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Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Essay Example

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Essay

The lyrical content of the Tears for Fears’ song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” suggests a synthesis of commentaries on human existence and political practice. While the song’s grounding lyric of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” appears to carry a certain political message – more specifically, a political criticism – the remaining lyrics of the song seem to communicate a personal message that could be understood on an individual level. Arguably, the lyrical success of the song hinges on the double political and existential meaning of the text, which in the following essay we shall attempt to examine.

The opening lyrics of the song are direct, expressing a certain existential commentary that addresses the finitude and individualism of human life. The song’s opening couplet, “Welcome to your life/There’s no turning back”, explicitly addresses two themes. The first line stresses the individual nature of human existence: in the last instance, every life is an individual life, and everyone has his or her own unique experiences throughout the narrative of existence. This idea is re-enforced by the subsequent line “There’s no turning back”, which suggests the finitude of life: everyone is given only one life, and this life is all there is. Moreover, the lyric intimates a certain directionality of time, which makes the listener think about the existential decisions one makes in life, and how each decision is final, unable to be revoked. Contrasted with the relatively happy-sounding jangling melody, these words in themselves evoke a certain pessimism when one thinks about the ultimate finality and banality of life.

The following lines–although immediately appearing to be ambiguous–can be understood as clarifying the idea of the song’s lyrics functioning as a commentary on human existence and politics. “Even while we sleep/We will find you acting on your best behavior” is ambiguous insofar as the appearance of the “we” is sudden, and it not exactly clear to whom this “we” refers. Nevertheless, taking these lines in context, it appears that the lyrics evoke the voice of a narrator who addresses a generic “you” about fundamental issues of existence. This suggests that the “we” could be imagined to be some creator or director of the universe and existence, a god-like figure; or it could refer to some political apparatuses, such as ideology, that even though they appear to be “asleep”, or in other words, appear to be hidden and absent, are nonetheless present in their authority: individuals still act according to this authority, even though this authority is at times absent. This line’s ambiguity is arguably what takes the song in another direction.

The following lines leading into the chorus certainly appear to be an explicit political critique of capitalist ideologies: “Turn your back on Mother Nature/
Everybody wants to rule the world.” The lyrics criticize a guiding ideology that rejects the natural order of things, or in other words, the interdependence of human life with nature. This leads into the song’s main line of “Everybody wants to Rule the World”, in which the “everybody” evokes the universality of this concept: it suggests that existence has become too individualistic and hegemonic.

The second verse returns to themes of existentialism and human finitude. The lyric “It’s my own design/ and It’s my own remorse” certainly emphasizes the typical existential motif of the ability for one to create the conditions of their own life. Nevertheless, the next line rejects this individualism by asking for “help to decide” and “help me make the most of freedom and pleasure”: in other words, despite this individualism that is the natural condition of existence, to maximize the freedom that comes with such conditions, what is required is a relationship with another person. Thus, these lyrics can be read as rejecting the radical individuality that is discussed throughout the song. After this plea for assistance, this section of the lyrics nonetheless close on a pessimistic note: “Nothing ever lasts forever and everybody wants to rule the world,” appears to recognize even the futility of this relationship to the other, when it is contrasted with the general indifference of other human beings.

The following verse, although at first glance even more obscure, repeats this same pessimism, but once again contrasts it with the importance of relationships and breaking from the individual hegemonic ideology: The line “A room where the light won’t find you” suggests a way to escape those who destroy the world through greed. The following lines express the narrator’s anger at this very destruction, with an explicit critique of the world’s “lack of vision”. It is the societal decision to destroy the world that is a lack of vision, insofar as despite the freedom of existential possibilities, people nevertheless decide for authority, power and control. The line “one headline why believe it?” repeats this same rejection of the capitalist way to live the world. The song closes with a pessimistic repetition of the main refrain “Nothing lasts forever/Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which appears to suggest that despite the foolish choices of humanity, even these choices are not forever.

The song “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” effectively contrasts existential problems, such as human finitude; the meaningless of existence; and the need for relationships, with selfish individualistic approaches to human life that ultimately are the grounding political ideology of the age. The lyrics portray the essential banality of this ideology, with a certain pessimistic acknowledgment of the selfish nature of human beings. As such, the song effectively synthesizes a commentary on individual human existence with a critique of the greater political order and its determination of this very existence.

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