Running Up That Hill: The Stranger Things Effect

Almost four decades after its release, Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill (A deal with God)' hits the charts again as it features in Stranger Things 4. Warning: spoilers ahead.

Running Up That Hill: The Stranger Things Effect

On May 27, the long-awaited first part of Stranger Things 4 arrived on Netflix. The second part (that, according to its producers, promises to be more different than anything we've seen of the show so far) hit the streaming platform on July 1.

With an impressive impact, Stranger Things 4 became Netflix's most successful premiere, with over 2 million hours watched across the globe. Today, it is one of the platform’s most-watched shows of all time, surpassing Chris Van Dusen’s Bridgerton (2020).

There are many reasons for the success of this show, from its thrilling plot, amazing special effects, 80s aesthetic, and the outstanding performances of the cast. But there is an aspect of great importance when it comes to making this show as iconic and engaging as it is, and that is related to the time in which the story takes place: the music. 

Since season 1, music has had a fundamental role as an articulator of the plot, and in conveying and expressing a character’s feelings. It is to expect that a show with such an audience and reach will set new trends or even bring back forgotten ones. In 2016, The Clash 1982 hit ‘Should I or Should I Go' became a substantial part of the script, as Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) uses it to talk with his mother Joyce (Wynona Ryder) and his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) while he's trapped in the Upside Down. Soon, the success of the first season made the song a trend among the newest generations and became an icon of the show.

As it happened six years ago, season 4 features 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)' from the British singer-songwriter Kate Bush and is trending on social media. 

Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)

Running Up That Hill was the lead single from Kate Bush's 1985 studio album 'Hounds of Love'. At first, the singer decided to work under the title 'A Deal with God', but EMI (the record label she was working with at the time) disagreed. Bush first gave in not to use that title. Later, the introspective nature of her music took her to finally use the title 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)'. 

Over the first weeks of its release, the single reached number 3 on the UK single charts, and number 30 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the United States. Years later, the song was featured in several films and series, the latest one being Stranger Things 4. 

A classic brought back to life

On the show, 'Running Up That Hill' is featured in one of the most iconic scenes of the season. In this scene, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) has been trapped by Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), the antagonist of the new season, and dragged to the Upside Down. Back in the real world, her friends (played by Joe Keery, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) try to rescue her by playing her favourite song. 

Searching through her collection of cassettes, they finally find Kate Bush's 'Hounds of Love' and play 'Running Up That Hill' on Max's walkman. Playing the music opens a portal between the Upside Down and the real world, allowing Max to see her friends trying to save her. In this parallel world, she can hear the music too and starts to remember all the good times she spent with her friends, becoming aware of the affection that surrounds her. Motivated by this feeling, Max is able to set herself free from Vecna and run towards the portal to the real world. 

With a strong message about feeling alone but finding comfort in friendship, this is a very emotional scene with a deep connection to Bush's classic. As the series creators have stated in several interviews, Max is going through a tough time and has been isolating herself from her friends – feeling like she is climbing alone on the high hill that life has become for her.  

This is a very moving scene now perfectly associated with a timeless song. As a consequence, Kate Bush's song has captivated millions of young fans across the globe, bridging the generation gap between the 80s audience that first loved the single and the newest generations that got it to the highest positions in charts around the world. In response, Kate Bush has opened up about the fact that her song is trending and escalating the charts again after four decades. In a statement on her web page, Bush wrote: 

"You might’ve heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of  'Stranger Things’  has recently been released on Netflix. It features the song, ‘Running Up That Hill’, which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show - I love it too! Because of this, Running Up That Hill is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at No. 8. It’s all really exciting! Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song. I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July. Best wishes, Kate."

The role of Film and TV productions in spreading music

'Stranger Things' is one of the many cases in which a piece of audiovisual media has collaborated with the spread of new music or brought back classics from the past a little closer to younger audiences. Many other productions such as: Disney's 'Cruella' (which features the most iconic songs from the 60s British rock scene), Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (with Starlord's 'Awesome' Mixes), and Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot (featuring music from the British glam rock band T Rex), have captivated the younger audiences introducing them to past classics. 

Today, where communication is faster and easier, it is very easy for a song to become a trend after being introduced to social media using audiences. Even the shortest pieces of media, such as TikTok videos, have a direct impact on making a song a trend. Lately, social media users have manifested a new found love for ABBA after nearly four decades from the band's split. Maybe this is why they say music is a timeless phenomenon.


Candelaria Gómez

Candelaria Gómez Contributor

Hey! I'm a violinist and music student based in Argentina. I love art in all its expressions -and I love to write about it.
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