While Kate Bush‘s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” remains a fixture in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 this summer, following its repeated use in the fourth season of Netflix’s Stranger Things, a new ’80s cult classic revived by the hit sci-fi series joins it on the chart for the first time.
Metallica‘s “Master of Puppets,” the 1986 classic instantly familiar to metalheads worldwide, makes its debut on the Hot 100 thanks to its use in a key scene of Stranger Things‘ fourth season finale. It starts at No. 40, marking the band’s first appearance on the chart since “The Day That Never Comes” hit No. 31 back in 2008.
Could the song end up joining Kate Bush in the top 10? And what legendary rock band might score the next big chart-boosting sync? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. Well, none of us predicted “Master of Puppets” (or Metallica in general) to be the big sync winner from the second half of Stranger Things’ fifth season. Now that it’s here and triumphant, does it make sense to you as the show’s latest showcased ’80s track to go newly viral, or does it come as something of a surprise?
Katie Bain: I guess none of us were considering Eddie Munson when making our previous predictions — but in the context of that character, this sync is obvious. The intensity of the song matches not only that character’s intensity, but the hellscape circumstances he’s using it to fight against.
Anna Chan: It practically feels like Vecna is tapping into my early-teens mind – or fate. What I’m saying is, Beavis and Butt-Head returned June 23 with Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, and a week later, one of their favorite bands gets a massive sync and blows up like it’s 1993 all over again? All I can say is this rules. Heh heh heh.
Gil Kaufman: At this point, nothing could surprise me. The Duffer Bros have displayed a pinpoint accuracy when it comes to weaving in clever throwback TV/film and Reagan-era radio staples into the show. And though seemingly nobody had this thrash classic on their bingo card, its seamless, dramatic sync in the season 4 finale makes perfect sense.
Jason Lipshutz: Yeah, I honestly regret not guessing a classic metal song, since Eddie Munson always made sense as the recipient of some squealing-guitar-riff anthem in the final two episodes of season 4. “Master of Puppets” was the perfect choice for that riffage (and kudos to actor Joseph Quinn for actually playing the song!), as well as the sort of slamming-percussion intensity that the sequence needed as Max tries to escape Vecna’s grip. It’s also just a fantastic, undying song — one on the shortlist of Metallica’s all-time best — so its revival makes total sense to me.
Andrew Unterberger: I’m a little surprised, yeah — watching the new episodes for the first time, I tabbed “Master” as the song most likely to get a bump, but I expected it to be relatively modest, particularly in comparison with “Hill.” I think I maybe underestimated how new and exciting the song might feel to younger viewers who hadn’t necessarily grown up listening to Metallica’s classic albums — or with their older brother playing the riffs from “Master” over and over in their basement for years on end.
2. Is there anything specific that the show’s two runaway soundtrack successes from this season (“Running Up That Hill” and “Master of Puppets”) have in common to you that could explain their mutual success — or are they just two really good and widely loved period-appropriate songs that were ripe for reviving?
Katie Bain: I don’t think there’s much of a commonality beyond excellence and inventiveness. Neither of these songs were obvious choices, and I think that’s why they’ve both experienced such success in the wake of their syncs: people were just reminded like, “Oh, this song totally slaps.”
Anna Chan: It’s a little of this, a little of that. They’re both really great songs from the period. But in addition, the songs fit their respective characters and scenarios exceedingly well. Max (Sadie Sink) had prayed for Billy’s death whether she realized it or not, as Vecna pointed out — in other words, making a deal with God, of sorts. And of course metalhead Eddie was living out his rock-god dreams while in his own real-life Dungeons and Dragons battle against the demobats – literal mind puppets of Vecna – in the Upside Down. They syncs are practically too perfect.
Gil Kaufman: To be honest, neither makes sense. One is a broody, nerd-favorite new wave nugget and the other a ferocious speed metal track most young viewers have likely never heard. Sure, both songs are classics, but kudos to the Duffs for making them an integral part of the storyline and convincing us that great music can, in fact, save the day. As for what they have in common, it’s nothing and they’re blowing up because Stranger Things is one of the all-time classic streaming dramas. Period.
