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Ethereal, evocative, and inventive: why the music of Kate Bush spans generations

Observing popular culture observers may have noticed the recent incorporation of Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” into the plot of the acclaimed Netflix show Stranger Things. As a result of this recording, Kate Bush’s classic song was catapulted (again) onto the mainstream music scene, enjoying a veritable resurgence in popularity and topping the download charts around the world.

Kate Bush herself responded by posting a rare message on social media about the whole affair, in which she not only expressed her enthusiasm for “Stranger Things,” but also her gratitude for “making her famous now.” breathe new life into it” was able to song.

In the wake of “Running Up That Hill’s” surge in popularity, there was much talk of a whole new group of music listeners from the Gen Z demographic having “discovered” Kate Bush’s work and instantly fallen in love with her.

An anecdotal glance seems to suggest that Kate Bush will somehow find greater fame in 2022 than she did in the 1980s, a prolific creative period that many would (unkindly) rank as the pinnacle of her musical journey. And while there’s no denying that Kate Bush’s music seems to have an instant impact with today’s listeners, there’s definitely something odd about suggesting that her fame has been mediocre over the past few decades.

In fact, Kate Bush was popular during and after the 80’s, particularly in the UK, and her music has always been well received by a growing number of devoted fans ever since.

Away from the mainstream

Since her debut in the late 1970s, Kate Bush has released over 25 UK Top 40 singles including “Babooshka” (#5, 1980), “Hounds of Love” (#18, 1986), “Rubberband Girl” (No. 12, 1993), “The Red Shoes” (No. 21, 1994) and “King of the Mountain” (No. 4, 2005).

The 2022 impact of “Stranger Things” on fans of her music only signals cycles of discovery, rediscovery and reappraisal that have characterized Kate Bush’s music and performances since she first emerged on the scene as a resolutely avant-garde- Artist in 1978. Her now-famous hit “Wuthering Heights” reached #1 in the UK Singles Chart.

So one has to wonder why Kate Bush has been attractive for a long time. While there are likely many different reasons for this — no doubt including the ever-changing circumstances of individual music listeners — there are certainly aspects of Kate Bush’s music, performances, and perhaps even personality that feed her enduring appeal.

Experimental and innovative

Kate Bush’s music was undoubtedly experimental and innovative in the late ’70s and ’80s. Their apparently open disregard for the prevailing musical currents of the time gave their songs a certain untimeliness, which turned and materialized into an appeal for topicality.

The refusal of their music to conform to rigid genre and audience categories is perhaps what enables them to seemingly change with the situation, adapting to shifting tastes and squeezing themselves into the evolving frontiers of cultural relevance.

In addition to the very special sound qualities of her music, one must also consider the visual appeal of Kate Bush’s actual performances. Her music videos, in which she is known for showing captivating, convoluted choreography and floating dresses, create a dreamlike atmosphere.

While there’s certainly a hint of the late ’70s and ’80s in her videos, with the typical soft-focus lenses of the era, her performances are wonderfully odd and suggestively haunting. The choreography from the video for “Wuthering Heights” is particularly well known in this context. Here, Kate wears a captivating floating red dress and dances lithely in a natural landscape, incorporating mesmerizing moves into her routine while surrounded by a light mist.

The recurring combination of unconventional sounds and visuals has arguably made Kate Bush an unmistakable icon: one not only instantly recognizable for her almost intoxicating individuality, but also seemingly unconstrained by time or space.

A contemporary icon

There’s no doubt that Kate Bush’s lyrics appeal to a variety of identities and aspirations. She has been recognized as a hugely influential figure by contemporary artists such as Lady Gaga, Tori Amos and Florence + The Machine.

There is also inevitably a lot of nostalgia associated with the constant rediscovery of Kate Bush’s music, especially for those fans whose memories are tied to her songs from different times. And yet something stranger seems to be at play. Kate Bush’s music has a certain nostalgic feel to it, even if new fans and listeners don’t associate her songs with any real memories of the past.

There is an intimate sense of longing woven into the fabric of her work: a desire to feel, to experience and to find oneself that makes her performances so compelling. Perhaps it’s this defining trait that maintains Kate Bush’s cross-generational appeal, as her music continues to appeal to a wide variety of fans through the years.

Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Professor of Film, Media and Popular Culture, Technical University of Auckland

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

https://www.salon.com/2022/06/19/ethereal-evocative-and-inventive-why-the-music-of-kate-bush-spans-generations_partner/ Ethereal, evocative, and inventive: why the music of Kate Bush spans generations

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