Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill has now reached #10 on the charts and her first top 10 single. That’s amazing for a song that was released in 1985. I put this song on and my daughter looked blankly into the night sky until the initial synth line kicked in and her face lit up like a toddler trying Pop Rocks for the first time. “MAXXXXXX!!!” She exclaimed in glee and proceeded to sing every single word, complete with running actions, to a song that was released 24 years before she was born. “It’s her favourite song, dad.” She explained. “It saved her from the Upsidedown.” Wow. A song saved someone from a demonic nether-realm? That is a kick ass song. In all seriousness, this experience and the rise of Kate Bush got me thinking…what does this say about how we consume music in 2022?
Kate Bush is an amazing artist who has been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and an artist I made a hall of fame case for on a previous podcast. I think she helped pave the way for other experimental artists such as: Lorde, Björk, Annie Lennox and even Halsey. She bravely went against the grain to create a truly unique sound that, apparently, still connects with people to this day. I love Kate Bush and Running Up That Hill is an excellent example of how she transforms pop music and is a true artist.
Having said that, how did my daughter find her? How did this phenomenon happen? Well, Stranger Things and Spotify happened. As shows slowly adopt the production budgets of blockbuster movies, their music licence budgets have continued to rise. In the past, shows might be able to afford the odd track here and there, but mainly relied on jingles or studio fill. Now, shows like Stranger Things, Westworld and Marvel shows on Disney+ have music supervisors. For years the leader in music supervisors was Quentin Tarrantino with his staff, as they dug up deep funk and soul cuts to make some of the best soundtracks in music. Now, Stranger Things plays to millions of more people with double LP soundtracks full of quality licenced music. The show has introduced my daughter to The Clash, Kate Bush, Joy Division and The Bangles.
So, the introduction of music supervisors on hot shows with millions of teen / twenty-something fans explains the exposure and how my daughter even heard of Kate Bush. Moreover, the rise in popularity of Tic Toc means that countless Stranger Things video clips with Kate Bush playing in the background run on my daughter’s feed 24/7. In this sense, the track’s initial popularity on the show is magnified x 1,000,000,000 as social media acts as the world’s biggest megaphone. In this way artists are less and less reliant on radio play to get hit singles. The way up the charts now is through social media and Tic Toc as young people digest songs 45 seconds at a time.
However, social media and highly produced shows binged by millions of people does not totally explain how we got here with Kate Bush. The final piece of the puzzle is Spotify and how it works under the hood. My daughter quickly went to Spotify and found the track. She then liked it and added it to a playlist she shared with a friend. That friend then liked the song and shared it to all of her friends. Soon, the song was populating on Kate Bush’s page and all you had to do was type in the letter “K” and the song would come up. This ability to instantaneously share songs with friends, and share playlists with the world, allows a song to grow in popularity exponentially. For example, this track was in the wild since 1985, but it went to #10 in like days.
In essence, it was a perfect storm for Kate Bush. The rise of quality licensed music on shows people can watch on demand, the power of social media / Tic Toc and the way we consume music through Spotify all explain how a song can shoot to #10 after being released for over 20 years. However, the one aspect of music that has not changed is the emotional connection to a good song. The way people listen to and consume music has radically changed over the past 5 years, but you still have to have a good song. So, after all of this….the reason that Running Up That Hill is popular again with teenagers and young people is because it kicks ass. No matter what changes, you can’t beat a kick ass song.
Listen to Running Up That Hill