Mad World by Gary Jules

A Sad Closed World

Poetry has always been used to express resentment over one’s generation and era. Gary Jules’s 2003 international hit, Mad World, criticizes human society through the eyes of a troubled teenager. The song includes a jumble of characters, which shift in and out of the narrator’s point-of-view. As the narrator goes through his average day each of the characters seem to emit feelings of hopelessness and despair. A lone piano and slow melody helps to create a brooding and melancholy atmosphere, asserting the sense of despair felt by the songs speaker. The message of Mad World asserts that living in an isolated box of a world is not an existence; it is a prison sentence.

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Despair may be contagious and also timeless. The song, which reads more like a poem, first describes, through the inner-monologue of the narrator, the sad drudgery felt by the people around him.

The sadness around him affects him deeply, infesting him with the same sense of hopelessness, which is reiterated throughout the song. “Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow / No tomorrow, no tomorrow.” The repetition of certain lines in the song helps to exemplify the narrator’s loss of hope, as he loses faith in the world around him. As the song continues, the world contracts around the narrator, causing the narrator to search for an outlet from his misery. Though the message of this song is complex, its musical elements are very simple.

Sometimes the simplest means of communicating are the most significant. In this particular song, only a lone piano provides musical assistance. The song can also be described as being a solo act; only Gary Jules provides vocals, creating loneliness in the song. The songs slow progress and low key add to the depressed mood of the lyrics. The lyrics themselves help to exemplify the loneliness and sadness the narrator feels. “Went to school and I was very nervous / No one knew me, no one knew me / Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson / Look right through me.” No one understands the sadness that the teenage narrator feels, nor does anyone seem to want to. Yet, the narrator does not actually seek others until the end of the song, leaving him isolated in his own misunderstandings. This helps to chronicle the misery the narrator experiences as he searches for himself outside the bounds of the average world.

Sometimes the simplest words can provide all the explanation that is needed. Though Mad World is essentially a very short song, its brevity adds to feelings of anguish. With its brevity, the song conveys that the speaker doesn’t have the energy to explain his misery, or why he feels this way. Though there are other people around, his narrative is spoken in a way that makes him seem completely alone. “I find it hard to tell you / I find it hard to take / when people run in circles.” Though Mad World never completely explains why the narrator is so miserable, by the lyrics we can infer that he is somewhat frustrated with doing the same thing day in and day out. This may have contributed to his need for escape.

Similar to the narrator of Mad World, many teenagers feel oppressed, in need of escape. At the time I first heard this song, my grand father had passed away, we did not have electricity, or sewer, and we were literally short of money. The emotional confusion and need for escape portrayed in this song seemed to exemplify that I was not alone in feeling this way. Though I already knew this, it was comforting to actually hear it coming from someone else. The sound of the song and its mood seem beautiful to me though saddening. Though, particularly, I am not a sad person, it is important to recognize the sadness of others, to understand that we are never alone and it a normal emotion. It is also important to realize that we can not let our emotions restrain us, and imprison us in a very mad world.

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