Tears For Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule the World Meaning
Song Released: 1985
Covered By: Lorde (2013), Gloria Gaynor (1986), Patti Smith (2007)
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Everybody Wants to Rule the World Lyrics
There's no turning back
Even while WE sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behaviour
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world
It's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Yes, I remember the popcorn scene every time I hear it, and it's a fantastic piece to dance to.
But I think the meaning is much darker than it might seem. I think it was about twenty years ahead of its time. I see the basic meaning is that greed will destroy the culture.
Of course, this can't be what the poet meant. But Reader Response critical theory is based on the idea that a piece means what it means to the reader, and it is valid even to others if it can be backed up by what's in the text.
But here's what I see. This is a guy in his 20s who's out of college and working either in sales or middle management. He's seen that he either has to join the greed game or get off the grid. (Starting here, this goes pretty much line by line.) That's difficult because, thanks to technology, any agency or employer can find you, even while they sleep. But you'll be being a good little boy and behaving in ways that aren't natural to you because we all want it all.
Yes, he wants to move ahead, but he hates turning his back on his true self and becoming the corporate clone required. He asks his girl to help him decide which route to take and help him enjoy his freedom because if he sells out, it won't last. And it's the only game in town because everybody wants it all.
But maybe it would be better for the two of them to get out of the whole thing and off the grid because it's all falling to pieces, anyway. He tells his girl that when it all falls apart, he'll be there for her. He's almost glad it is all ending soon, but it is sad that people messed it all up by everyone wanting to have it all.
At that point, he makes a decision. He can't play the game. He hates the whole committee structure of the corporate world that slows decisions so no one has to take responsibility. He hates the utter stupidity of the morons who continue to pump everything out of a failing culture and not even seeing that they're speeding the decline.
By the end of the song, he celebrates that he is going to remain free of the crap and enjoy being himself. Why not? Things are ending, but then, nothing lasts forever.
I always loved the first line. "Welcome to your life, there is no turning back". We have all wanted to rule the world. But define world? Yes, maybe the song speaks to Napoleon wannabees. But it could be that it is your own destiny that you want to master "all for freedom and for pleasure nothing ever lasts for ever". There is this sour-sweetness about this song. The egoistic mind knows that it will perish so it might as well make the most of it, but this becomes selfish and unrealistic "so glad we've almost made it" thus the best decisions to attain and keep control become blurred. Sort of like wanting all the girls for yourself (and you might even try) but in the end it is futile, girls don't like that in the end so you're going to have to make choices.
anonymous Jul 17th, 2017 7:52pm report
Just an excerpt, but does anyone else envision Hitler and Eva Braun during the lines:
"There's a room where the light won't find you (underground bunker)
Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down (as the Soviets took Berlin)
When they do, I'll be right behind you (she took cyanide right after he shot himself)
So glad we've almost made it (almost conquered the world)
So sad they had to fade it
Everybody wants to rule the world"
anonymous Apr 30th, 2019 4:42pm report
The song is actually about the cold war, for those who dont know.
It’s about self belief. Or the lack of it. He’s talking to himself, trying to convince himself and ignoring the demons inside which talk us all down. It’s about being rock bottom yet not throwing the towel in just yet. He’s asking for help, he knows he is bigger and better than what’s grinding him down. He knows people need him. He knows he can be himself even when not fitting in hurts. It’s a song of hope. Determination. He knows that everybody faces battles, day to day big or small, but he’s not about to fold. It’s about personal wars we all fight. It’s heroic and wonderful and majestic and has kept me, and no doubt many more, optimistic and positive when we need it most. Truly glorious
anonymous Aug 3rd, 2018 8:25am report
The writer of the song had an out of body experience were he wanted to go to another inhabited planet, when he got there he discovered that the inhabitants there,(who were similar to, but not humans) were at a higher level of consciousness(spiritually) so he decided to try and gain some knowledge from them by talking to one of them,but instead of telling him anything, they said (sarcastically)"Welcome to your life", "there's no turning back",they than said something about how there kind was watching over everyone on earth, and then they said "even while we sleep, we will find you acting on your best behavior,(being sarcastic again)"turn your back on mother nature"(referring to how humans all do just that and don't seem to even care)"everybody wants to rule the world"(over exaggerating but still)"its my own desire/design", "its my own remorse","help me to decide", "help me to make the most of freedom and of pleasure"(he is asking for advice on how to be happy in life and he wants to learn from them even if its hard, or he could be talking about his songs if you think he said design)then the being starts talking again and they say back "nothing ever lasts forever" "everybody wants to rule the world"(they are telling him that the freedom and pleasure won't last forever even if he does grasp it, and also that the same go's for everyone that wants to rule the world)"there's a room where the light won't find you" "holding hands while the walls come tumbling down" when they do i'll be right behind you(the room is Earth and the light is spiritual awareness its shown as the light because right now nearly know one is in an enlightened state and they are all unhappy, the walls tumbling down represents the truth finally being shown,and everyone has decided to come to live in this time of awakening and experience it together, that is why they are holding hands, the reason the being is right behind him is because he was really there the whole time and now everyone can see him because there not being blocked by illusions)and then he says"so glad we've almost made it""so sad they had to fad it""everybody wants to rule the world"(he's saying that he's happy that soon everyone will know yet sad they couldn't have found out sooner and then he's agreeing with the being about everyone wanting to rule the world)and then they say "I can't stand this indecision married with a lack of vision everybody wants to rule the world","say that you'll never, never, never, need it, one headline why believe it? everybody wants to rule the world", "all for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to rule the world(the being is frustrated about how immature everyone on Earth is being, but they can't do any thing about it, the songwriter says that he'll never be like that but the being doesn't believe him because there's no proof he's not just like the others and won't try to rule the world or something else crazy for freedom and pleasure, well that's it, I doubt anyone will believe it but I hope you at least find it interesting.
anonymous Dec 19th, 2017 12:17pm report
A banger for sure, what a good song
anonymous Sep 18th, 2012 9:47am report
Since I have been unable to find what the authors actually intended I'll make another of perhaps fanciful interpretations. If you take the refrain " Everybody wants ...." to mean want to control what the world is to you then maybe all the other lyrics fall into place. Turning your back on mother nature is not obeying your own instincts but supposedly acting according to your best behavior. Design, remorse,decide,help represent one's travel through personal life.etc.
brandtaylor93 Oct 23rd, 2009 10:42pm report
This song is a simple song. We are social animals with social hyraces and we have implanted in our brain somewhere to become the alpha male. What do people want more money and power that's all they really care about that's all the X generation cares about.
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