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How Gen Z became #obsessed with Kate Bush

The youth are quickly discovering there’s more to the Eighties pop goddess than Running Up That Hill, says Amy Francombe

24 Jun 2022

She has no social media presence. Her last album was released in 2011. While her breakthrough single – sung from the perspective of a ghost haunting an English moor – is even older – having been released in 1978.

Yet despite this, ethereal ‘80s pop star Kate Bush is primed for a generational rediscovery. Following her single Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) being featured in the latest season of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, a new legion of Gen Z listeners are unearthing her catalogue of otherworldly music.

On TikTok a thirty-second version of the Stranger Things clip has gained millions of views in just over a week, while Kate Bush’s original song has been used in over 750,000 short videos. A running theme throughout these videos are teens expressing their disbelief that they hadn’t heard of Bush before, or parents excitedly showcasing their Kate Bush vinyl collections to their newly captivated children.

​​"I did not know Kate Bush beforehand, but then I immediately skimmed through her work," said Sadie Sink, the actress in Stranger Things whose character Max was hooked on the track, “and then became increasingly more obsessed, and then I was listening to her all the time.” She continued, echoing the millions of viewers who have been on a similar journey of discovery.

Kate Bush recently made a comeback but her Hounds Of Love album is still her best work at number four.

Because of all this, earlier this week the song chopped the UK chart –  37 years after it was first released as the lead track on Bush’s album Hounds of Love. While across 34 separate countries, including the United States (where the song originally peaked at number 30), Britain, Belgium, Latvia, Ireland and New Zealand, Running Up That Hill has entered the top 10 list of most streamed songs.

She seldom gives interviews but on Tuesday, Kate sat down with Women’s Hour presenter Emma Barnett to weigh in on the “extraordinary” cultural moment. “I mean it’s such a great series, I thought that the track would get some attention,” Kate explained when discussing the show’s use of her smash-hit single. “But I just never imagined that it would be anything like this. It’s so exciting. But it’s quite shocking really, isn’t it? I mean, the whole world’s gone mad.”

She added: "What’s really wonderful, I think, is this is a whole new audience who, in a lot of cases, they’ve never heard of me and I love that. The thought of all these really young people hearing the song for the first time and discovering it is, well, I think it’s very special."

But what is behind her enduring appeal? Even Bush herself can’t work it out, asking a journalist in 1989, “Why are people so interested in me when I just make an album every now and then?”

Nonetheless, from the get-go Bush has had a tight grip over culture. Through a mutual friend of the family, a demo tape of more than 50 songs reached Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, which led to a deal with EMI when Bush was 16. Three years later she released her debut single Wuthering Heights, which became an instant classic – with the theatrical tribute to a novel from 1847 outselling Abba, Blondies and the Bee Gees.

Famously, she wrote her fourth single The Man with the Child in His Eyes when she was just 13. She went on to retire from touring at the age of 20, enabling her to concentrate on record-making. Her spectacularly weird and wild self-produced follow-up, The Dreaming, was a slate-wiper that made anything possible.

Sean Twomey, who curates, used a short podcast last week to note Bush’s charge back into popular culture. He said the renewed interest in Bush confirmed something about the musician and the song. “Nothing else really sounds like Running Up That Hill. Nothing before it does and really nothing after it.”

It’s why her influence has been constant, with disciples including Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Lady Gaga, Bat for Lashes, Goldfrapp, Florence Welch, Joanna Newsom, Tricky and Outkast. Moreover, at a concert earlier this month, Norwegian artist Aurora played a show in New York’s Central Park standing in front of a backlit circle – just like the one Bush used in her live shows in the 1970s.

Despite the whimsical pop star’s aversion to the public eye – she eschews the limelight in favour of a quiet life in the countryside with her family – this is not the first time Bush has gone viral in recent memory.

When the singer announced a 22-date concert residency at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2014, tickets sold out within seconds, not least as it was the first time she had performed live since 1979. The success of these gigs prompted her back catalogue to become vastly popular once more, leading to her becoming the first female artist to have eight albums in the UK charts all at the same time.

Yes, the “world has gone mad”, but with the TikTok generation suffering from ever-shortening attention spans, the renaissance of a classic pop Goddess is truly welcome.

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