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Tears for Fears on the Long and Arduous Journey to The Tipping Point, Their First Album in 17 Years

Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal discuss rediscovering their personal songwriting for a modern album

Tears for Fears, photo by Frank W Ockenfels III
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    Tears for Fears are set to return this year with their first full-length in over a decade and a half: The Tipping Point. Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal had taken time off as a duo throughout the ’90s and only released their reunion album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, in 2004, so the gap between LPs wasn’t entirely unusual for the band. However, the reasons why it took so long this time around was because of a thoroughly modern situation.

    “There was this move to try and get us to somehow be relevant to today’s market,” Orzabal tells Consequence over Zoom, “which is probably different than a few years ago already. There wasn’t really any of, ‘You guys go in the studio, do something great, and we’ll release it” — none of that whatsoever. It was, ‘You guys go into the studio, but we don’t trust you, so we are going to put you with some guys who really have their finger on the pulse nowadays.”

    While those management-induced writing sessions with folks like Sacha Skarbek (Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”) and Bastille’s Dan Smith led to some fine tracks, it didn’t add up to a true Tears for Fears record.

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    “It wasn’t personal enough. It didn’t have a storyline to even the album,” explains Smith. “It didn’t have highs, it didn’t have lows. It was just, here’s an attempt to hit, here’s an attempt to hit, here’s an attempt at something modern. It was just so in your face and trying so hard that it really didn’t breathe at all. It didn’t give you a chance to think about what these songs are about, about where these people might be at now or about their lives right now.”

    Realizing that this album-by-committee approach wasn’t working for them, Orzabal and Smith moved on from their old management and did something they hadn’t done since they were teenagers: Sat in a room together with acoustic guitars and wrote music. The first song they came up with was the opening track and second single, “No Small Thing,” and a truly modern Tears for Fears record unfolded from there.

    “I’ve always said that The Hurting was the only true Tears for Fears album, and then we kind of distilled the whole thing and made it big and commercial,” says Orzabal. “But now I feel that all this time later, we have an album which bookends our work: The Hurting and The Tipping Point.”

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    Hear what else the duo has to say about their new album, their legacy, and the 20-year cycle of “Mad World”‘s popularity (“There’s probably a cosmic cycle which we are aligned with,” laughs Orzabal. “The 20 years cycle of Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions”) via the player above. Then stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Tears for Fears, which finds the duo discussing their upcoming tour with Garbage; you can get tickets to those dates here.

    For more Tears For Fears, check out the duo’s appearance on The Story Behind the Song, where they shared the origin story of “Mad World.”

    Trouble viewing the video above? Watch on YouTube.

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