This song is about the quest for power, and how it can have unfortunate consequences. In an interview, the band's producer Chris Hughes explained that they spent months working on Shout and near the end of the sessions, Roland Orzabal came into the studio and played two simple chords on his acoustic guitar, which became the basis for the song. Said Hughes: "'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' was so simple and went down so quickly, it was effortless, really. In fact, as a piece of recording history, it's bland as hell."