‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack the Netflix series Stranger Things. Upon exposure to the 37-year-old tune, a shockingly huge portion of the world’s teenage population, who seemingly hadn’t known of Bush’s existence prior to this, went absolutely, uncontrollably berserk. Their sudden, overwhelmingly intense lust for “RUTH” (let’s just call it) propelled the song to the top of the pop charts the whole world over and led to the track being streamed over a billion times (and counting). A billion! And just like that, Kate Bush, one of pop’s most popular cult artists, became a global phenomenon.
This was a mixed blessing for the hardcore Kate Bush fanbase. On the one hand, they were happy for their girl Kate (who herself was thrilled that teenagers were hyperventilating over “Running Up That Hill”). But at the same time, as evidenced by multitudes of posts on social media, they also felt a sense of proprietary “ownership” over the Bush legacy and didn’t care for this flaky, flighty fandom and how it came to be.
The “old fan vs new fan”/ “we were here first” argument is silly and petty…but with Kate Bush, it was also oddly understandable. Part of what made her special was that some people didn’t get it, that regular folk found her songs a little too eccentric and “out there” and thought her voice was weird. Those previously existing Kate fans didn’t quite know how to take this newfound popularity. Because to them, Kate Bush was not merely one song; she was a magnificently mad, beautiful, all-consuming pop religion. Trip-hop hero and unabashed Kate fan, Tricky, alluded to this feeling in an interview with MOJO magazine back in 2003:
“Some of the greatest singers in the world…you can spot their influences. But Kate Bush has no mother or father. I’d be an average musician, like everyone else if it wasn’t for her. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible. Her music sounds religious to me. She should be treasured more than The Beatles”.
Kate Bush made adventurous, beautiful, funny, weird, and heartbreaking music that sounded like no one else’s, all while delivering a hard kick to the nuts of musical convention. She celebrated her most personal, idiosyncratic obsessions and shared them proudly and loudly with everyone. From shockingly illicit kisses to sensuous snowmen. From rain-making machines to being lost at sea. From washing machines to Joan of Arc. She didn’t chase airplay, she just followed her cast of muses wherever they led and surrounded their stories with a staggering sense of melody.
We have arrived at a point where a pretty fine “30 Best RUTH Covers Ever” feature could be assembled. The story of its unlikely, incredible ascent has become a truly iconic, modern-day pop tale and will be recounted for years to come. And as cynical as it seems, it’s clear that the “RUTH” phenomenon was a deciding factor when it came to Kate Bush’s induction this weekend into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Kate Bush the artist was not born in June of 2022. Her career has spanned six decades during which she’s released ten studio albums that house multitudes of wondrous tunes. (By the way, if you wanna read a completely deranged breakdown of Kate’s LPs, I wrote one here.)
Within our list of “The Best Kate Covers Ever” you will not only discover several head-turning, heart-squeezing “Running Up That Hill” covers (of course), but a plethora of equally fabulous deep cuts, b-sides, and cult classics. “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”