What does Mad World mean?

Tears For Fears: Mad World Meaning

Album cover for Mad World album cover

Song Released: 1982

Covered By: Gary Jules (2003), Jasmine Thompson (2013), Taylor John Williams (2014)

Mad World Lyrics

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 want to drown my...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Jun 6th 2010 !⃝

    I think this song is ultimately about feeling isolated and alone in the world. The idea it portrays is that you can be totally surrounded by people and still be alone. It talks about a familiar routine with "familiar faces," yet the singer feels no connection to these people. When you can't make connections with people, the purpose of living becomes questionable, and everything about life seems dull. I think the line "Went to school and I was very nervous
    No one knew me, no one knew me" does not necessarily mean he's going to a new school, as some people would interpret it. I think he may be acquainted with all of the kids in school, but he doesn't feel like any of them "knows" or understands him. He feels alone even among the people he spends almost every day with. He can't even connect to the people whose lives are most similar to his. As a teenager, I can really relate to those feelings. I think a lot of people go through that feeling of isolation as they become adults and realize the world can be a a very lonely place to live in.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Oct 7th 2008 !⃝

    Contextually speaking, here are what the song writers say about their own song: (from wikipedia)

    Lyrically the song is pretty loose. It throws together a lot of different images to paint a picture without saying anything specific about the world.

    —Roland Orzabal
    It's very much a voyeur's song. It's looking out at a mad world from the eyes of a teenager.[1]

    —Curt Smith

    All around me are familiar faces
    Worn out places, worn out faces

    -The familiar faces, worn out places, and worn out faces indicate that he has seen all their is to see, and that to him (an adolescent, teen), all faces look the same, worn out and tired of life.

    Bright and early for their daily races
    Going nowhere, going nowhere

    -The daily races are our lives, busy and hectic. The narrator conveys the meaning that everybody seems to wake up bright and early, as if for a purpose, but in the end they go nowhere, because there is no purpose in life.

    And their tears are filling up their glasses
    No expression, no expression
    Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
    No tomorrow, no tomorrow

    -The tears fill up their glasses, and you can imagine the meaninglessness and bitterness they must feel, if they are to drink their own tears, as the song indicates. To drink your own tears without expression is very extreme, because sadness indicates that there is meaning in life, and something to be sad about, but no expression, and no tomorrow, indicate that the narrator is indifferent, so worn down as to not even feel sad or angry, but rather he would like to drown his sorrow.

    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

    - The funnyness he talks about is a very dark emotion, it is a bitter, mocking type of funny that corresponds with sadness. A sad type of funny. This is the way he feels about his life, because he dreams of dying, the only relief from a meaningless life that contains no hope for feelings of purpose and fulfillment.

    I find it hard to tell you
    'Cos I find it hard to take
    When people run in circles
    It's a very, very
    Mad World

    -The reason he finds it hard to tell you is because he is about to reveal the song's theme, it's ultimate message: THERE IS NO MEANING IN LIFE. He doesn't find this hard to take, but what he DOES find hard to take is that people are still willing to live, which he describes as "running in circles." A Mad World, is not an angry world, but mad as in crazy, insane, meaningless.

    Children waiting for the day they feel good
    Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
    Made to feel the way that every child should
    Sit and listen, sit and listen

    The child stage is the most innocent of humans, and their desires are innocent, they just want to feel good, like the type of happiness a child feels during his birthday. But also note, that the narrator wants us to consider why we as humans feel the need to celebrate the birth of our lives, which he views in an ironic tone, consistent with the feeling of the song. "Happy birthday", and "sit and listen" are repeated twice, to sound mechanical, routine, mundane, and ultimately meaningless. Even to sit and listen, to try and learn the meaning of life, is in a way, meaningless.

    Went to school and I was very nervous
    No one knew me, no one knew me

    -Remember, school is a social place, not just a place for learning. It is where humans interact. This is where he is nervous, where he feels isolated, and alone. He is INSIGNIFICANT.

    Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson
    Look right through me, look right through me

    -The teacher is a figure of authority and knowledge, as well as wisdom. Although the teacher teaches lessons of life, He/she looks right through the young narrator. Once again the narrator reminds us that we are Insignificant.

    So what picture does this song portray?
    A dark, mad world, with no purpose, very nihilistic.
    Life is insane, because people pretend to live.

    The themes:
    Life is meaningless
    Individuals are insignificant.

    What is important about this song is that it is not a grown man who is lamenting life, but a young child, who feels he has seen all there is to see, and has realized very early, that life is meaningless. He is lamenting this realization, and in a way, has given up.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    May 5th 2013 !⃝

    I believe that this song is basically saying that life is meaningless. The stuff he talks about makes it seem that he is either a small innocent child, or a teenager who has given up at a very young age. He talks about getting up bright and early for the daily races, going nowhere, he's talking about how people will get up early for a useless purpose, if you read the lyrics, you can see these bitter undertones.

  4. anonymous
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    Aug 21st 2022 !⃝

    This song is about people in his life that do not add value. A place that has nothing to offer except hatred and discrimination. Unfairness and cruelty. The dream he dies for is work, but his dreams were fulfilled by work.Or a silent suicide. Like partying which can be harmful yet the people are what he remembers. People running in circles are again people who are heartless. They hold qualities like bullying and destructive criticism which do not add up to a moral being. Their credibility is lost. He wakes in morning but is so constrained by society that he cannot be productive.

