Meaning of Running up that Hill by Kate Bush

Running up that hill

Kate Bush

In the realm of music, few songs tackle the complex web of human empathy and understanding as poignantly as Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill.”

Released in August 1985 on her album “Hounds of Love” this song invites listeners into a narrative where the possibility of swapping places with another sparks a dialogue on the intricacies of human relationships.

“Running Up That Hill” was the first song Bush composed for her fifth album, Hounds of Love . She wrote it in a single evening at her home,[10] and recorded the first version onto with engineer Del Palmer.

The song initially peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart in 1985, marking her best position since “Wuthering Heights” seven years before. It also reached number 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song gained renewed popularity in 2012, climbing to number six in the UK following the release of a remix for the Summer Olympics closing ceremony. In 2022, after being featured in the Netflix series “Stranger Things”, the song soared in global charts, hitting number one in eight countries, including the UK, and achieving a new peak at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100.(Source)

Artist’s Perspective

At the core of “Running Up That Hill” is a plea for understanding, voiced through the metaphor of making a deal with God to exchange lives with another person. Kate Bush articulates this as a bridge to deeper understanding within a relationship between a man and a woman. She explained in 1985, “It’s saying if the man could be the woman and the woman the man, if they could make a deal with God, to change places, that they’d understand what it’s like to be the other person and perhaps it would clear up misunderstandings. You know, all the little problems; there would be no problem.  

Listeners’ Interpretations

Listeners often find a resonance in the song’s narrative, as it delves into a universal yearning for empathy and understanding in relationships. The idea of stepping into another person’s shoes to perceive the world through their eyes is a timeless message that rings true across various societal contexts.

Historical or Societal Context

“Running Up That Hill” emerged in the mid-80s, a period that saw a surge in the exploration of thematic depth in pop music. The song’s narrative, interwoven with theological notions, presents a dialogue that was somewhat audacious for its time, especially with its original title “A Deal with God.” However, concerns from her record label about potential negative religious reactions led to the change of title, although the thematic essence remained untouched.

The song continues to find relevance and has seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks to its feature in contemporary media like the TV show “Stranger Things,” indicating the enduring appeal and the profound emotional chord it strikes with audiences across generations.

“Running Up That Hill” remains a potent exploration of empathy, urging a reevaluation of preconceived notions and a stride towards a deeper understanding in relationships. Through its evocative lyrics and compelling narrative, it extends an invitation to traverse the complex emotional landscape that defines human interactions, making it a timeless piece in Kate Bush’s illustrious musical repertoire.

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