The Meaning Behind “Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode
Decoding Depeche Mode’s Capitalist Critique
Depeche Mode, British electronic music band noted for its gloomy, industrial sounds and profound lyrical content, hit a home run with their 1983 song “Everything Counts.” The song, which soon became an anthem of critique against the 1980s’ unbridled corporate greed, is a caustic examination of the capitalist mechanism.
“Everything Counts”, produced by Gareth Jones, Depeche Mode & Daniel Miller and released on July 11, 1983 as part of their album “Construction Time Again,” marked a transition from Depeche Mode’s earlier, more solemn love ballads to more complex, socially aware topics. This transformation was visible not just in the lyrics of the band but also in their use of sampling technology to incorporate common sounds into their music—a sign of their criticism of the industrial world.
“The grabbing hands grab all they can / All for themselves, after all,” the song’s refrain, conveys the core of the song’s condemnation of corporate selfishness and the materialistic lifestyle that pervaded society at the time. This sentence reveals the unquenchable nature of consumerism, implying a society where profit is prioritized before human values.
Martin Gore, the band’s principal songwriter, stated that the inspiration for “Everything Counts” originated from his developing political knowledge and his reaction to societal injustices. He went on to explain, “I say in the song ‘the grabbing hands grab all they can,’ and that’s really about how – by then I’d really started to see the world in that way – the people with power, the companies with power, it seemed to me they were all out to take everything.”
This viewpoint struck a chord with listeners who saw – and continue to see – their own societal concerns mirrored in these comments.
The song’s historical setting is also crucial. The early 1980s were characterized by economic turmoil, Thatcherism in the United Kingdom, and Reaganomics in the United States, both of which promoted deregulation, privatization, and reduced government spending. While these measures helped the economy, they also exacerbated the divide between rich and poor, prompting the critique in Depeche Mode’s songs.
“Everything Counts” became one of Depeche Mode’s most popular tracks, peaking at number 6 on the UK tracks Chart and becoming a live staple. Its reception demonstrated the general public’s support for the message, confirming its importance beyond the band’s normal fan base.
“Everything Counts” lives on not only as a danceable piece with an addictive chorus, but also as a historical document that depicts the spirit of the time. It’s a strong reminder of music’s ability to reflect and challenge social and economic norms. Depeche Mode’s strength resides in their deft combination of pop tastes and thought-provoking lyrics—a formula that allowed them to create songs that are as danceable as they are serious.
Depeche Mode asks listeners to question the systems around them in this song, demanding a reconsideration of our beliefs. “Everything Counts” is a timeless echo of the notion that, in the larger scheme of things, honesty and social conscience should count for everything.