as the final track on the album. According to Orzabal, he initially regarded the song as a lightweight that would not fit with the rest of the album.

In an interview with Mix magazine, Hughes said that “as a piece of recording history, [the song is] bland as hell.” The lyrics of the song were originally “everybody wants to go to war”, which Orzabal felt was lackluster. However, Hughes convinced Orzabal to record it, in a calculated effort to gain American chart success. Orzabal acknowledged that the shuffle beat used in the song was “alien” to their way of writing music, stating it was “jolly rather than square and rigid in the manner of ‘Shout’, but it continued the process of becoming more extrovert.” Curt Smith, the lead singer, said the themes were “quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.”

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was first released on 18 March 1985 through Phonogram, Mercury and Vertigo Records as the third single from the band’s second studio album, Songs from the Big Chair. The song was released for sale (as a 7-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch vinyl set) which included its B-side, interviews from the band and different versions of the song. To accommodate the vinyl release, a CD video set was also distributed and included the song’s music video along audios of bonus tracks.

Commercial performance

In the United Kingdom, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” debuted at number 16 on the UK Singles Chart, in the issue dated 24 March 1985. On the week of 14 April 1985, the song peaked at number two, behind the charity single “We Are the World” (1985) recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” received a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 13 April 2018 for 500,000 sales. The song peaked at number three in Belgium, and at number two in both the Netherlands and Ireland.

In the United States, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” debuted at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the issue dated 16 March 1985. On the week of 27 April 1985, the song rose to number 18. On the week of 8 June 1985, the song moved 2-1, replacing Wham!’s “Everything She Wants” (1984) as the number one on the chart; it would spend a total of two weeks in this position. The song was a commercial success in other American markets, peaking at number two on the Adult Contemporary and Top Rock Tracks and charting at number one on the Hot Dance Club Play, Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales, and Cash Box charts. In Canada, the song reached the number one spot, earning a gold certification from Music Canada (MC) for 40,000 sales shipments on 1 May 1985.

In Australia, the song reached the number two position. On the report dated 19 May 1985, the song debuted at number four on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles chart; it would later peak at number one. It was certified Gold by the Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) for sales of 10,000.

Music video

The promotional video for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, filmed in early 1985, was directed by Nigel Dick. It was filmed in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, a desert in Southern California, the Salton Sea and Cabazon as well as a London studio. Curt Smith admitted to Pitchfork that the video shoot was a “disaster”; Dick was “in tears” on the second night of shooting. Smith also mentioned that there was an accident while filming the “dirt bikes and four-wheel [sic] off-road vehicles” scene, with one child flying out of a vehicle and smashing his head, leaving him unconscious.

The video begins with Smith driving a vintage Austin-Healey 3000 sports car while a toddler points toy guns in Smith’s direction. The car is then seen driving through a desert, this scene is intercut with the band performing the song in a studio. Smith parks the car at the Wheel Inn diner and makes a call from a telephone booth. The camera pans to show a statue of a man riding a horse nearby. Smith leaves the diner in the car while singing the song’s lyrics. The following scene shows two black men in suits performing synchronized dance movements in front of two gas pumps. Shots of young people riding three-wheeled ATVs and dirt bikes through desert sand dunes are also shown. Smith is then shown singing in the desert wearing black sunglasses as many of the dirt bike and ATV riders approach from behind him and pass to either side.

The music video promoted the group in America, due to “heavy rotation” on the music video channel MTV. HuffPost editor Daryl Deino ranked the video at number three on their year-end list for best music videos of 1985 stating that the video “represents pure Americana as it was in 1985”. Deino also mentioned that the video “proves that at times, artists were able to do so much with so little.”