7 more Kate Bush songs that deserve the 'Stranger Things' treatment
Are there any artists more deserving of a chart-altering, paradigm-shifting music sync than Kate Bush? This past week, the British artist was thrust into a new spotlight. After Bush's 1985 song "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" was featured in the newest season of the '80s-set Netflix show Stranger Things, it appeared that a completely new, much younger audience had been exposed to Bush's music for the first time, and they naturally began to stream the cult classic en masse. Last week "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" cracked the Billboard Hot 100's top 10 — the first time the singer-songwriter has ever had a hit that high on the chart.
But there's far more to Kate Bush's discography than "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)." The artist's catalog of witchy, shape-shifting pop is full of songs ripe for the cinematic treatment, from the kooky vocals of "Babooshka" to the Emily Brontë-inspired "Wuthering Heights." Here, several NPR Music staffers convene to offer up the quintessential Bush tracks we think deserve a powerful resurgence in a TV show or movie, or would have changed the course of cinema history had they only been deployed in movies that, sigh, went in another direction.
"Babooshka," from 1980's Never for Ever, tells a movie-worthy story of its own: a suspicious wife who devises a plot to test her husband's loyalty, ultimately ending in ironic heartbreak. Yes, it could certainly be the basis for a glorious film that tells its own dramatic story. But if you divert your attention from the lyrical narrative, the true anchor of "Babooshka" is Bush's flawless wielding of sonic tension. The song builds from a gentle piano intro to something more sinister — the frenetic energy of paranoia, the feeling of the walls closing in. In the chorus, in contrast to the song's story of sneaky seduction, Bush's voice contains a torrent of swagger, anger and desperation. In a more just world, it would have already soundtracked any number of climactic, cinematic moments where a woman, driven to the brink by obsession and delusion, goes all-in on an irreversible and ill-fated romantic decision. — Marissa Lorusso
I'm a sucker for a gloomy, damaged character-driven European murder mystery, especially if it includes a supernatural twist. I'd love to see the folks behind Germany's Dark or France's The Returned bring to life this 11-minute opus from Bush's album length ode to all things frozen, 50 Words For Snow. What an opening scene-slash-flashback it could soundtrack: the Victorian heroine running after her little dog, a shadowy figure leaping out and pushing her into the lake, that mutt the only witness. ... I'd never hit fast forward! — Ann Powers
There is perhaps no feeling more universal than the feeling of a broken heart. And Kate Bush's 1978 take on "Wuthering Heights" — a song inspired by a 1967 BBC movie, which was in turn inspired by Emily Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name — is a gorgeous, gothic, open wound of a song. The rich history of "Wuthering Heights"'s story, whose significance spans decades, would make it a good pick to score a scene in a period piece like Netflix's Bridgerton, where love is front and center in the Regency era romance. Or maybe it could punch up the moment when a film's heroine finally snaps, running in the rain to her paramour's house in a mud-stained dress to make amends only to discover tragedy has struck, à la A Star Is Born. The evocative "Wuthering Heights" is the perfect piece to score someone's most intractable, aching heartbreak. — Nisha Venkat
"Waking the Witch"
There's a creeping horror that develops in Kate Bush's "Waking the Witch," from 1985's Hounds of Love, which tells the story of a woman accused of witchcraft. Those layered, murmuring voices beckoning listeners to "wake up," accompanied at first only by simple, peaceful piano, ultimately give way to something more urgent — breakneck drums, thunderous church bells and an inhuman growl in the mix, damning the song's central woman. "Waking the Witch" may be about a woman in the midst of persecution, but I think it sounds fit for a montage tracking a formerly naive final girl's transformation into slasher film hero — Kirsty fighting off the Cenobites in the last gasp of Hellraiser, a sleepless Nancy hellbent on finishing off Freddie Krueger, Sarah transformed in a bath of blood in The Descent. What better song for a horror heroine to "wake up" to? — Hazel Cills
Carol, Todd Haynes' exquisite queering of the already pretty damn queer cinematic melodrama tradition, used mid-century pop songs like "One Mint Julep" to set its mood. But when I think of the powerful, trapped title character played by Cate Blanchett pondering how she's going to elude her furious husband's grasp but not lose her daughter, my mind leaps to this beautiful ballad from Bush's "domestic album" Aerial, made in the years when the singer was focused on raising her son. Bush's murmured vocal over those wave-like, minor key piano chords, and the way the title character's mind slips from a bored daydream to a death-haunted one to erotic thoughts, would have been the ideal conduit into the inner life of the elusive, exquisite, tragic Carol. — Ann Powers
"The Morning Fog"
"The Morning Fog," which closes out the 1985 album Hounds of Love, belongs somewhere around page 110 in the script — the crisis or conflict is over, our protagonists have prevailed, we're nearing the final image of our story, and there isn't a dry eye in the house. Our characters have suffered tremendous loss along the way — I'm thinking someone was estranged from someone in their family, they finally reconnect after a lot of drama and then the family member suddenly dies. Or maybe they've gotten sober after some horrible addiction. Regardless, our hero has emerged on the other side of tragedy with a newfound appreciation for the small wonders in life. There's relief and rebirth, but ultimately, as the credits roll, we're all left feeling grateful that love exists in the world at all. — Robin Hilton
"The Sensual World"
In 1988, movie audiences first heard Bush's hit "This Woman's Work" in the John Hughes romance She's Having a Baby, more than a year and a half before it appeared on The Sensual World. I can't help but fantasize about how a different song from Bush's sixth album — its title track — would have sounded in another '88 film from another titan of '80s cinema: The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese.
What might have been if Marty had tapped world-builder, demon-expeller, deity-confronter Kate to score his notoriously misunderstood meditation on the ways human frailty is essential to faith? Peter Gabriel's Temptation score is thrilling, but Bush in the late '80s had all the tools he did at her disposal: global and historical curiosity, an obsession with new sounds and rhythms, utter musical magnetism. "Stepping out of the page and into the sensual world," Bush sings. The desires of Molly Bloom, leaping from the last pages of James Joyce's Ulysses, were in Kate Bush's mind when she wrote those words, but imagine them as a prayer from Mary Magdalene for Jesus to abandon biblical glory for a life and a home. Now try to imagine anything else. — Jacob Ganz
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