Seen Your Video: The Black Dancers in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 5, 2009
Tears for Fears were always a band out of time. Oh, they were 80s through and through, from the hair cuts to the synth horns to the overly-emotive vocals. But despite being a band permanently associated with a time period, they were an oddly peerless group. Think about it–who, if pressed, would you say was Tears for Fears’ closest point of comparison? What other bands would they have hung out with then? What do their fans tend to look or act like? Who today would cite them as an influence–either ironically or sincerely? It’s hard to say with any of these, because their appeal is such a jarring one–a mixture of the brazenly commercial (huge hooks, anthemic choruses, immaculate production) and the unapologetically insular (obscure lyrics, obsessions with Primal Scream therapy, being named Roland Orzabal) that just isn’t found much anywhere, let alone the top of the charts. It’s that quality that makes their biggest hits so indelible, I think–the way the songs manage to sound and feel so familiar, and yet totally singular.
This quality extends to their music videos, as well. These were traditionally big, widescreen productions, from the sweeping cinemtagrophy of “Shout” to the mini-drama of “Head Over Heels” and the integrated animation–after Peter Gabriel was doing it, but before EVERYONE was doing it–of “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” But they were still videos with mysteries, with ambiguous plots and elements you just couldn’t put your finger on. Prime example would be their biggest hit of all, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The song was intended as a “driving song,” meant to appeal to us simple Americans and our highway-blazing ways, and the video certainly features no small amount of actual hitting the road to drive that point home (pun semi-intended). But that concession to populism aside, the video’s weird–like a Duran Duran video directed by Jim Jarmusch, featuring lots of open, sparse landscapes and strange characters given little story or background.
The weirdest of all, of course, has to be the two black dancers. They show up from nowhere during the song’s instrumental break, at the gas station where much of the video takes place, both handsomely dressed in the exact same fashion, like two of the remaining Drifters or Platters. In front of the gas pumps, they perform a perfectly synchronized dance number as Orzabal’s guitar echoes on in the background. It’s my favorite part of the song, actually–where after having built the song’s intensity for the last two and a half minutes into that booming chorus, everything drops out but the drums and that brilliant, shimmering guitar line that introduced the song, as gradually the bass and keyboards add to the melody until it just explodes into Orzabal’s piercing (albeit not terribly virtuosic(?)) guitar solo. The build-up for that last, biggest chorus is absolutely incredible, so tense and emotional…and here it is being soundtracked by this borderline-offensive synchronized dance bit.
And it works. It works so beautifully. I can’t possibly explain it. I hesitate to even try. But something about it–maybe its just the combination of music and fluid motion, maybe its something disquieting and sad about the dance routine, maybe its just the fact that you put just about anything over that instrumental break and it’ll look brilliant–something about it I find ridiculously compelling, almost moving. I have no idea who these guys are, what Tears for Fears or director Nigel Dick (who, by the way, also went on to direct another of my all-time inexplicable favorites, Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova,” and a whole bunch of other classics) saw in them, how or why they ended up being in this video. But they made it a classic, they made it absolutely unforgettable. No amount of additional highway driving (or plane flying, or dune buggy riding, or any number of the other transportational methods featured in this video) could have made up for that.
Tears for Fears. What a great band.