Running Up That Hill twice
12 July 2022-
The otherworldly success of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" in recent weeks — for a song that is 37 years old — thanks to a streamed TV show says a lot about the way the music industry works these days...
Until fairly recently, if you asked people what they knew of Kate Bush:
- You stood a better chance of getting a comprehensive answer if said people were British;
- You stood a better chance of getting a comprehensive answer if said people were 40 or older (the author of these lines surprisingly falls in that category);
- You would most likely be told about “Wuthering Heights“, the breakthrough single that made her an instant star at age 19, or “Babooshka“, another enduring hit of hers which is almost as old (and over 40) and whose title is based on the Russian word for grandmother. Extremely sexy — and current — stuff.
Yet, Kate Bush is now witnessing a bona fide career high at the tender of age of 63, without having released an album of original material in over 10 years. Put simply, not something you see happen every day, even from an established artist — with a rather cult following to boot: acclaimed director Taika Waititi’s reaction to the whole story is quite telling in that regard, more on that later. So, then, what happened and suddenly made Mrs. Bush a new, or rather bigger household name than she already was?
A Netflix TV show happened, and that show is the extremely successful Stranger Things. In its newest — and fourth overall — season, a song written, produced and performed by Bush can be heard at a critical point in the story, as well as in a trailer that was widely shared — with a repeat in the season finale (we were told). That song is “Running Up That Hill“, one of her most well known songs, and also one of her best if we dare say so. Yet, up until then, it had not met the same fate as “Wuthering Heights” or “Babooshka” in terms of chart performance, let alone cultural impact.
The direct explanation for this second life, if it were, is obviously the success — and quality — of Stranger Things. Because the show is so well liked and because it artfully exploited the song in its storytelling, the end result is all the more striking. The fact that Bush gave away the rights is a testament to the show in itself: she rarely, if ever, does this, but happened to be a fan… Turns out that she got repaid in full: as it stands, “Running Up That Hill” circa 2022 actually reached greater heights than in its original run: in 1985, the song made it to #3 in the UK and entered the top 40 in the US; this year, it topped the charts in the former and got into the top 10 in the latter. Which had Waititi so pissed off: he had actually been planning to use several Bush songs into his later Thor vehicle, but relented after the rights were given to the show. Bitterly too: he felt a much greater connection to the material than the (much) younger audience watching Stranger Things and largely hearing the song for the first time…
That leads us to our second, even greater argument: this (beautiful) story says a lot about the current state of the arts in general and music in particular. More than ever before, various/all art forms are now interconnected: musicians craft ever more sophisticated videos and/or choreographed performances, filmmakers take an ever greater care of the soundtrack they put together, artists increasingly work in multiple spheres at once… And so art is becoming more and more of a multimedia effort, where music, film, writing, animation… all contribute to a richer end result. Does that make the relative weight of music lower? Not necessarily: it makes art as a whole different… Welcome to the new interconnected (art) world!