In the show, Bush's moody, anthemic tune, with its powerful yet ethereal vocals and ambiguous lyrics, plays a major role in saving the life of Max (Sadie Sink) from the evil machinations of the villainous Vecna when he captures her in the Upside Down.
The song took off in a big way, gaining a new fandom and being featured in countless TikTok posts, getting constant radio play and generally ingraining itself in the fabric of mid-2022 society.
The song was the first one written for Bush's 1985 Hounds of Love album and was titled "A Deal With God" when Bush wrote and recorded it. However, executives with EMI Records were hesitant to have any lead single with "God" in the title, out of a fear that it would offend religious communities or potentially not get airplay or even be released in heavily religious countries.
Bush reportedly disagreed with their concerns and eventually agreed to change the name of the single. However, on the album, the song's full title is "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)."
The Song Is About Love and Switching Perspectives
The song is, as Bush has explained several times, all about how men and women see things differently and this is why it's so difficult for them to see eye-to-eye, and the impact this can have on relationships.
"It's very much about two people who are in love, a man and a woman, and the idea of it is they could swap places... The man being the woman and vice versa and they'd understand each other better," Bush told Island-Ear in 1986. "In some ways talking about the fundamental differences between men and women, I suppose trying to remove those obstacles, being in someone else's place; understanding how they see it, and; hoping that would remove problems in the relationship."
Many People Have Misinterpreted the Tune
The poetic and ambiguous lyrics have frequently led some fans to misunderstand Bush's intended meaning for the tune, with some suggesting that the narrator of the song would wish to "swap places" with God. This is an interpretation that Bush has consistently shut down.
Addressing that fan theory in an interview with Guitares et Claviers in 1986, Bush said, "There are several people who have heard something of that sort. That's a good reason for doing this interview, if one needed one. Tell them that I would never dare imagine such an exchange."
The Original Music Video Featured a Surrealist Interpretive Dance
The music video stars Bush and dancer Michael Hervieu, who perform an interpretive number that includes a gesture that evokes the image of Bush pulling back the string of a bow and releasing an arrow. The surreal video also includes many people in masks and generally has a dream-like vibe that really resonated with people at the time.
"We wanted to do a piece, a serious piece of dance. Over the last couple of years, all the videos I've seen, dance has become a very exploited thing and hasn't really been treated seriously. It's been used to sort of be accessories around the person who's starring in the film. And we thought it would be nice to do almost a classical piece of dance, filmed as well as possible, because it's very rarely filmed well now," Bush told MTV in 1985. "So that's what we wanted to do, a nice serious piece of dance, simple, well-filmed and give dance a chance in a real way in this pop world."
The Song Is Bigger Now Than When It First Came Out
When "Running Up That Hill" first came out, the song peaked at No. 3 on the UK singles charts and managed to break the Top 40 in the US, reaching No. 30. In 2004, it was certified Platinum in the UK. However, the song's performance in 1985 pales in comparison to how it's been amid its resurgence following Stranger Things.
The song has since reached No. 1 on the UK singles chart this year, as well as the on the Global 200 charts, and reached No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it the first of Bush's songs to ever make it to the Top 5 of the Hot 100.
Bush Appreciates the Renewed Attention to the Tune
Bush is certainly appreciative of the attention and penned a lengthy message on her website sharing her praise for Stranger Things, and the show's creators, Matt and Ross Duffer.
"The Duffer Brothers have created four extraordinary [seasons] of Stranger Things in which the child actors have grown into young adults," Bush wrote. "In this latest series, the characters are facing many of the same challenges that exist in reality right now. I believe the Duffer Brothers have touched people’s hearts in a special way, at a time that's incredibly difficult for everyone, especially younger people."
"By featuring 'Running Up That Hill' in such a positive light - as a talisman for Max (one of the main female characters) - the song has been brought into the emotional arena of her story... Fear, conflict and the power of love are all around her and her friends," Bush continued. "I salute the Duffer Brothers for their courage - taking this new series into a much more adult and darker place. I want to thank them so much for bringing the song into so many people’s lives."
"I’m overwhelmed by the scale of affection and support the song is receiving and it’s all happening really fast, as if it’s being driven along by a kind of elemental force," Bush shared, adding, "I have to admit I feel really moved by it all. Thank you so very much for making the song a No. 1 in such an unexpected way."
The final two episodes of Stranger Things season 4 debut July 1 on Netflix.