“Running Up That Hill” is a song by English singer and songwriter Kate Bush from her 5th studio album, Hounds of Love (1985). Written and produced by Kate Bush herself, the song was released in the UK as the lead single from Hounds of Love on 5 August 1985. The song’s title on the Hounds of Love album and all subsequent releases was “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)“.
Upon its original 1985 release, “Running Up That Hill” reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart and #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and was Kate Bush’s 1st Top 40 hit in the USA. Bush performed the song live for the first time in 1987 at The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball event accompanied by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. This was the only time the song was performed live until 2014 Before the Dawn series of concerts. All other appearances from 1985 were promotional lip sync performances on television, which were common at the time.
The song was featured as the main theme song for the 1986 BBC 1 children’s drama serial, Running Scared.
In 1985, “Running Up That Hill” reached the #3 position in the charts of the UK and West Germany, #4 in Ireland. #6 was achieved in Australia, Belgium and Netherlands, #10 in Switzerland, #13 in the US and Finland, #16 in Canada, #21 in Austria, #22 in Italy, #24 in France, #26 in Australia.
In 2012, a remix featuring newly recorded vocals premiered during that year’s Summer Olympics closing ceremony, and entered the UK top 10 for 1 week, at #6. In 2022, “Running Up That Hill” received renewed attention when it was prominently featured in the 4th season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. Its appearance led to the song’s resurgence on charts around the world, reaching the top 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the charts in 8 countries, including the UK for 3 consecutive weeks and Ireland for 6 weeks.
In 2021, the song was listed at #60 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The resurgence in the charts of 2022 looks like this at the time of writing: #1 in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US. #2 was achieved in Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Slovakia, #3 in the Netherlands, France and Austria, #4 in Croatia, Germany, Norway, Portugal, #5 in Singapore, #6 in Denmark and Sweden, Hungary and South Africa, #8 in Poland and Malaysia, #10 in India and so on. Clearly, the 2022 boost pushed the song to even higher levels in the charts than in the 1980s.
In between 1985 and 2022, “Running Up That Hill” was involved in the opening ceremony of the 20212 Summer Olympics. It was featured in the closing ceremony, with a dance, but unfortunately it wasn’t broadcasted in the US due to time constraints. It still was enough to propel the song, which had been re-recorded and released as “2012 Remix” to #6 in the UK charts.
Publishers were hesitant to release the song with its original title of “A Deal with God” because of the possibility of encountering a negative reception in more religious countries because of its use of the word “God”.
Kate Bush relented and changed the title. However, the album version of the song is listed as “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)“.
The song itself has often been misinterpreted. Bush herself has said,
I was trying to say that, really, 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! [Laughs] And I think it would lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either… you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called “Deal With God”, that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it would not be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally we might get it blocked purely because it had God in the title.
The music video features Bush performing an interpretive dance with dancer Michael Hervieu. The video was directed by David Garfath while the dance routines were choreographed by Diane Grey. Bush and Hervieu are shown wearing grey Japanese hakamas. Bush wanted the dancing in “Running Up That Hill” to be more of a classical performance. She stated that dance in music videos was “being used quite trivially, it was being exploited: haphazard images, busy, lots of dances, without really the serious expression, and wonderful expression, that dance can give. So we felt how interesting it would be to make a very simple routine between two people, almost classic, and very simply filmed. So that’s what we tried, really, to do a serious piece of dance.”
The choreography draws upon contemporary dance with a repeated gesture suggestive of drawing a bow and arrow (the gesture was made literal on the cover for the single in which Bush poses with a real bow and arrow), intercut with surreal sequences of Bush and Hervieu searching through crowds of masked strangers. At the climax of the song, Bush’s partner withdraws from her and the 2 are then swept away from each other and down a long hall in opposite directions by an endless stream of anonymous figures wearing masks made from pictures of Bush and Hervieu’s faces. MTV chose not to show this video (at the time of its original release) and instead used a playback “live” performance of the song recorded at a promotional appearance on the BBC TV show Wogan. According to Paddy Bush, “MTV weren’t particularly interested in broadcasting videos that didn’t have synchronized lip movements in them. They liked the idea of people singing songs.”
The song was ranked # 3 among the “Tracks of the Year” for 1985 by NME. It was featured in the pilot episode of the 2018 drama series Pose. In 2022, the song was included in the list “The story of NME in 70 (mostly) seminal songs”, at #25.
The single had sold 771,568 copies in the UK 1994, with 165,762 of those sales in 2022.
“Running Up That Hill” has been critically acclaimed. In a retrospective review, AllMusic journalist Amy Hanson wrote: “Always adept at emotion and beautifully able to manipulate even the most bitter of hearts, rarely has Bush penned such a brutally truthful, painfully sensual song.”
“Running Up That Hill” gained renewed attention in May 2022 after it was featured in the 4th season of the Netflix series Stranger Things, including being key in a dramatic and tense scene, (scene video here) being an important element in the plot, and as a recurring fixture of the soundtrack. Bush had rarely allowed her songs to be licensed, but agreed because she was a fan of the show. Following the premiere, Spotify revealed streams for the song increased by 9,900% in the United States.
On the UK Singles Chart dated 3 June 2022, the single re-entered the top 10 at #8, reaching #2 the following week. Chart analyst James Masterton of Chart Watch opined that “Running Up That Hill” could reach #1, but because it was an older song re-entering the chart, the Official Charts Company’s accelerated chart ratio (ACR) rule meant that its 700,000 per day streams were halved when factored in for the chart. Bush’s record label EMI made an official request to suspend the ACR rule for “Running Up That Hill” given the song’s continued popularity and sales on streaming charts, which was enacted by the Chart Supervisory Committee over the weekend of 11 June 2022. “Running Up That Hill” reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart dated 17 June 2022 and was Bush’s 1st #1 since “Wuthering Heights” in 1978.
In the US, “Running Up That Hill” re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 reaching #3, becoming Bush’s 1st single to reach the American top 3.