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Kate Bush Breaks Records With Stranger Things Success Of ‘Running Up That Hill’

The resurgent popularity of Kate Bush’s 1985 heartful ballad ‘Running Up That Hill‘ continues this week (June 17th) as the single claims its first-ever UK number 1, beating Harry Styles’ 10-week reign with ‘As it was’. Last Friday (June 10th), her single reached number 2 in the Official UK Singles Charts, marking it a chart best for the iconic British singer. Now Bush has claimed her second UK number 1, after her debut ‘Wuthering Heights’ charting in 1978. The re-entry won’t surprise Stranger Things fans as the song features throughout Season 4, which premiered on May 27th and serves as a key part of episode 4’s climax.

The success means Kate Bush has broken three official chart records with her new UK number one: 

  • The longest gap between number 1 singles with 44 years between her last chart-topping single ‘Wuthering Heights’
  • The longest time taken for a song to reach number 1 in the Official Singles Chart – taking 37 years.
  • The oldest female artist ever to score a UK number 1.

This is the third time the song has entered the UK Top 10 charts. Upon its original release in 1985, ‘Running Up That Hill‘, the lead single from Bush’s fifth album ‘Hounds of Love’, was only a minor success reaching number 3 during an 11-week run, falling into darkness in a decade filled with pop hits from the likes of Prince and Madonna. In 2012 it re-entered the UK singles chart, climbing to number 6 after the song was re-recorded and featured in the closing ceremony of that year’s Olympics. And now, in 2022, the timeless single is resurfacing again to a new generation of listeners thanks to its prominent use in Season 4 of the Netflix series Stranger Things

Bush made a rare statement acknowledging the resurgence of her 1985 single,  calling it “utterly brilliant!”. The statement is the third in just over a week from the notably private singer expressing her delight at the song’s renewed popularity,

“it’s hard to take in the speed at which this has all been happening since the release of the first part of the Stranger Things new series. So many young people who love the show, discovering the song for the first time. The response to ‘Running Up That Hill’ is something that has had its own energy and volition. A direct relationship between the show and their audience and one that has stood completely outside of the music business. We’ve all been astounded to watch the track explode! Thanks so much to everyone who has supported the song”. 

The song’s third meteoric rise isn’t strictly a wave of new UK audiences discovering the single and Bush’s legacy, but rather quite the global phenomenon, with her single reaching number 1 in various countries worldwide. This week, Kate earned her highest ever Top 10 in the US with ‘Running Up That Hill’ climbing to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. The song is currently the most-streamed song in the world each day on Spotify, making it number 1 on the Spotify Global Chart with over 7 million plays a day. 

Despite being 37 years later than expected, ‘Running Up That Hill’ finally has the recognition it deserves thanks to its “new lease of life” in Season 4 of Stranger Things. Premiering in 2016, the 80’s sci-fi horror series sees a group of kids navigating their way through numerous supernatural events occurring around the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, with deep connections made to a hostile alternate reality, the ‘Upside Down. Series 4 features ‘Running Up That Hill‘ throughout as a recurring theme for one of the main characters Max Mayfield and plays a vital part in episode 4’s dramatic climax. In the episode, Max is brought to the ‘Upside Down’ and is possessed by Vecna; her friends learn that music has a unique way of grounding people back to reality and quickly blast Max’s favourite song, ‘Running Up That Hill’ though her cassette tape. Bush’s infamous song opens a portal back to reality for Max to escape Vecna’s control, successfully avoiding death.  

The song symbolises Max’s emotional turmoil, breaking up with Lucas and grieving the loss of her brother Billy. The track touches on experiences of alienation and emotional struggles that many teens go through in different ways. 

“It’s very much about the power of love, the strength that’s created between two people”… but that strength can also be threatening, violent, dangerous as well as gentle, smooth, loving. And it’s saying if these two people could swap places”… that perhaps they could understand the feelings of that other person in a truer way”

Bush talking about her single in a 1985 interview. For Max, this relates to her relationship with Billy, filled with love and hate, while also wishing she could swap places with him. The song fits perfectly in the series as a metaphor, symbolising the power music has on us and how we turn to music for validation and strength. 

The series includes plenty of nostalgic 80’s pop culture references, so finding a powerful, emotional song for Season 4 was always going to be a challenging task – for music supervisor Nora Felder, something clicked with ‘Running Up That Hill‘. However, getting Bush’s sign-off was never guaranteed as she’s famously known for being reclusive, rarely giving the go-ahead for her songs to be used in projects. “Kate Bush is selective when it comes to licensing her music; because of that, we made sure to get script pages and footage for her to review”, explains Wendy Crowley, Sony Music Publishing’s SVP. Yet Bush happened to be a Stranger Things fan and even shared that she had “watched every series” of the show and “really loved it“. “When they approached us to use ‘Running Up That Hill’, you could tell a lot of care had gone into how it was used in the context of the story and I really like the fact that the song was a positive totem for the character, Max. I’m really impressed by this latest series”.  

It’s not uncommon for older songs to resurface when introduced to new, younger audiences. Recent examples include the resurgence of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ after the 2018 Freddie Mercury biopic and when Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 roaring track ‘Killing in the Name‘ topped the UK singles chart around Christmas time of 2009. For Bush, her chart-topping success reflects the power of a meaningful, timeless song and how its significance can be revived when paired with an extraordinary story such as Stranger Things. The music can now be heard and reheard to its multigenerational audiences worldwide, resonating with all in different ways. Here’s to having more Kate Bush in the charts!

Words by Nicole Horwood

Posted On 4 October, 2022