An iconic scene in ‘Stranger Things’ has made this 37-year-old Kate Bush song a number 1 hit
It’s not every day that an obscure relic from ’80s alt pop completely dominates the charts, takes over social media and becomes a Gen-Z approved cultural phenomenon more than three decades after its original release … all over the course of one weekend, no less. But Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” has done it, thanks to “Stranger Things.”
The widely popular Netflix show has been bringing ’80s pop culture back into the mainstream since its premiere—particularly with things once considered very uncool, like Dungeons & Dragons. But “Running Up That Hill,” wasn’t just used to instill nostalgia or redeem something previously weird (although it does that too). The song plays a pivotal role throughout the season that audiences are responding to on an emotional level.
When a young girl named Max (played by Sadie Sink) becomes haunted by the death of her stepbrother Billy, she starts playing the song over and over again on her Walkman to process her grief.
The lyrics “If I only could, I’d make a deal with God, and I’d get him to swap our places” seem to perfectly encapsulate what she might be feeling under her generally tough exterior, and to some extent what anyone who has faced irrevocable loss might feel.
Bargaining, attempting to postpone pain by imagining these “what if” scenarios, is a stage of grief many of us find ourselves in. Though that isn’t necessarily the song’s original meaning, it just works in this context beautifully.
Later, that song is the very thing that saves Max from the evil alternate dimension known as the Upside Down. It pulls her mind away from the darkness and back to her friends, her world and herself. I think everyone has their own “Save Me From The Upside Down” song—a tune or even a whole album that connects them back to their humanity, which is why so many viewers were touched.
Funny enough, for me that lifesaving music is Kate Bush, so this whole moment is super vindicating. Is this what being a hipster feels like?
If you have somehow never witnessed the utterly dramatic, super eclectic, whimsical-yet-bonkers music of Kate Bush, you’re in for a treat. For some, her vibe was way too out there. In fact, according to Unilad, “Running Up That Hill” was even banned from MTV for being “too weird.”
For others, like me, Kate Bush was a spiritual experience.
Not only did it help me escape from otherwise dreary times to fantastical realms, nothing made me feel more encouraged to embrace my own nonconformity. During my teenage years, that was everything.
Below is the original music video for “Running Up That Hill”— complete with interpretive dance moves—just to give you a taste of Kate Bush’s genius.
Since it was released in 1985, the song has been covered numerous times by artists including Tori Amos, Tiffany and Placebo. But for the most part, it has been held in reverent obscurity by only diehard fans. The latest season of “Stranger Things” not only catapulted “Running Up That Hill” to No. 1 on iTunes, it has younger generations now obsessed with all things Kate Bush.
Even the bizarre way she pours tea has gone viral on Twitter.
any new kate bush fans must see this VERY IMPORTANT video of her pouring tea pic.twitter.com/1lDIPOLKzQ
— ada #ISit (@enayessa) May 29, 2022
Is it unsettling to see an artifact from your formative years suddenly be part of the public zeitgeist? Yes, it is. But mostly it’s delightful.
“Stranger Things” is at its heart a story that celebrates outcasts. From the beginning it’s made heroes of outsiders and helped younger audiences appreciate things older generations might have once held shame in loving.
Bush’s music is a flavor of uplifting weirdness the world could really use right now, and how thrilling it is to see its much-needed renaissance.
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