“Mad World” has had a strange life, first released as a Tears For Fears single in 1982 before being covered more sparely for Donnie Darko and achieving, like that film, a sort of cult eternal life. The spare piano version of it is, at this point, a shorthand for cinematic ennui, popping up in video game trailers and endless TV shows, and it’s a go-to cover for piano players and troubadours worldwide. Its direct lyrics and circular structure easily convey a sense of quiet resignation that massive audiences have connected with, suggesting in its popularity that many throughout the world have felt themselves quietly yearning for the release of death.
But hey, can you make that shit happy? That’s what this cover version, transposed into a major key, attempts to find out. And guess what? You fucking can!
Full of bright studio drum rolls and bouncy piano chords, it wouldn’t be out of place on the opening credits of a mid-’80s sitcom about a group of office workers who also play baseball together or something. What a mad world we live in! Larry invited the new boss over for dinner and life is an endless parade of disappointment, failure, and vain self-medication! He burned the roast chicken!
Check out the Michel Gondry-directed video for the Donnie Darko version below.