Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” enters the latest season of Stranger Things during a brooding high-school hallway scene right out of the John Hughes playbook, and it has since bounded up the charts, hitting No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and performing better now than when it peaked at No. 30 upon release. Stranger Things, whose latest season has logged more viewer minutes for Netflix than any other English-language release to date, has leaned heavily on ’80s nostalgia since its premiere in 2016: Its iconic theme song is reminiscent of John Carpenter B-movies, and, in an email, used-instrument resale site Reverb.com tells us the show has boosted interest in analog synthesizers.
“Running Up That Hill,” then, is a natural fit for the show, and it plays a pivotal, spoiler-ridden plot point in the show, requiring us to hear the hook multiple times throughout the season — a perfect earworm. But its success is owed to more than just repetition. It waffles between major and minor, and the show’s composers, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, told Switched on Pop that both it and the rest of the Stranger Things score have “moments of darkness and lightness in it, constantly trading places.” Plus, they’re composed from the same set of instruments: classic synthesizers and drum machines like the LinnDrum. The song is part and parcel with the soundtrack itself: “There’s these little melodies that we always refer to as ‘And then the Kate Bush part comes in,’” Dixon says.
Listen to Switched on Pop to hear more about “Running Up That Hill” and one of the most exquisite needle drops in recent television history.