Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

The first Tears For Fears album, The Hurting, was responsible for opening up my eyes to the alternative music scene that had been gelling together since the mid 70s. In fact, The Hurting signaled my departure from listening to hard rock stations and bands; it ushered in my own personal musical awakening that led me to Punk, New Wave, Post-Punk, Post Modern, Goth, etc. If it wasn’t for the discovery of The Hurting, I may never have discovered The Smiths.

I recently came to the realization that the Tears For Fears classic song, Mad World, off of The Hurting,  was also worthy  of being placed in the same category as How Soon Is Now? as Greatest Songs Ever written, according to Me. The opening drum beat starts with an odd jungle cadence of the concrete variety, laying down a bleak landscape. As this beat segues into a heavy, foreboding synth line, Curt Smith’s  vocals,  vulnerable, melancholic and even incredulous, echo the overwhelming helplessness that modern life seems to have wrought on humanity, as poignant today, as it was  in 1983.


All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places
Worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere
Going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression
No expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow
No tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world




As bleak as the song is when it starts, there is a pop sensibility woven throughout the song that keeps it from being just a novelty of the New Wave age from which it was born. Add very relatable lyrics and subject matter that will continue to endure as long as the human race continues to progress at breakneck speeds, and it’s a song worthy of sitting right next to How Soon Is Now? as two of the greatest songs ever written.

When comparing the two songs (and I don’t really want to compare them, because they’re both masterpieces in and of themselves) it is an interesting footnote to this piece to briefly consider the quality of the covers of these two songs over the past thirty years. And again, this only a personal perspective, but going back and reviewing the various covers of How Soon Is Now? there is a realization that it’s a damn near uncoverable song. Probably a testament to Johnny Marr’s virtuosity in both writing and playing, and Morrissey’s inimitable vocal styling, but there is not a single cover that stands out as worthy of it’s source.  I appreciate and welcome new and different arrangements, but it seems that every cover I listened to, just couldn’t strike the right tone with either the intro, or the vocals…or both. In fact, the best cover I found was the all-instrumental  Rockabye Baby! version from the album Lullaby Renditions of The Smiths.

Mad World, on the other hand, has one specific cover by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews that first appeared on the soundtrack to Donnie Darko. Their version transcends the source material to the point that the arrangement in and of itself has allowed it to stand apart, generating it’s own spate of covers. In fact, I saw Tears For Fears cover the Gary Jules/Michael Andrews version of their own song at KROQ’s Inland Invasion 2004.

As I went down the rabbit hole of cover versions of Mad World, I also discovered that Susan Boyle also did an amazing cover. I have to admit, after researching this piece, I became a Susan Boyle fan.

I dare you not to get chills when you listen to these two cover versions below: Gary Jules & Michael Andrews  and Susan Boyle. Now please excuse me while I go wipe the tears out of my eyes.





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