  5. anonymous
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    Aug 20th 2020 !⃝

    life is meaningless, all our efforts add up to nothing in the end and we are not significant, even when we try to feel significant we are reality sees through us.

  6. Angelboo
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    Nov 19th 2018 !⃝

    It's about someone who is severely depressed.

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 9th 2017 !⃝

    it just seems so depressing and it makes me kinda start to get suicidal thoughts. it does seem to say how meaningless life is, and that we do do all the same things everyday. when he said that "the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had" I did not know if he wanted to kill himself or not, it kind of confused me

  8. anonymous
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    Aug 7th 2015 !⃝

    i like aeroplane jellyyyy!!!!!!!

  9. anonymous
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    Jun 16th 2015 !⃝

    I think the song means that for a teenager he feels life is up nothing more in this world for him as for him the world as become a crazy, depressing,gone to wast place and that he does not wont to live in a world with such disgrace and pain.for he feels out of place and for he feels nothing any more.that no one wants to care for him and that he would be better of not in this world then to wast the rest of it being mirarble.

  10. anonymous
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    Jun 18th 2014 !⃝

    I've killed myself multiple different ways inside my head, as a kid, n thousands now as an adult, but here I am still living, maybe physically but not mentally..this song describes me perfectly:|

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 14th 2012 !⃝

    I thought it was about an old man who feels as though he wasted his life. He had lived the rat race life and now sees that he was so busy with day to day life that he did not truly live. And he feels regret about this. He can see the errors of others clearly because he now feels he spent his life chasing after something that is of no importance to him now money and fame ect. He should have thought outside of himself and connected with others to avoid his loneliness. Each of the verses had been about himself at one point or another in his life.
    My interpretation was inspired by the slower version. Adam is an awesome and terrific singer but he sings with energy that does not seem to match this song. The other guys lack of energy to me seems to be a better fit. This made the song more believable for me If I had just heard Adams version I probably wouldn't have been so curious about this song or have read all of your interpretations of this song.

  12. anonymous
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    Jun 13th 2012 !⃝

    This song calls close to my heart, for it is a lament about how the world isn't pure like we thought. We believed that the world was perfect when we were young, that we were invincible. I'm 15, and this song basically is exactly how I feel, that the world is filled with the teachers who have forgotten how to actually see, and people who have never truly been joyful.

  13. anonymous
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    May 25th 2012 !⃝

    we are so dependent on others for our own identities, that's what's mad.

    Every individual has their own perspective of what is special, but society sets it's own rules and borders.

    All of us are increadibly special children, and ought to be alowed to develop our great and special potential.
    However, the way we are special is not always loved or appreciated by others.
    We need to be loved by others, because it is society which dictates the norm.

    Most of us feel like we're freaks or invisible, and we cannot show how special we all are, because not enough people will listen,or be interested in us if we don't conform to the norm.

  14. anonymous
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    May 10th 2012 !⃝

    This son is actually dedicated to his mom bc she past away . He said it him self .

  15. anonymous
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    May 7th 2012 !⃝

    its about isolation, alienation, being depressed, suicidal sad, lost, lonely. feeling unloved. no one around you really knows you or is emotionally present. no one cares about you. everyone is fake and pushes the hurt under the rug. the message to you is just shut up and listen, follow rules, don't make waves. be a good child. perform. smile even when you feel like crying. look good. be of service. its scary when the grownups yell at you so you listen but inside you are in so much pain. you just want to be safe and warm and loved and nourished but instead you are in a cold world of hypocrisy. they don't see you as a person, but more like a machine. just obey

  16. BenjwaDavis
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    Feb 1st 2012 !⃝

    I think ultimately, yes its about life and death, and how everything, every situation seems to repeat itself, and he / humans are ultimately bored by this existence, he has however, never withessed or been affected by death, and thus, the dreams in which he is dying are the best he has ever had, because it is a new, unexplored emotion or event, thus, his dreams of leaving this world being the best henhas experienced, mak it a very mad existence.

  17. anonymous
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    Oct 11th 2011 !⃝

    @ anonymous 5th october. You dont need to go far in Africa. Infact you should base this song in europe. In africa , they already know their fate, they accept they are slaves to these twisted machine N.W.O [ Joint forces of multi - cooperative companies].
    The worst slaves are those who do not know that they are enslaved. They remind me of the frog that was put in a hot watered pot and jumped out because it was hot , but when the pot was filled with cold water and slowly the heat increased, it felt warm and enjoyed the water when it was too hot for it to notice , it died without finding time to escape. The people in the west are the frog in the cold watered getting heated up. Look at Greece , look at USa. You think it is going to end there. We are all sheep , being groomed to serve our masters. Once the shepherd is tired of us , He will decide our fate. We are running in circles because the system was desgined this way. We know it is a bad system , but we still do it day and night. We are sat like sheep waiting for a leader in the flock to lead the way to challenge the shepherd. THe only way to end this Mad mad world is through another entitiy, because man has failed to redeem himself from these evil shephereds . Who work day and night to keep us enslaved. My hope relies on an outward Entity - Jesus Christ Himself with his legion of angels . This is the only army that will ge rid of this infestation , taking down the Devil and the Mystery Babylon on its way. I cant wait for this day.

  18. anonymous
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    Oct 5th 2011 !⃝

    I just realized how perfect it is for a hopeless society as some in Africa.

    Hearing this video with pictures of african people suffering from famine and a hopeless society gave me the goosebumps. I really think it fitted.

    Far more than any concept based on the western civilization

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
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