On this week’s Billboard Hot 100, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” soars into the top 10 after decades off the chart, reaching a new peak at No. 8 after previously climbing as high as No. 30 upon its 1985 release. The stunning re-entry won’t come as a shock to Stranger Things fans, though: The smash Netflix series made Bush’s single a dramatic focal point in season four, which premiered on May 27, with “Running Up That Hill” soundtracking the emotional turmoil of Max (Sadie Sink) and serving as a key part of episode four’s dramatic climax.
Longtime Stranger Things music supervisor Nora Felder has accrued dozens of ‘80s hits for synch use over the course of the series, but “Running Up That Hill” was special — not just because it’s the first song that the show has directly helped crash the top 10 of the Hot 100, but because Bush is famously reclusive, and rarely gives the go-ahead for her songs to be used in film and TV projects. Yet Bush happened to be a Stranger Things fan as well, and even issued a statement last weekend proclaiming the “Running Up That Hill” revival “really exciting!”
Following the song’s top 10 arrival, Felder answered Billboard’s questions over email about her relationship with Kate Bush’s music, the process of securing “Running Up That Hill” for Stranger Things season four, and the significance of the song’s chart return.
What’s it been like experiencing the outpouring of love and enthusiasm toward “Running Up That Hill” and the rest of the music in Stranger Things season four over the past 10 days?
With regard to the phenomenon of this surreal Kate Bush moment, I’d have to say my reaction is still, “Ummm, is this really happening?!?” I was hopeful that Kate’s song would resonate for the show and be significant for today’s youth for a variety of reasons. But honestly, who could have possibly imagined or foreseen this lightning-in-a bottle moment?
On a broader level, I am also grateful for all of the positive responses to the music, which of course owes a substantial debt to [showrunners] the Duffer brothers and the tremendous work they have done with season four. From my perspective, one of the wonders of Stranger Things is that it has a way of connecting each of the songs to its multigenerational audience around the world in very unique ways.
“Running Up That Hill” re-enters the Hot 100 chart at No. 8 this week, after initially peaking at No. 30 upon its release. How does it feel knowing that the show is responsible for the song’s highest chart peak to date?
For me, that reflects the power of a meaningful, timeless song – such as “Running Up That Hill” – and how its significance can be revived and reconceived when it is married to a remarkable story such as Stranger Things. The popularity of Stranger Things appears to have breathed new life into a song that deserves to be heard and reheard for decades to come.
This season and Kate Bush’s song really seem to touch on the experience of alienation and emotional struggle that a lot of teens have been and continue to be going through, albeit in different ways. Moreover, it reminds me that when we can’t find the support and understanding we may need from others, we sometimes turn to music that relates to our experience as a much needed source of validation and strength. To me, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” seems to does just that.
Because of how prominently the song is used in the new season, including during the emotional climax of episode four, did you have an inkling prior to the new season premiere that there would be an explosion of new interest in the song?
The way “Running Up That Hill” has been thoughtfully used in Stranger Things is similar to how The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was used for season one of the show — which had a resurgence of its own. In starting the clearance process, one of my passionate selling points to Thuy Lam (Warner Records) and Amy Coles (Sony Music Publishing) was that this would be like the Clash song (used prominently for season one) in that it was so integral to the season.
Thuy and Amy, who were working together as a united front, understood that completely and helped set up the “hoop shot” with Kate Bush’s camp. While going through the process, we anticipated a huge amount of interest, but none of us were prepared for this explosion. I know I mentioned it earlier, but this truly does feel like a magical, lightning-in-a-bottle moment rooted in that rare and profound marriage between a poignantly relevant storyline, a profoundly important song, and their connection to the spirit of the times.
You’ve spoken about the process of deciding upon “Running Up That Hill” to soundtrack Max’s emotional struggles. Were you a big fan of the song (and of Kate’s music in general) prior to landing on it for the show?
I lived in New York City in the mid ’80s and couldn’t get enough of the music scene there. There were so many great radio stations, concert/show venues in all shapes and sizes and an incredibly diverse culture of music. I remember hearing “Running Up That Hill” for the first time (on WLIR I believe) and was immediately drawn to it. It wasn’t like anything I had heard before. I bought the CD (Hounds of Love) and proceeded to devour the rest of the album. As a matter of fact, I still treasure that album to this day. Recently I’ve told people, “Go ahead and take a listen to Kate Bush’s album and tell me that some of those songs couldn’t have been released today. Go on … I dare you!”
Approximately how long did the process take, in terms of weeks/months, from deciding upon “Running Up That Hill” to finalizing the deal for its use?
It all happened within a couple weeks. The song idea locked in pretty quickly. We knew it had to be this song and preceded that way. When the clearances for the uses in the first few episodes were sent in, it took another day or so to lay things out carefully in the scene descriptions so that Kate would have a full understanding of the context of the uses. Then we sent them off.
We were asked a few questions to clarify certain aspects, but honestly, it all went pretty smoothly. Through this process we found out that Kate Bush was a huge fan of the show, so I think that helped a great deal with her knowing the Duffer brothers have always taken such great care in telling their story.
Kate Bush issued a rare public statement over the weekend about “Running Up That Hill” and how she’s a fan of Stranger Things. What’s it been like having a legend like her show such appreciation for your show and its music?
It was such a breath of fresh air to hear Kate Bush’s public message this weekend, particularly since it was my understanding that she’s known to be a very private person. I also believe that her decision process/mantra in relation to her art (the music) is simply to follow her heart. I truly believe her decisions throughout life are not motivated by anything else other than that. She clearly loves Stranger Things, and has a deep respect for the Duffer brothers’ vision. The fact that she allowed her song to be aligned with such powerful messages warms my heart. It makes me incredibly happy that a whole new audience is re-experiencing her song, and hope it can provide a source of strength, as many run up their own hills in life.