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Why Kate Bush's Stranger Things Revival Is Even More Impressive Than It Seems

The Netflix-fueled resurgence of "Running Up That Hill" is breaking all kinds of precedents.
  • 1980s era Kate Bush, photograped by her brother John Carder Bush.
    1980s era Kate Bush, photograped by her brother John Carder Bush.

    While it's obviously remarkable that Season Four of Stranger Things has turned Kate Bush's 37 year-old song "Running Up That Hill" into a hit all over again, the track's renewed success is even more impressive than it might initially seem.

    It's not just that the song — which serves as a theme for Stranger Things character Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) — has caught on with a new generation of viewers. The surge in interest has also helped it break quite a few precedents on the pop charts.

    Here are some of the song's notable achievements:

    • "Running Up That Hill" is currently #8 on Billboard's Hot 100, after peaking at #30 way back in 1985. That is the longest-ever gap between a song's debut and its first appearance in the top 10.
    • This is also Kate Bush's first-ever top 10 hit in America. (She's had several in her native U.K.) After decades as a beloved alternative artist, she's suddenly in the mainstream alongside Harry Styles and Lizzo. It's hard enough for an alt rock artist to crack the top of the Hot 100, but it's unprecedented for a legacy alt rocker to make her first top 10 appearance after so many years.
    • Let's talk about how Kate Bush got this high on the Hot 100: Thanks to Stranger Things, "Running Up That Hill" is #1 on this week's digital sales chart, with 18,300 copies sold. That's a solid number, considering that last week, Lizzo was number one on the sales chart with just under 12,000 copies. It's remarkable that a song this old, which so many people already own, is selling so well.
    • Along with sales, the Hot 100 incorporates streams and airplay to determine where a song will chart. Bush is doing great streaming numbers as well, arriving at number six on the streaming chart with almost 18 million streams. (These days when you hear about an older song charting, it's almost always because of streaming, since that component is weighted so heavily on the Hot 100.) So far, "Running Up That Hill" has been number one on Spotify for the last six days, suggesting its popularity could last longer than the initial buzz created by the show's release. And speaking of longevity...
    • "Running Up That Hill" is also being re-promoted to radio. That means Bush's record company is pushing the song like it's a brand new hit, and it's looking for airplay on stations that play current tunes instead of stations that only play classic rock. That's incredibly rare, because labels want listeners to focus on what's new. By reactivating "Running Up That Hill," the record company is indicating its faith that the song is going to outlast this first wave of attention. Here's a thread (written by yours truly) on other older songs that have been reactivated at radio, including "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen and "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers.
    • Meanwhile, "Running Up That Hill" was written by Kate Bush alone. It's only the 30th top 10 hit of the last decade to be written by one person, and it's the first top 10 hit to be written by one woman since "Dance Monkey" by Tones & I in 2020.
    • Kate Bush produced "Running Up That Hill" by herself, as well. To emphasize how rare that is, consider that the last #1 hit to be produced by one woman was "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys, which was releiased in 2001. Maybe by storming the charts with a song she created alone, Kate Bush can help women artists get more opportunities to show what they can do in all sectors of the music industry. To borrow a phrase... stranger things have happened.

    Stranger Things Season 4 Vol 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

    People are talking about Stranger Things in our forums. Join the conversation.

    Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.

    TOPICS: Stranger Things, Netflix, Kate Bush, Sadie Sink