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  • Ryan Archer

Kate Bush and The Power of Nostalgia in Pop Culture

Kate Bush has been an iconic figure in pop music since she burst on to the scene in the late 70s and early 80s. Her iconic "Wuthering Heights” showed her incredible vocal range and her 1982 The Dreaming showed her love of experimenting in the pop music formula of the eighties. None of her projects or songs caught on in her heyday quite like “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”. A perfect middle ground of Bush’s experimental side and her pop expertise. It spent 20 weeks in the hot 100 and was by far her biggest hit. It is not hard to see why: a driving drum line, amazing vocal harmonies soaked in reverb, and a repeating synth line that was made to get stuck in your head. No wonder the radio-listening public loved it in the eighties! What is even more shocking is that the younger generation has rediscovered the track and are loving it even more. Why is this track finally hitting its peak popularity at chart position number 8 and how did this happen more than 35 years later?

Nostalgia is one crazy drug and it has been the driving force in almost all popular media for the better part the past 10 years now. The newest movies bringing in big box office numbers seem to be parades of characters from earlier movies. The eighties throwback pop sound has had a stranglehold on the charts for years. Now 2000s fashion has come back into the cultural zeitgeist for better or for worse. The catalyst for this wave of nostalgia-based entertainment seems to be the hit television show Stranger Things. A show that expertly distilled eighties nostalgia into an interesting and exciting story about a fantastical version of middle America and the kids who have to navigate it. Full of monsters, scientific experiments gone wrong, and eighties pop hits the show was and still is a cultural phenomenon. In the most recent season “Running Up That Hill” was featured in a prominent scene and it is obvious to see why. The character listening to it floats in the air after hearing it and that perfectly captures the vibe of Kate Bush’s biggest single. An ephemeral and transcendent track that makes the listener feel as though they too are floating. Now why did this shoot up the charts in 2022 besides being featured on a popular television show?

The simple answer is that familiar drug: nostalgia and the refreshing sound of “Running Up That Hill”. When people think of the eighties they think huge hair, loud synthesizers and dance beats programmed on drum machines. “Running Up That Hill” is very different from those stereotypical sounds while still sounding like the eighties; it is as refreshing today as it was in 1985. The plucky synths provide a melody and groove that you can latch on to. The dance beat on drum machines are swapped for an almost tribal sounding groove. Finally, Bush’s vocals are entirely captivating. Now back to the power of remembering. Adults who grew up in the 80s probably heard “Running Up That Hill” many times through their childhood and are now remembering how great the track is. Younger people are now finding themselves being exposed to one of the greatest pop songs of the 80s and they cannot get enough of it. Bush herself has also taken notice and began marketing the classic and the album it came from to run it up the charts even further.

Maybe it's the want to live in an entirely different time or maybe it's the need to escape the current world for a small amount of time. Maybe people just enjoy a quick glance into the past. Maybe Kate Bush just wrote one of the greatest pop songs of all time. Whatever it is, nostalgia has had a hold on the popular zeitgeist for a long time. Sometimes that hold will let a masterpiece like “Running Up That Hill” come forward in the public conscious and have its well deserved time in the sun.


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