Something strange is afoot in global music charts this week — despite a slew of releases by heavy hitters like Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar and Jack Harlow, an ’80s chart-topper is climbing the charts on iTunes and Spotify (streams spiked more than 8,700% globally last week). Running Up That Hill, a track from singer-songwriter Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love, is currently trending big. The nearly five-minute-long synth-pop banger features several times in the fourth season of Stranger Things. And though the track may have been a discovery for some viewers of the show, Kate Bush loyalists were quick enough to trace the connection between the song and season four’s chaotic storyline.
On the show, the song seems to be Max’s (Sadie Sink) favourite track as she listens to it on her Walkman, almost constantly. But there’s more to it. When the telepathic new villain Vecna targets the Hawkins crew, fans learn that music could turn out to be the teenagers’ secret weapon, as it can help shatter the psychic hold Vecna has over their minds. In Chapter Four, Max is targeted by Vecna as the demon takes hold of her psyche and rushes it to the Upside Down. Her friends quickly figure out that by playing her favourite song out loud, they could bring her back to reality.
Max running from Vecna in the Upside Down trying to reach a portal to the real world which has Running Up That Hill blaring through it – has been deemed the standout scene of the show for its obvious significance. But it turns out that the song’s relevance to the show is quite layered.
The song references a ‘deal with god,’ which is Bush’s attempt to understand her partner’s perspective in a relationship. To put it simply, it refers to switching places. In Stranger Things, Max mourns the death of her step-sibling Billy. She writes him a letter where she confesses that she finally understands him. And it is near Billy’s grave where Max would succumb to Vecna’s powers.
“As Max runs from Vecna’s isolating grip, or from evil, as an absence of love, she ultimately runs toward connection and the spiritual outpouring of love powerfully manifested by her dear friends who have heroically fought to understand what she needs and rescue her from a solitarily hell of utter separation and eternal isolation,” Nora Felder, the show’s music supervisor, said in an interview.
Bush’s thumping tribal beats and synth work make Running Up That Hill an eclectic ballad about lived and imagined realities and also about isolation, which is a recurring theme in the show. “In some ways, this scene can be understood as alluding more broadly to the inner struggles with private demons that many teens wrestle with during troubled times, especially when feeling alone and estranged from others,” Felder says.
Twitter obviously has a lot of thoughts about the glorious comeback of this ‘80s hit: