The Ten Best Songs That Sample Tears for Fears

Tears for Fears
Peter Noble/Redferns

Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears circa 1984. 

The new-wave fixation of Abel Tesfaye has existed since he prominently swiped from Siouxsie and the Banshees on his first mixtape, House of Balloons. But The Weeknd takes his early-MTV obsession to a new level on his most recent album Starboy -- particularly on early highlight "Secrets," where he both borrows a hook from The Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" and outright lifts a post-chorus sample from Tears for Fears' "Pale Shelter."

Tesfaye's in relatively rare recent company when it comes to referencing The Romantics, but he's far from the only artist from the pop and/or hip-hop world to find inspiration in the grand arena-pop drama of Tears for Fears. Here are the 10 best songs to sample the music of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, in roughly chronological order. (And thanks as always to for their tireless efforts to properly catalog these things.)

Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (1984)

The first high-profile sample of Tears for Fears was also probably the most noteworthy. Band Aid, the British supergroup assembled by Bob Geldof to record the then-biggest charity pop single of all-time, used a slowed-down snippet of the drums from the title track of Tears for Fears' debut LP The Hurting to introduce the much-hyped "Do They Know It's Christmas?," the reverberating shuffle setting a near-hymnal tone for the proceeding anthem.

Cash Money & Marvelous, "Ugly People Be Quiet" (1988)

The most elegantly fist-pumping intro in '80s pop, the cascading pianos that begin the group's Songs From the Big Chair smash "Head Over Heels" make for a natural lift to raise the emotional stakes for any ensuing production. Of course, in the case of Cash Money and Marvelous' "Ugly People Be Quiet," it turns out to be a master fake-out: After 15 seconds of majestic ivories, the sample cuts out in favor of bleating synth stabs over a stuttering beat, with MC Marvelous yelling for the less attractive in attendance to kindly pipe down.

Blackalicious, "40oz for Breakfast"

Five minutes into Blackalicious' life's-a-bitch story about drinking yourself into oblivion, he stops spitting and lets the sax from Tears for Fears' Big Chair deep cut "The Working Hour" take him away to a better place. It's sad, but about as graceful a musical exit as any of us could ask for.

Nas feat. Amerie, "Rule" (2001)

Not a proper sample as much as a thorough interpolation, Nas re-created the distinctive guitar intro and gently driving groove to Tears for Fears' signature hit, 1985's "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," for his own uplifting Stillmatic cut "Rule" -- even re-creating most of the chorus, with the help of guest vocalist Amerie. He probably should've sprung for the proper sample -- the minor dissonance can be distracting at times -- but the general idea is never a bad one.

The Diplomats, "So Free" (2004)

The Dipset crew have always been respectful appreciators (and appropriators) of pop's past, and in '04 they borrowed the dramatic release of Tears for Fears' minor The Seeds of Love hit "Woman in Chains" for their Diplomatic Immunity 2 declaration "So Free." Shame that most of the song showcases little-remembered Diplomat S.A.S., but Killa Cam can't resist making a short cameo near the song's end to declare "With car cables, y'all still ain't jumpin' me."

David Guetta, "Always" (2007)

The instantly recognizable xylophone hook to Tears for Fears' early hit "Change" is almost too obvious a choice of a sample to build a club banger around -- and indeed, German Eurodance crew Culture Beat beat David Guetta to the punch by a decade and a half. But Guetta's use of it is probably more inspired, just letting it quake in the background throughout, always threatening to break into the forefront but recognizing its greater menace lurking in the shadows.

Kanye West, "Coldest Winter" (2008)

Again, not a proper sample but a major interpolation, as Kanye West repurposes the vocal hook to one of the most grandiose Hurting tracks, "Memories Fade," to properly illuminate his own 808s and Heartbreak emotional low "Coldest Winter." Maybe for the 20th anniversary tour, he can bring Roland and Curt out to trade off choruses with him.

Drake, "Lust for Life" (2009)

Another Hurting lift, as Drake and producer Noah "40" Shebib take the skeletal drums to mid-album ballad "Ideas as Opiates" for the stark backdrop to one of Drizzy's early ruminations on love, life, and (pre-)fame. Considering that the album was never enormously successful in the U.S. -- peaking at No. 73 and failing to spawn a single top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 -- the way even the deep cuts from The Hurting have continued to reverberate in American pop and hip-hop remains remarkable.

The Avalanches, "Live a Lifetime Love" (2016)

One of the all-time sneakiest Tears for Fears samples, The Avalanches drop a blink-and-you'll-miss-it snatch of the twinkling drum intro to Tears for Fears' 1985 chart-topper "Shout" about a minute into their Wildflower cut "Live a Lifetime Love," which never appears again. As rapid-fire as the drop is, for those who grew up on the group's new-wave staples, it'll detonate in your brain like an alarm clock, and have you hitting rewind to make sure it wasn't just some bizarre acid-wash flashback.

The Weeknd, "Secrets" (2016)

The paranoid roller-disco highlight to The Weeknd's latest LP, and the early peak of his M A N I A mini-movie, "Secrets" is about as inspired as distant new-wave echoes come, deploying its Romantics lift for maximal chorus impact, and then using the Tears for Fears sample as an exclamation point afterwards. It's nearly too much of a good thing, but it's still undeniable, and undoubtedly Curt and Roland are grateful to still find themselves at pop's center three decades after their own commercial peak.


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