By Kara Lehr: Arts and Culture Editor
Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to be alive in 1985, but I can tell you one thing for sure about that year. The release of Tears for Fears’s Album Songs From The Big Chair, made an undeniable impact on not only music, but people, for years to come. Don’t believe me? Take a scroll through your Tik Tok “For You” page or turn on your car radio. You are likely to hear “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”– an international hit single that came off of Songs From The Big Chair. In Honor of this year being the 35th anniversary of this monumental album’s release, I thought it only natural I take you on an opinionated deep dive into the album of ‘85.
Before we get to my review, let’s get some background. Tears for Fears was formed in 1981 by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal after meeting in their hometown of Bath, England. They released their first album in 1982 entitled The Hurting which focused heavily on the use of synthesizers and introspective lyrics about Roland and Curt’s childhoods. In an interview in 2005 with Deluxe Booklet Smith described how for Big Chair they tried to be “less insular”, and that they began listening to more American music to “broaden our horizons”. The name of the album was inspired by the 1978 movie Sybil about a young girl who only felt safe when sitting in her therapist’s “Big Chair”. Songs From the Big Chair was released on February 25th, 1985. It garnered critical acclaim and reached the top 10 positions in various countries, globally.
“Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
The song that many consider the magnum opus of Tears for Fears’ career is “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. It’s undeniable that this song is genius. Not only incredibly catchy but extremely well put together instrumentally. The joyful synthesizer rifts practically prance through your headphones and Curt’s vocals somehow manage to be gentle but poignant at the same time. Although highly commercial and not the most thought-provoking of all the songs on the album, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” never fails to evoke warm feelings of nostalgia even in those who didn’t group up in the 80s.
“Head Over Heels”
One of Tears for Fears’ only love songs, “Head Over Heels” lyrically provides the most realistic account of what developing feelings for someone is really like for many people. A confusing, embarrassing, and nerve-racking rollercoaster that feels completely out of one’s control. Musically the song is catchy and beautiful due to the flowing piano line and accompanying string swells. Overall, (including head and heels) “Head Over Heels” is grand in lyric and instruments making it more musical poetry then just a catchy hit song.
The most simplistic but powerful song on Big Chair is without a doubt “I Believe”. In “Curt and Roland Interviewed” Roland noted “I don’t want to harp on about the lyrics” adding “I think they’re the most potent and powerful lyrics we’ve ever put on to vinyl.” Since I so strongly agree with his statement, I’d kick myself if I didn’t harp on about the lyrics in this review. There’s something so powerful about how understated they are, not talking much but saying so much.
With lyrics like “ I believe that if I’m crying while I write these words is it absurd? Or am I being real” create the sense that the song is personally meant towards someone or something. It makes you want to know what the lyrics mean and who they are towards. At the same time not knowing what the lyrics mean makes me want to listen more. Not to learn what they are about, but to apply my own meaning to them.
It would be hard not to point out that this review came out more like a love letter then a real review for Songs From the Big chair. I do feel that it’s a warranted love letter. This has something most pop albums from every decade lack, real emotion. It may be just me that can hear it, but I feel like I can hear every moment and every emotion that inspired these songs. I’d definitely regret it if I didn’t give this album 5/5. There’s so many gems it has to offer including some I didn’t cover like “Working Hour” and “Listen”. So, If you’re in the mood for something retro or if you want to listen to good music I couldn’t recommend Songs From the Big chair more.