There are times when I hear a song and it offers perfect context to a personal situation, and that’s why I love it. Other times, songs are given perfect context by movies or TV shows. Such is the case with the Tears for Fears song “Mad World“, as covered by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews.
From the CD booklet In the Hurting: Remastered and Expanded, Tears for Fears vocalist/bassist, Curt Smith, says of the song “It’s very much a voyeur’s song. It’s looking out at a mad world from the eyes of a teenager.” I definitely think that meaning was achieved perfectly by the Gary Jules version, courtesy of Donnie Darko.
What I find interesting about the melody is that he is sticking to the notes of an “F” minor chord, meaning all the piano keys with little dots on them. When he uses a note outside of the triad, it’s still within the F minor scale, except when he comes to the chorus.
The lyrics of the chorus are “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/ I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take/ When people run in circles it’s a very, very/ Mad world, mad world
When he sings the word “funny”, a “D” is added to the scale – which is the note just above “C” on the above chart, “C” being the highest dot – so “D” is the next white key.
Another thing I love about this song is the simple accompaniment – just a cello and a piano. The neat thing about the piano part is that it mimics the vocal line, playing descending notes of a triad.
I think it’s one of my favorite musical moments in a film.