It was probably inevitable that Kate Bush’s song ‘Running Up That Hill’ would have a second wind. The song, which has a pivotal role in the latest season of Netflix's Stranger Things, currently sits in the Billboard Top 10 – a higher chart position than when it was first released 37 years ago.
There’s no underestimating the cultural impact of Stranger Things – and its soundtrack has always garnered praise with music supervisor Nora Felder having won three Emmys for it.
But the track also has struck a chord because of its sound.
What Felder has done so adeptly is find a throwback hit that fits with current music trends. In this case, the 80s nostalgia that’s been fomented by the very TV show that it soundtracks.
Felder told Variety: “I believe that if it was written and recorded today, it would fit right in and not be considered a ‘dated’ sound in any way.”
Our tagging AI agrees, assigning the song genre tags for 80s Pop and Pop with elements of Indie. This is a genre mix that is not uncommon in modern tracks, partly due to the enduring artistic influence of 80s hits from the likes of Kate Bush and her peers.
Those tags are also partly down to Bush’s choices in instrumentation – choices that are back in fashion. ‘Running Up That Hill’ features an 80s drum machine staple, the LinnDrum, for the galloping rhythm part and a very early sampler, the Fairlight CMI for the instrumental hook. Both of these instruments are readily available in software form and are frequently deployed in synthwave and pop.
The other important tags that we see in this track are dark and dramatic moods which supervisors and catalogue owners can use to quickly find suitable alternate tracks for sync purposes.
Can this success be replicated?
Of course, there’s always going to be an element of luck in getting a placement like this. Syncs that weave a track into the plot in the way that Stranger Things has, don’t come along every day, and rely on many factors that are beyond the control of catalogue owners.
However, the success of retro-future tracks like those by Kate Bush, point to experimental artists of yesteryear being a good bet for big syncs of the future.
Does that success translate to TikTok?
Beyond sync though, every creator on TikTok is expected to cultivate some of the skills of the music supervisor. And throwback hits have been enormously successful on the platform. It would be easy to see ‘Running Up That Hill’ as a comparable success story to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ or Edison Lighthouse’s ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)’, but this would be an oversimplification.
‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)’ was used on millions of TikTok videos because its lyrics are descriptive and easy to follow. ‘Dreams’ went viral when @doggface208 used it to capture a perfect mood coasting on a longboard.
Conversely, ‘Running Up That Hill’ doesn’t have a clear, relateable visual motif or mood that TikTok users can latch on to. Even though nearly a million videos have been made using the song, the conceptual lyrics have meant no single video trend has emerged.
So, while the Kate Bush track is a perfect fit for the themes of Stranger Things, its continued success beyond the run of the show is less certain, at least on TikTok. That is, unless the show’s writers use it for some other purpose in the final two episodes, dropping July 1st.