This week, in the aftermath of Stranger Things Season 4 debuting, English singer/songwriter Kate Bush experienced a remarkable renaissance, as her iconic 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” became a chart-busting hit across multiple streaming services. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, the song reached the top 10 on Apple Music in 34 different countries, becoming one of the most-Shazamed songs of the week and getting permanently stuck in every viewer’s head — hopefully music supervisor Nora Felder is feeling pretty good about her accomplishment.
If you watched the new episodes of the show, this isn’t a surprise: In the show, “Running Up That Hill” has a huge impact because it’s not just a casual needle drop — it saves a girl’s life. Max (Sadie Sink) is seen listening to the song, her favorite, early in the season, and when she gets targeted by the malevolent demon nicknamed Vecna, she nearly succumbs to his attack until her friends use the song to bring her back. The sequence in which she breaks free from Vecna’s attack, which blends the Bush track with an epic score, is perhaps the high point of the entire season.
In the fervor over viewers either discovering or rediscovering “Running Up That Hill” this week, there were a few snide comments about the kids today needing a damn TV show to help them discover a great artist. But especially as the ways in which people discover music start to decline (when was the last time you listened to a radio station?), it’s worth appreciating how great soundtracks have the power to expose new audiences to artists that might not be familiar to them — especially artists from generations past.
While being included in a movie or TV show soundtrack isn’t the primary goal of any musical artist, the way music and cinema work together can give these songs a new resonance for audiences. Wayne and his pals head-banging to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore getting intimate to The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter watching the world crash down to The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.” All of these are great songs on their own merits, but they became immortal thanks to their placement in Wayne’s World, Ghost, and Fight Club.