Jason Lipshutz: Stranger Things music supervisor Nora Felder found a sweet spot with both “Running Up That Hill” and “Master of Puppets”: they’re both classic songs that aren’t as widely known or beloved as, say, an ‘80s hit by Madonna or Prince. Because of that high-quality/lower-profile status, most viewers could immediately connect with both songs as they’re used as plot devices in season 4, but come in to both without baggage or preconceived notions. For millions of people at this moment, “Running Up That Hill” and “Master of Puppets” are great songs, but they’re decidedly Stranger Things songs — that’s what helped them resonate, and hit the charts.
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t think it’s so much what the songs have in common as the way that they’re used in the show — not just as mood-setters, but integral plot devices. An effective needle drop is one thing, but introducing a song as a key character in the battle between good and evil is another entirely.
3. Speaking of “Hill” — while “Puppets” debuts at No. 40 this week, Bush’s signature hit rebounds to its original peak of No. 4 on the charts, not only topping the Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales charts, but bounding from 33-26 on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart. Was the release of the season’s final episodes its last gasp of chart momentum, or are we still underestimating its potential as a 2022 smash?
Katie Bain: I’m certain that “Hill” has been added to many a playlist by people who first heard it on Stranger Things, and that it will maintain rotation among these fresh ears for a long time. But, without new episodes of the show to continue propping it up, I don’t think the insane comeback it has experienced thus far can be matched.
Anna Chan: Good question! Let me dig out my Lite-Brite and see if I can communicate with someone in another realm who might have a better idea… Seriously, though, considering that Stranger Things season four busted up a whole host of viewership records and the show was already a massive hit prior to the latest episodes’ arrival, I suspect the show and songs will have the legs to continue as more and more people discover it over the next few weeks (and maybe months?) to see what the fuss is all about. And when the fifth and final season prepares to drop, I predict that the songs will climb the charts again as new viewers binge the existing episodes in time to be part of conversation around the grand finale.
Gil Kaufman: “Hill” feels like a moment in time. Once the next streaming smash comes along with a new/old soundtrack it’s likely to fade as quickly as it rose. Unlike Metallica, Kate Bush doesn’t tour, rarely releases new music and isn’t super active on socials, so the long tail on this one feels like it could be relatively short. Metallica, on the other hand, are proving to be excellent partners in extending the meme-ness with a series of viral posts, so that one might have more legs.
Jason Lipshutz: “Running Up That Hill” might not climb higher than No. 4 on the Hot 100 now that Stranger Things’ fourth season has concluded, but its radio rise suggests that it’s not going to disappear anytime soon, either. Unlike “Master of Puppets,” which has new cultural importance but will have its wider appeal blunted by its status as an eight-minute metal song, “Hill” is a straight-up perfect pop song that could work in any top 40 era. Don’t be surprised if the weather starts to turn and Kate Bush is still running up the upper reaches of the Hot 100.
Andrew Unterberger: Even after Bush crashed the Hot 100’s top 10 last month, if you told me that by mid-July the song would be growing faster on radio than the new Post Malone and Doja Cat collab, my brain would have short-circuited. But that is indeed where we are, and it might be the difference between “Hill” being a fun one-month anomaly and legitimately being a major 2022 smash that lasts the entire summer. And as its streaming and sales remain relatively steady… I certainly don’t think a climb into the chart’s top three is out of the question.
4. If you knew that Metallica’s highest-charting hit on the Hot 100 to date was 1996’s “Until It Sleeps” (No. 10), you’re probably either a huge Metallica fan or you work for Billboard. How does “Sleeps” hold up to you as Metallica’s unlikely lone top 10 hit over a quarter-century later — and do you think “Puppets” has a chance to join or pass it?
Katie Bain: I don’t recall the last time I heard “Until It Sleeps” until listening to it just now, and beyond being transported back to 1996, I was reminded that it’s not only a banger but that it introduced many of us with zero knowledge of metal to the genre when it hit Top 40 radio. I don’t take any personal offense to this being the lone Metallica song to make the the Hot 100’s top 10, but it would be cool if “Puppets” joined it there, as there’d a certain rock righteousness to a song that’s hard edges arguably precluded it from entering the chart upon its release ascending said chart 36 years later.
