Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Durer Self-Portrait

7:00 AM

Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait, 1500

Using only two chords, a down beat looped on an 8-bit computerized MIDI sequencer, the introduction to Tears for Fears's song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is the kind of intro that elicits prolific head nodding and side to side body movements; resting somewhere in the interim between standing still and dancing like a maniac. 

"Welcome to your life," the song begins, "There's no turning back," everyone receives a life, a purpose- no returns, trade-ins or refunds. "It's my own design, it's my own remorse," everybody has control over the way their lives play out ; any grief or regrets that result from a bad decision, is purely our own. The line "Help me make the most of freedom, and of pleasure," one's ambition to live up to their potential, and the whole song builds up to the simple phrase "Ev-ery-bo-dy-wants-to-rule-the-world". At first one thinks "Well everyone may want to rule the world, but not everyone can rule the world, it's impossible," But I think Durer and Tears for Fears offer an interesting solution. Simply, the idea of "ruling the world" is subjective. Wealth and power aren't the only ways one can rule. 

For Durer, he rules his world by becoming the all-mighty Jesus Christ. In his painting Self-Portrait in a Fur Cloak, Durer does everything to appear more jesus-esque from changing the colour of his hair and creating a more triangular composition, to imitating Jesus' hand positing. Unfortunately, Durer does not realize ambition often houses ramifications of its own. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" warns that, "nothing ever lasts forever." After one desire is satisfied, another one takes its place, anything thought to bring "freedom and pleasure." It's a never-ending cycle leading to nowhere, and I see this quite often in Durer's works.  

I've never particularly liked Durer. His paintings make me uncomfortable in an unsettling sort of way. It wasn't until I listened to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" for the 114th time that I realized how absolutely heartbroken Durer looks as Jesus Christ. It's not immediately noticeable, but in each one of his paintings (his self-portraits or otherwise) a tiny sprinkling of melancholy dims the intensity just a tad. Durer's portrait is powerful. No doubt about that, but when I gaze into Durer's eyes, when I look closely at the tension on his temples or the uncertainty in his lips-- there's a certain, almost wistful, heavy heartedness.

 I feel Tears for Fears captures this same haunting feeling almost perfectly in "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."It's lighthearted, playful, and indicative of a good time. Yet the lyrics and tone in which they are sung still send chills down my back. It's not a song I can listen to only once, and Durer's Self-Portrait in a Fur Cloak is not a painting you can glance at only once.

You Might Also Like