How ‘Stranger Things’ made Kate Bush #1 on iTunes

Last week, I logged into Slack with a confession: I had just cried while watching the latest season of Strange things, during a scene involving Sadie Sink, a tentacled monster, and a Kate Bush song. A co-worker who hadn’t seen the new episodes yet asked what song before immediately answering his own question. “‘Up that hill’?” Yes! Another added: “I feel like every Kate Bush song would make a good soundtrack to running from a monster to escape the Upside Down.”

We are, respectively, one gay man and two women, all born in the 1980s, and it is a testament to Bush’s enduring spell on a certain segment of our generation that we were able to quickly identify which Bush song should mark even the most esoteric Mad Lib. . What’s perhaps more surprising is that nearly 37 years after “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” hit No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, Gen Z would launch it back onto the charts and to No. 1. The Song, which was the first single from Bush’s acclaimed 1985 album love dogs, is currently the top track on iTunes in the US, UK, and Canada, beating artists like Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, and Lizzo. To this day, it is the number one song in the US on Spotify and the number two song globally. It’s also ranked 191 (not counting remixes) on TikTok, which may not sound that high, but it was previously ranked 761. Strange things dropped new episodes weekend.

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Twitter, being Twitter, initially erupted into an all-out generational war, with avocado toast-loving Millennials, wearing skinny jeans and parted on the side, rolling their eyes as Gen Z single discovered Kate Bush. But Kate Bush, being Kate Bush, can only inspire togetherness. The world is her coven, and there is plenty of room for more people to appreciate her witchy wiles.

We asked Nora Felder, the show’s music supervisor, how the song became the defining anthem of the season. “[Show creators] Matt and Ross Duffer asked me to help think of Max’s special song,” she says. “When I landed on ‘Running Up That Hill,’ it immediately caught my eye. I felt that [its] The poignantly voiced themes and powerful melodic flow could align especially well with Max’s story.”

Sink stars as Max, a tomboyish outcast who finds her people among the Hawkins kids only to be emotionally scarred when her stepbrother Billy is killed by a monster they call the Mind Flayer. (Spoilers for season four ahead.) She spends the first four episodes of the new season withdrawn, hiding her PTSD from her friends. This makes her vulnerable to the “big bad” of the series, a being they call Vecna ​​that she possesses and kills humans by feeding on her pain, isolation, and insecurity. (That’s where those tentacles come into play.) In the real world, Max goes into a trance; Meanwhile, her psyche is trapped in an otherworldly realm, the Upside Down, about to be killed by Vecna. That is, until her friends open a little escape hatch for her by playing her favorite song through a walkman. The song, “Running Up That Hill”, becomes her talisman for the rest of the season, always playing faintly through her looped headphones.

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Bush’s song was originally written as a plea for empathy, for men to better understand women by putting themselves in their shoes: “If only I could, I’d make a deal with God and get him to switch places for us.” she intones But in this scene, it’s Max’s friends, three teenage boys, one of whom, Lucas, has a crush on her, who are trying to get her to see things her way. When Bush first sang the words “Run that road, run that hill, no problem,” she was envisioning a romance free of pain and fueled by true mutual understanding. Over the rousing beat and soaring synths, it’s easy to listen to those lyrics and imagine that it’s Bush specifically who is freed up in the deal; she has gotten rid of the burdens and traumas that men place on the backs of women. But when Max runs to her friends with that same letter, he stands tall thanks to the support those silly but loving boys send him from the other side of reality.

When I put that interpretation to Felder, she approves. “In fact, the song captures the emotional disconnect between Max and Lucas and their friends. It’s the spiritual power of love that allows us to switch places and put ourselves in the shoes of those we care about,” he says, “which helps us to run”. climb those hills in life.

Bush’s music has been the special sauce for many soundtracks for decades, often subverting what’s on screen or taking on new meanings. What makes his music magical is that it’s so thematically rich and universally impactful that even when he makes clear the intentions he had in writing a song, he still strikes us as an emotional Rubik’s cube. He can spend hours turning it back and forth, intrigued by the moods he evokes.

Take, for example, when “Running Up That Hill” was implemented into the series premiere of FX’s Pose. He scored the doomed romance between a button-down ’80s corporate guy and the stunning transgender sex worker who seduces him. (The john works for, who else, Donald J. Trump.) When they kiss to the song playing on a car radio, they agree it will be your song. Skip to the next scene, and he violently brushes his teeth to get the taste out of his mouth before joining his wife in bed. However, the song is played again when they reunite in the final scene of the episode. It’s his song, an ode to a painfully optimistic fantasy.. It’s also a trick they’ve pulled on each other.

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Or consider when “This Woman’s Work” kicked off Hulu’s second season. The Handmaid’s Tale. The show took a song full of scintillating chords and melodious vocals, written for a John Hughes film, and played it over the horrifying image of 45 bound and gagged maids being roped onto a gallows. In Hughes’s 1988 romantic comedy she is going to have a baby, “This Woman’s Work” marks a scene in which Kevin Bacon’s character waits for his wife, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, to emerge from the complicated delivery of their first child. Bush wrote the lyrics from a man’s point of view as he reflects on his love and longing for a wife in the midst of his “woman’s work,” i.e. childbirth: “I’m out of this woman’s work, the world of this woman”, she sings “Oh, it’s hard on the man, now his part is done”. In handmaid’s taleset in a dystopia—and not too unimaginable—future where reproductive rights are not a beginning and women are personal property, the song is interpreted with heartbreaking irony. Versions of the song have been played on all of love and basketball a It’s always sunny in Philadelphia.

That a new generation can find the song and catapult it to new heights shows the power of both Bush’s music and the Strange things. “Running Up That Hill” has been interpreted as many things over the years: an ode to understanding, a hymn to spirituality, a song about pain and longing. It has now become a hymn to friendship and chosen families, whether it’s rooted in the nostalgia of growing up in the ’80s or the necessary coming together against adversity of a new generation facing countless crises. Either way, Kate Bush has us covered. “That’s the power of a great song,” says music supervisor Felder, “connected with a great story.”

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