Cover Story: 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'

Cover Story: 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'

Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace 2021

Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace 2021

Oxfordshire, Vereinigtes Königreich

This week legendary new-wave band Tears For Fears were announced as one of the first headliners for Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace, opening the floodgates for what we can assume will be a busy 2019 festival circuit for the duo, with the likes of Festival Beauregard already joining the T4F hype. What with the release of single ‘I Love You But I’m lost’ last year too, it seems Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are back for good.

But it’s not just festival bookers who are feeling ‘Head Over Heels’ (not sorry) for Tears For Fears at the moment; the duo’s landmark 1985 album Songs From The Big Chair has been on repeat all week here at Festicket HQ. Though the record has 80s bangers aplenty worth ‘Shout'-ing (OK, I’m sorry) about, there’s one gem that continues to outshine them all.

A bright and chirpy synth cascades down on to an equally chipper guitar line before they both give way to offbeat drums, a bouncy, driving bass and two unmistakable chords. "Welcome to your life, there's no turning back." Yes, the chart-topping and Brit Award-winning ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ is rightfully one of the decade's cult classics.

Written by Orzabal, Smith and Adam & The Ants’ Chris Hughs, the track almost missed the cut for Songs From The Big Chair, before serendipitously being added at the last moment. 

But despite its euphoric lustre, the song deals with a heavy topic, exploring the human impulse for power and the costs with which this desire comes: “All for freedom and for pleasure / Nothing ever lasts forever / Everybody wants to rule the world.” Indeed, its direct message lead the BBC to ban its airplay during the Gulf War (1990-1992), though, along with the likes of ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’, that more likely a reflection of the BBC’s sensitivity.

Regardless, the hit still enjoys both relevance and reverence, and not least from us. In celebration of all things Tears For Fears, we’ve put together a list of some the more interesting interpretations from ‘Everybody Want To Rule The World’’s vast well of covers. That even the most abstract covers keep so much of the original’s characteristics is a testament to the song’s timeless appeal.


The New Zealand pop star's version of the track was used on the 2013 movie The Hunger Games, the second instalment of the dystopian, battle royal-style teen trilogy. Unsurprisingly then, the 22-year-old's version builds a darker atmosphere with sparser orchestration, building to a dramatic climax. Orzabal and Smith were clearly impressed, and even sampled Lorde's version for their entrance at Rock In Rio in 2017. 



The beauty of this cover from Foals back in 2012 was how close it stayed to the original, yet how strikingly natural it was to their own style. The off-kilter rhythms, shimmering guitars and anthemic build-ups are what Yannis and co. do best and have built their empire on, which is what makes this one so fun . 

Patti Smith

Patti Smith's rendition featured on her 2007 covers album twelve, and whilst keeping that distinguishable shuffle, her take has a more of a blissed out folk-rock feel to it. Smith's vocals carry the right amount of burden that makes this version vintage in itself. 


Maps & Atlases

Another example of sticking close to the original, this one from Chicago math-pop guitar twiddlers Maps & Atlases captures the gleeful tone and bounce of Tears For Fears, whilst injecting a sharp and almost frantic energy to it with cutting guitar tones and tight drum fills.

Georgio Moroder & Raney Shockne ft. Elena Mendoza 

Written for the USA Network series Queen Of The South, this version from legendary Italo disco and electronic music pioneer Georgio Moroder and American composer Raney Shockne is a bizarre mix of searing, ominous synths and Mexican vihuela guitars, with Elena Mendoza powerfully singing the original lyrics in Spanish. 


Legendary New York Rapper Nas' took the song's wider lyrical message and translated it into a more personal experience of the corruption of power: "I come from the housing tenement buildings / Unlimited killings, menaces marked for death". Though those unmistakable chords and fidgeting guitars are still there, this is one of the song's more inventive covers, and an early noughties rap classic. 

Tears For Fears will play Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace on Saturday 23 June. Tickets are available from Friday 30 November, join our waiting list here


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