Music education always & always looking forward.

Two Time Signatures at Once: Cross-Rhythm in Tears for Fears's "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"

Simple vs. compound meter duke it out in this intro. So many ways to count it & group the notes!


Another 80s smash hit, but a great example of cross-rhythm in what is often regarded as a goofy pop song.  I personally think that Tears for Fears were far ahead of their time, and although they did not quite capture lightning in a bottle with their later albums, they laid the groundwork for a lasting legacy in their heyday.

Can I also say that Songs from the Big Chair is a deeply underrated album?

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” - Tears for Fears

Intro: An English new wave band, Tears for Fears experienced large commercial success in both the US and the UK in the 1980s. Their album Songs from the Big Chair, on which “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” appeared, reached #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart as well as topping the albums charts in Canada and Germany. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” topped the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in 1985 and topping charts in Canada and New Zealand as well (reaching #2 on the UK Singles chart). The song won the 1986 BRIT award for Best Single. The band has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.

Analysis: The meter of the song is unclear at the start, although it has been published in at least one instance in 12/8 time.  At the start, the drum beat is a duple (or simple) beat, indicating 3/4 time (asymmetrical simple meter), while the guitar line could support a 3/4 pattern, but gives an indication of 12/8 time (symmetrical compound meter), The cross-rhythm heard here makes for a notable introduction, until the bass guitar and other instruments come in before the first verse is sung (at :10 here in this video), and make it clear that this song is in fact written in duple-triple meter (written in 12/8).  The drum beat emulates the rhythm of the guitar line in the intro throughout the remainder of the song. The cross-rhythmic feel comes back into play as the opening instrumental motif appears again (2:02 in this video recording, with an additional instrumental line, played in symmetrical compound meter, starting at 2:19 in this video recording) and then again as an outro (unfortunately not heard in this video rendition, as it was common for songs to fade out in 1980s music videos).

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no offensive language or subject matter and serves as a good listening example when discussing cross-rhythm, especially within the greater structure of a song.

Typical Rush Time Changes: Changing & Asymmetrical Compound Meter in Rush's "Tom Sawyer"

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