By Julia Duggan
Fans have patiently waited for 17 years for new music from the band Tears for Fears, a pop rock band that formed in 1981, and this is an album that everyone needs to hear. Their new album called “The Tipping Point” is inspired by a series of personal and professional setbacks and losses that happened to the band members.
For band member Roland Orzabal, he drew his inspiration from the death of his wife in 2017. The singer describes in an article by the Rolling Stone how he watched his wife become a “ghost of her former self” and based the title track on a hospice situation.
“The line in the song says, ‘Will you ever know when it’s the Tipping Point?’ meaning, will you ever know when a person has crossed that threshold from life to death when you cannot even perceive that ‘vague and distant void’ as it’s described in the lyric,” Orzabal said in the Rolling Stone article.
Curt Smith, the other band member, pointed out professional setbacks involving failed attempts at collaborating with artists. Smith described in the article that the “sessions were an epic disaster” and thus “another tipping point.” While the band did not plan on taking such a long break in between albums, both members are very proud of their new record.
This album perfectly captures all the pain and suffering the world has gone through in a pandemic. Without meaning to, with the United States striving for a return to normal — or something close to it — the album perfectly captures the confusing mixture of emotions everyone keeps experiencing during the pandemic. Whether or not this was the intent, all the songs on the album match the new style of recording music during a pandemic. This style gives the music a distant feeling and emphasizes suffering and sorrow.
For example, the song “Rivers of Mercy” starts with cars honking that immediately cuts to a siren that can easily be interpreted as an ambulance weaving through traffic. The siren slowly fades to the background as the music comes in with the first lyrics, “well the streets have started burning, there is troubles in the towns, guess the devil loves his playground.” This paints a vivid picture of suffering and sorrow that anyone can connect to their own personal lived experiences.
Turning to the song “The Tipping Point,” the track carries an underlying tone of regret and nostalgia. The most common recurring lyrics — “who's that ghost knocking on my door? You know you want to love me more” — paints a vivid scene of lost and saddened memories. It also speaks to wanting more time with an individual, but the way it is sung highly suggests that more time is not possible. The artists did an effective job of conveying loss and wanting to relive past memories in writing and performing this song.
Another song on the album is called “My Demons” and it is quite powerful. It starts off with a driving beat, and the opening lyrics convey the speaker as a strong and powerful being that should not be messed with. It progresses to give examples where demons may be persuading someone to act in a bad way and how the speaker is conflicted on where to get advice from. Does he listen to his demons, or does he keep trying to run away from them? The song illustrates that everyone has their own demons and that it can be very hard to escape them.
For others that do not see the connection to complex emotions the world has shared together during the pandemic, the album has a slightly different tone to it. Avid fans of Tears for Fears will hear elements that can remind them of the big hits the band is known for. For example, the opening of the song “Master Plan” on the album has a very similar opening to another song written by the band “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” released in 1985. Another example is with the song “Rivers of Mercy.” As mentioned above, “Rivers of Mercy” starts with a sound one would hear moving about in the world and then slowly morphs into instruments playing. The same thing happens in the song “Sowing the Seeds for Love,” but instead of sirens the sound is either planes or race cars. It can be hard to tell which one it is.
Depending on the listener, they are going to come away feeling one of two ways: deeply connected to the pandemic and lots of intense emotions, or reminded of the same style that made the band popular in the 1980s, which is nice to listen to, but does not have any giant impact in a positive or negative way. Other listeners may not even feel an emotional connection at all with the music. Either impression of the album is valid, and the only way for the listener to figure out how they hear the music is just to listen to the songs.