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"Mad World" Song in Donnie Darko

16 Years Later, That Song From Donnie Darko Still Makes Me Want to Cry on a School Bus

Next to certain smells, nothing triggers my memory faster than a song. Like most people, I imagine, I'll find myself going about my day as normal when, all of a sudden, I hear it: a song that rips me out of present day and dumps me back in a memory I'd all but forgotten about, like some sort of audio time capsule.

Hearing a certain Kate Nash song is a one-way ticket to the foot of my college boyfriend's bed, the spot where we broke up for the sixth time. One note of Carol King's "Where You Lead" and I'm in the passenger seat of my parents' rusted Honda while my mom spills Diet Coke all over the cream-colored leather.

That same visceral sensation of memory rushes through me anytime I hear Gary Jules's "Mad World," which I keep running into because of Donnie Darko's 16th anniversary. The song, which is a cover of the 1983 Tears For Fears classic, is me as a melodramatic teenager, tearfully staring out the grimy window of my bus ride home, crying just to cry. It's also me pasting gloomy lyrics like "I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had" in my AIM away message (dark gray background, light blue font, asterisks everywhere).

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It still holds up.

Image Source: Everett Collection
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