Arts, Review

Tears for Fears Makes an Underwhelming Return With ‘The Tipping Point’

★★★☆☆

After its sound dominated radio waves and cassette players in the ’80s, Tears for Fears reconvened on its new album The Tipping Point, released on Feb. 25. While it doesn’t quite top Tears for Fears’s early work, The Tipping Point is a respectable comeback for band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, but it doesn’t go above and beyond.

The classic ’80s sound of Tears for Fears is gone for the most part, but moments of its former brilliance shine through on the new record. “My Demons” and “End of Night” return to the complex synth-pop that the duo is known for, and the tracks catch the listener’s attention more than some of the subdued tunes on the album. 

The variation of sounds and genres is overwhelming at first but gives the album more depth upon relistening. “Please Be Happy” moves between jazz-inspired instrumentals to heavenly orchestral backing during the chorus. “No Small Thing,” an acoustic track, is a low-energy opening coming from the pop-rock stars known for their lively electronic beats, but it prepares the listener for this journey in the lyricism. 

The lyrics of The Tipping Point speak to Orzabal’s experience grappling with grief after the death of his wife in 2017. The duo succeeds in capturing a wide variety of emotions with the album’s lyrics. The frustration and pleading with God in the lyrics of “Master Plan” contrast the grief and agony of death in “The Tipping Point.” 

One aspect of The Tipping Point that feels off is Orzabal’s voice. Orzabal’s voice has never been a highlight or focal point of Tears for Fears, but his vocal roughness becomes distracting on The Tipping Point. There’s no room for Orzabal’s brassy voice to hide on the acoustic “No Small Thing.” What he has to say is beautiful, but he’s limited by his own ability.

Smith does a better job on the few tracks he sings on. Smith’s performances on “Stay” and “Please Be Happy” prove he’s the more talented vocalist of the pair. But Smith’s vocal contributions are sparse compared to Orzabal’s throughout The Tipping Point.

As comeback albums go, The Tipping Point is a solid return for Tears for Fears. But, in the band’s attempt to abandon its former sound, it created an album that feels jumbled with its discordant styles and vocals. The album doesn’t quite beat out the band’s early work, but stands on its own as a defensible effort.

Featured Image Courtesy of Concord Records

March 3, 2022
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