How did Kate Bush capture the imagination of a new generation?

3 July 2022, 23:20

Kate Bush is regarded as one of the most influential female artists in music history.
Kate Bush is regarded as one of the most influential female artists in music history. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

It's fair to say that she's a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

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Enigmatic, alluring, and completely unique: there's no other artist in the world of popular music that is quite like Kate Bush.

Shying away from the media spotlight, Bush is notoriously private and seldom releases music nowadays.

She has only released two studio albums in the past 11 years, Director's Cut and 50 Words For Snow which were both released in 2011.

Yet, with little to no public appearances, she continues to gain legions of fans as the years go by.

In recent months - with the help of the nostalgic Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things - Kate Bush has had yet another major revival and has very much become the obsession of music fans, young and old, in all corners of the world.

A remarkable 37 years after its initial release in 1985, her iconic song 'Running Up That Hill' reached the top of the charts in numerous countries, breaking multiple records on the way there.

So how did Kate Bush capture the imagination of a new generation?

Well, the release of series 4 of Stranger Things kicked it all off, as 'Running Up The Hill' features prominently.

A totem for central character Max Mayfield played by Sadie Sink, the song is used to remove her from a fugue state in some of the series' most tense and dramatic moments.

Kate Bush is incredibly protective over her work, so it was somewhat of a surprise that she allowed RUTH to be used in the first place.

But after being convinced of the song's power and importance to the character by the show's creators the Duffer Brothers, she gave the green light.

And obviously, it paid dividends, as the hauntingly loving track has clearly resonated with fans of the show and now the wider world.

The song's theme of a man and woman swapping bodies/minds to understand each other better due to their fundamental differences has clearly struck a chord after nearly forty years since she wrote it.

Kate said in a 1992 interview that: "A man and a woman can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman."

“And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised!

“And I think it would lead to a greater understanding."

It's a love song with empathy at its core - not desire or despair - and younger audiences seem to identify with it.

In an earlier interview from 1985, Kate also called her music "a strong force for children" and why music is so important to children growing up.

This is precisely the meaning attached to the song by the character Sadie in Stranger Things. She uses it to pull her through difficult times.

Kate clearly enjoys the series herself - after seeing the stratospheric success of RUTH, she posted about the reaction which caused as much of a stir given she talked publicly.

“You might’ve heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series Stranger Things has recently been released on Netflix" she wrote on her website.

“It features the song, ‘Running Up That Hill’ which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show – I love it too!”

She’s responded on several occasions and has even appeared for an interview on Woman’s Hour given the swell of interest in the elusive artist.

Younger audiences are hearing more from Kate Bush than anyone has in what feels like decades.

Kate Bush performing 'Running Up That Hill' live in 1985.
Kate Bush performing 'Running Up That Hill' live in 1985. Picture: Getty

Aside from 'RUTH', Kate Bush's music as an entirety has been incredibly influential.

The likes of Adele, Björk, Lady Gaga, and Sinead O’Connor have all cited Bush as a major influence on their work.

Despite being considered a pop star after the success of her debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’, she could never really be defined.

Theatrical, experimental, ethereal, the music of Kate Bush never really sat well within the confines of pop music and was often misunderstood.

In her earlier days, she had to fight incredibly hard to be taken seriously as an artist, not just as a poster girl pop star.

One of the many reasons she retired from promoting her work was because interviewers - often men - wanted to talk about vapid subjects like her appearance rather than how she creates her music.

When 'Wuthering Heights' reached the top of the charts in the UK, it was the first single to achieve that level by a woman with a song written by herself.

This is just one of the many records broken by Kate Bush, who paved the way for many female artists to gain more autonomy over their work.

Kate Bush recently said "the world&squot;s gone mad!" in response to her resurgence.
Kate Bush recently said "the world's gone mad!" in response to her resurgence. Picture: Getty

Immensely creative, Kate was also immensely beautiful and at one point became the most photographed musician in the UK.

So even in her absence from public life, there is a host of images of this otherworldly female artist from another time that younger fans can absorb and create their own myth of Kate Bush.

Throughout her career, Kate Bush has continually smashed expectations and broken the mould, especially for women working in music.

With RUTH, she has broken three more records - being the oldest woman to top the charts, having the longest gap between No.1 singles, and being the longest route to reach the top spot after nearly forty years.

Writing and producing her own music, elevating music videos with her theatricality, and transforming the concert experience with her only live tour, she has become a cult figure and music idol for many over the years.

And now the younger generation is getting in on it too.