Mad World is a 1982 song written by Roland Orzabal and sung by Curt Smith, members of the British band Tears for Fears. It was the band’s third single release and its first chart hit, reaching number 3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982. It has since been covered by an extensive list of singers, most notably by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews for the soundtrack of the 2001 film Donnie Darko. This version became a UK number one hit when it was released as a single in 2003.
Orzabal wrote the song when he was 19, living in an apartment above a pizza shop in Bath. Here he would spend his time looking out the window, strumming guitar and watching people going about their daily business. “It’s a bizarre viewpoint to watch people go about their daily routine, having to work for a living, when you’re sitting in a flat, unemployed,” he said. “That’s where it came from.”
The song is about a young person who feels out of place in this world, looking for ways to escape from its apparent madness. The song references the theories of psychologist Arthur Janov: the lyric “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had” refers to Janov’s premise that dreams of intense experiences, such as death, are the best means of releasing tension.
In keeping with the poignant simplicity of the Gary Jules version, this choral arrangement seeks to maintain the clarity of the text, with passing dissonances highlighting the word “mad”. The ending section includes overlapping motif ideas which can be effectively dramatised in accordance with the included performance notes.
This arrangement is available in three voicings – SATB, SSA and SAB – all with piano accompaniment.