As song titles go this one is where we are at now, with lives, jobs, social discourse, and family ties, disrupted. Roland Orzabel (below left) wrote the song in 1982 when he was a member of UK group Tears For Fears and dealing with depression and feelings of alienation in his own life. His fellow vocalist in the group, Curtis Smith (below right) brought his darker, melancholic vocals to the song, and the recording was an unusual 80’s synth-driven dance track with heavy percussion, and became the band’s breakthrough UK hit, climbing to #3. Tears for Fears would have great success globally with three smash hits in 1985, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Shout, and Head Over Heels.But Mad World would be re-born in 2001 when Gary Jules (below left) and Michael Andrews (below right) covered the song for inclusion on the soundtrack of what became the cult movie, Donnie Darko. Their treatment was more stripped down, foreboding, and beguiling, as a set of piano chords dominated the track with a mellotron imitating a cello (as in Strawberry Fields Forever), light touches of an electric piano, and the chorus recorded via a vocoder synthesiser, it was a global success, hitting #1 in the UK after it was lifted from the movie soundtrack.
The music video was directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and begins with an aerial shot of a school; the bell rings and children go out onto the pavement. The rest of the video sees the children forming different animated shapes whilst Jules stands on the roof and watches from above. On two occasions the camera pans towards Jules looking down at the children, whilst a third pan away sees Andrews playing a piano as the song ends, the video has over 146 million views since it was uploaded to YouTube in January 2006.
Curtis Smith paid tribute to the re-inventors of his song in April 2020 while staying at home under general quarantine orders, as he and his daughter Diva performed an acoustic guitar rendition of Mad World using the style of Jules and Andrews, Diva is brilliant.