Widescreen: For 'Stranger Things' and Kate Bush, 'remember when' leads to beautiful discovery
Surely the best thing about a pop culture landscape built almost exclusively on nostalgia is the opportunity for aging and/or forgotten artists to enjoy an unexpected surge in popularity, one that also introduces younger people to their work for the first time.
The latest example: British singer-songwriter Kate Bush, whose music has always felt to this American born in 1979 like a secret shared among the coolest of the cool. Now, thanks to "Stranger Things 4," her 1985 hit "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" is hugely popular all over the world.
In the fourth season of Netflix's '80s-set supernatural smash, Bush's classic serves as a theme song of sorts for Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), a 15-year-old coping with the Season 3 death of her brother, her estranged relationship with monster-hunter-turned-basketball-star Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and of course whatever creepy-crawly creatures Season 4 has in store. For Max, this lyric seems especially apropos: "If I only could / I'd make a deal with God / And I'd get him to swap our places."
The song figures prominently in the first and fourth installments of a batch of episodes that set a new viewership record for the streaming service: 286.7 million hours streamed in one weekend, Netflix says, topping "Bridgerton" Season 2's record of 193 million. Lots of watchers leads to lots of listeners -- as I'm writing this on Tuesday night, "Running Up That Hill" is the No. 1 single on iTunes, No. 2 on Spotify's USA Top 50 behind only Harry Styles' "As It Was," and No. 4 on Spotify's Global Top 50. Not bad for a song that first dropped 37 years ago.
The best analog to this probably came when Wayne and Garth blasted "Bohemian Rhapsody" on their way to Stan Mikita's Donuts. "Wayne's World" hit theaters on Valentine's Day of 1992, 17 years after Queen's magnum opus first rocked radio stations. The 6-minute-long "mock opera," as frontman Freddie Mercury put it, has since endured as Queen's most popular song. Without "Wayne's World," Queen might still be best known for "jock jams" like "We Will Rock You" and "Another One Bites the Dust," and the Oscar-winning movie that shares its name with the song may not have been made.
What will "Stranger" success mean for Kate Bush? Now 63, she hasn't released a studio album since 2011's "50 Words for Snow." If she never records another note, she can at least enjoy this fresh bouquet of flowers; Freddie Mercury died from complications of AIDS three months before "Wayne's World" opened.
Remember when Tony Soprano said "'Remember when' is the lowest form of conversation"? He forgot that "remember when" can lead to someone else's beautiful discovery. That's what's happening right now for all of Kate Bush's new, young fans.
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who thinks you should check out the cover of "Running Up That Hill" by Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation.