Their first album The Hurting (1983) featured synthesizer-based songs whose lyrics reflected Orzabal's bitter growing-up experiences with his parents. Its singles were "Change" and "Pale Shelter". The follow-up album, Songs from the Big Chair (1985), broke out of the new wave mold and featured a big sound that would become the band's stylistic hallmark. It was a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic and yielded the hit singles "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".
It was 1989 before the group released its third album, The Seeds of Love, at a reported production cost of over a quarter-million dollars. The album retained the band's epic sound while showing increasing influences ranging from jazz and blues to The Beatles, the last of which is extremely evident in the hit single "Sowing the Seeds of Love". Another single was "Woman in Chains," on which Phil Collins played drums and Oleta Adams — whom Orzabal would guide to a successful solo career — shared vocals.
After The Seeds of Love, Orzabal and Smith had an extremely acrimonious falling out, and Smith went on to release an unsuccessful solo album. In 1993, Orzabal recorded the album Elemental in collaboration with Richard Griffiths, and released it under the Tears for Fears moniker. It yielded the hit "Break It Down Again" and included the song "Fish Out of Water", a personal swipe at Smith. Orzabal and Griffiths released another Tears for Fears album in 1995, Raoul and the Kings of Spain, a more quiet and contemplative work that showed a new Latin music influence. (Raoul was originally the name Orzabal's parents wanted to give him.) It failed to perform well on the charts.
After a period of inactivity, Orzabal reteamed with Griffiths and released the 2000 album Tomcats Screaming Outside as a solo project, under his own name. As Elemental and Raoul had essentially been solo projects, the sound is identical to Tears for Fears, combining big production values with varied songwriting influences.
In recent years, Orzabal and Smith patched up their differences and began work on a Tears for Fears reunion album, tentatively titled Everyone Loves a Happy Ending, originally scheduled for release in late 2003; in October of 2003 the reformed group signed with Arista Records which announced that the new album would be released in early 2004.