Anna Chan: How “The Unforgiven” and “Enter Sandman” didn’t reach into the Hot 100 top 10 is beyond me, especially as “Until It Sleeps” didn’t resonate with me as much as the aforementioned two. (“Unforgiven” still gives me chills, and now that I think about it, also fits Eddie’s story arc quite well — I mean, the kid “knows this fight he cannot win,” yet sacrifices himself for Hawkins and is still unforgiven by the townsfolk. Tragic.) Seeing as how “Puppets” is featured so heavily in one of the most memorable scenes in all four seasons of Stranger Things thus far, I can see it making a slow and steady climb into the top 10. Calling it at No. 9! (Or I could tap into my inner geek and say a peak of No. 20 for a fitting D&D connection…)
Gil Kaufman: If you had one night on Earth and “Sleeps” was the only song from Metallica you could listen to, that would be a boring night indeed. The song is, frankly, by-the-numbers metal that lacks the high-wire, unhinged energy of “Puppets,” which will hopefully surpass it on the charts and give the band a chart peak that truly represents the screaming rock sound they helped pioneer.
Jason Lipshutz: “Until It Sleeps” is probably the… eighth most well-known Metallica single? Is it even that high? Bizarre song to stand as the band’s highest-charting Hot 100 hit, and it’s a bummer that the timeless “Enter Sandman” could only make it to No. 16. I’d be surprised if “Master of Puppets” jumps into the top 10, so the just-okay “Sleeps” will likely stand as an interesting anomaly for us chart geeks.
Andrew Unterberger: As someone who started watching MTV approximately 23 hours a day in 1996, I am certainly very familiar with “Until It Sleeps” — though as a dolorous and decidedly unthrashy hit much closer in tone to Alice in Chains than Anthrax, it’s hilarious to think of anyone imagining it as their signature hit. I like it more now than I did back then, but I’d still have to appreciate the historical accuracy of “Master” (which, despite “Enter Sandman” being their most enduring hit in pop culture, is probably still the song most fans would consider their defining work) passing it. It’s got a chance — though even in a world where “Running Up That Hill” is now a top 40 fixture, it’s hard to imagine “Master” catching on radio in a meaningful way, which might ultimately hurt its ceiling a little too much.
5. Between “Master” and Nirvana’s The Batman-revived “Something in the Way” — and in a less-conventional sense, “Hill” — fan favorites from Gen X-approved classic rock outfits have proven relatively easy sync sells in 2022. What other huge late ’80s / early ’90s band do you think could be due for a bringback hit like those?
Katie Bain: I would love to witness the second coming of Blind Melon’s all-time bop “No Rain,” especially given that 2022 marks the song’s 30-year anniversary.
Anna Chan: Taika Waititi certainly gave Guns N’ Roses a decent shot with four – FOUR!!! – tracks in the new Thor: Love and Thunder, and while I’ve loved Gn’R for a good 30 years and think they deserve a huge bringback courtesy of the film and Chris Hemsworth’s … ahem … backside, I don’t think the Marvel film is going to do for the band what Stranger Things and The Batman did with “Master” and “Something,” simply because the Marvel movie lacks the same emotional pull. That said, I can totally see The Cure and Depeche Mode – who both have a plethora of fantastic songs that can reach into even the coldest of hearts — blowing up with the right synch.
Gil Kaufman: Def Leppard. At a time of financial and global tension, what the world needs now is some sweet, sweet pop metal to make us forget about everything. Perfect for action sequences (“Armageddon It”), slow-mo action sequences (“Rock of Ages”) and break-up montages (“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”).
Jason Lipshutz: We’re due for the “Pearl Jam classic gets introduced to a new generation” moment — maybe something a little left-of-center like “Black” or “Release” from Ten has a TikTok moment or effective film synch, and arrives at young fans who only know the enormous radio hits. Maybe it’ll happen if Stranger Things season 5 is set five years in the future!
Andrew Unterberger: Smashing Pumpkins have gotten some nice syncs here and there over the years — “Today” in Yellowjackets was on point and pretty effective — but eventually some media property will find the way to properly weaponize “Disarm” and Gen Z will be powerless against it.