Running Up That Hill - Song Review

By Grace Cooper

Spoiler Alert: Stranger Things S4 Spoilers Ahead!

Kate Bush’s 1985 song ‘Running Up That Hill’ has made a major comeback due to the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. It was number three on the UK singles chart in 1985 and now has become number one on the UK’s singles chart in 2022 (Smooth Radio). ‘Running Up That Hill’ has been played over 500 000 000 times on Spotify (from the 2nd of August). 

Kate Bush wrote this song about asking God for an individual to swap places with someone else. She explains to Smooth Radio “it's saying if the man could be the woman and the woman the man, if they could make a deal with God, to change places”. If two individuals swapped places, then all misunderstandings and problems in the relationship would be cleared due to understanding each other’s perspective from their own experience (Smooth Radio).

‘Running Up That Hill’ itself has a constant, progressive beat with a soft high voice in a pop and rock genre. It starts with a strong synth sound and strong beat that continues for the whole song. The lyrics, of the chorus are constantly repeated highlighting the importance and the message of the song. It also makes it catchier. There are background singers enhancing Kate Bush’s melodic voice. The song gets progressively louder but then quieter towards the end with a hold in the last note from the instruments and a fade out. The increase of volume builds tension and keeps the audience listening due to the volume changes in the music.

‘Running Up That Hill’ has become viral in 2022 due to season four of the Netflix series, Stranger Things. It has become very popular and highly viewed online through social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. In my own experience I have heard this song many times online even though I have just watched Stranger Things. ‘Running Up That Hill’ suits the aesthetics and era of Stranger Things as it is set in the 1980’s. Stranger Things has a very large audience across the globe ranging in ages and contexts. This resulted in their eyes being opened to Kate Bush’s 80’s hit. The usage of ‘Running Up That Hill’ in a television series has brought a different audience to enjoy the song compared to just parents in 2022 knowing the song.

The strong spiritual context of the song itself suits the storyline of Stranger Things because of the references to the Upside Down and Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), the villain of season four possessing a human being. ‘Running Up That Hill’ is repeated many times in season four, it is used in two major scenes. It is first used when Vecna attempts to kill an innocent teenager, Max and at the end of the season when the gang is looking over Hawkins. This song acts like a barrier between Max and the Upside Down, a way to save her from Vecna as it is Max’s favourite song. Most people have seen these scenes from the hit television show due to it being spread quickly online.

I really enjoyed Bush’s Stranger Things hit but due to the repetitiveness and virality of it online, I have become sick of hearing it on every social media platform and the radio. It is catchy, has a great beat and builds throughout the length of the song. Also, I really liked how it was incorporated in Stranger Things as it added to the nostalgia and realness of the period the show was set in

Grace Cooper is studying Media and Arts (Theatre and Performance studies). She loves all things theatre and performing. Another love of hers is coffee, especially from the coffee cart, it has become a necessary part of her university life. Grace lives on campus at Basser College and is Basser Play Officer as well.

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