COVER vs ORIGINAL: ‘Mad World’

‘Mad World’ was originally released in 1982 by the British pop band Tears for Fears.

by Hayley Beasley Dye

It was their first taste of chart success and reached number three in the UK charts. The Tears for Fears version is deliciously 80s featuring synthesizers and heavy percussion. The beat is an uptempo one and the various rhythms and electronic sounds create an almost dizzy sensation.

In contrast, the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version is stripped down and sober. It only features a piano, cello and very subtle effects on the vocals during the chorus. This vocal effect in the chorus creates an eerie atmosphere, symbolic of the madness as professed by the person in the song.

This version was originally featured as part of the soundtrack for the wonderful 2001 film Donnie Darko. At the request of fans, the song was eventually released as a single at the end of 2003, when it became the Christmas number one in the UK, beating the bookies’ favourite ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)‘ by the Darkness.

‘Mad World’ becoming number one after a year of war in Iraq was by no means a coincidence. I recall people commenting that it was a fitting Christmas number one for this particular year as it did indeed reflect a “mad world”.

The strong distinction between these two versions and the intensely reflective mood that is generated by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, makes it one of the best cover versions ever produced.

But which version is better?

They are both so different from each other, that I don’t think I can actually choose. I love them both for very different reasons. Some days, I’m more of a Tears Fears kinda girl and on other days, I’m just in the mood for the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version.

What do you think? How does this cover version live up to the original?

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  1. I remember when this was out at Christmas. It was very apt. I remember people saying how depressing it was for it to be No.1 over Christmas, but I liked it. I think it’s beautiful. It brings a new perspective to the original, but I tend to like the “darker” stuff so I prefer this one 🙂

    1. Yes I think people either found it too depressing for a Xmas no.1 or they thought it was brilliant that it was no.1. I definitely thought it was great. It is a very beautiful & moving cover indeed.

  2. OK, so. I was all ready to be diplomatic and say both. However. I just listened to both. And for me, the cover wins. Yes, I am a Donnie Darko fan, but more than that, there’s a story within the second one, and that makes me feel more.

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