The post Kate Bush’s Stranger Things Triumph Reminds Us of the Joy of Discovering Music Through Film and TV appeared first on Consequence.
This week, in the aftermath of Stranger Things Season 4 debuting, English singer/songwriter Kate Bush experienced a remarkable renaissance, as her iconic 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” became a chart-busting hit across multiple streaming services. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, the song reached the top 10 on Apple Music in 34 different countries, becoming one of the most-Shazamed songs of the week and getting permanently stuck in every viewer’s head — hopefully music supervisor Nora Felder is feeling pretty good about her accomplishment.
If you watched the new episodes of the show, this isn’t a surprise: In the show, “Running Up That Hill” has a huge impact because it’s not just a casual needle drop — it saves a girl’s life. Max (Sadie Sink) is seen listening to the song, her favorite, early in the season, and when she gets targeted by the malevolent demon nicknamed Vecna, she nearly succumbs to his attack until her friends use the song to bring her back. The sequence in which she breaks free from Vecna’s attack, which blends the Bush track with an epic score, is perhaps the high point of the entire season.
In the fervor over viewers either discovering or rediscovering “Running Up That Hill” this week, there were a few snide comments about the kids today needing a damn TV show to help them discover a great artist. But especially as the ways in which people discover music start to decline (when was the last time you listened to a radio station?), it’s worth appreciating how great soundtracks have the power to expose new audiences to artists that might not be familiar to them — especially artists from generations past.
While being included in a movie or TV show soundtrack isn’t the primary goal of any musical artist, the way music and cinema work together can give these songs a new resonance for audiences. Wayne and his pals head-banging to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore getting intimate to The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter watching the world crash down to The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.” All of these are great songs on their own merits, but they became immortal thanks to their placement in Wayne’s World, Ghost, and Fight Club.
One thing I’m not terribly proud to admit is that I never properly listened to The Beatles until the release of Beatles Rock Band in 2009. Even though my parents are both avowed Beatles fans, they didn’t listen to their music much when I was growing up (around me, anyway) and because for decades Beatles songs were too expensive for nearly all film and TV productions to license, this meant that while I certainly knew the band existed, I simply wasn’t exposed to them casually. (Scan the band’s Tunefind listings, and you’ll see how rarely their music shows up in soundtracks that aren’t specifically Beatles documentaries. Mad Men perhaps remains the most iconic modern usage of a Beatles track.)
However, the Beatles are a special case — they don’t need any help from a rom-com or sports drama to become immortal — and as years pass, it’s an inevitability that future audiences will be more likely to learn about the music of Nirvana by watching 2022’s The Batman than they will by scanning through the future equivalent to Spotify.
While this speaks to a big issue when it comes to the future of music discoverability, it’s worth celebrating how the great music supervisors of the world play a huge role in this — while filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino are rightfully lauded for their ability to craft great soundtracks, Karyn Rachtman (who worked on Tarantino’s early features) and Mary Ramos (who has been his music supervisor since the Kill Bill films) were instrumental in that effort.
On a meta note, I asked the Consequence internal Slack as well as a few other friend groups about the times they’ve discovered great music through film and television shows, and the sheer joy that radiated from the responses was overwhelming. We asked the same question on Twitter, and the responses are equally vibrant. A great song is its own special entity. It can change a mind, change your day, change the world. But when coupled with a great moment of storytelling, a whole new generation can fall in love with it on a whole new level.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episodes 1-7 are streaming now on Netflix. The remaining episodes debut July 1st.