Title: Running Up That Hill
Artist: Kate Bush
Album: Hounds of Love
Side one of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love is so good that it has taken me almost 45 minutes just to decide which track to feature in tonight's post. So I figured I'd go with the track Bush herself felt was most representative of the album, her most popular and accessible by this point in her career. The song has the added benefit of being featured in the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics so perhaps it is fresh in your memory.
Before there was Tori Amos, before there was Björk, there was Kate Bush with her remarkable range and unique tone quality. Quirky and artsy, she was a natural fit for her native England but failed to make a splash in the United States with early records. Less flowery and more primal, Hounds of Love connected with American audiences who had been primed by the British new wave of the previous few years.
"Running Up That Hill" melds tribal rhythms with angular melodies played on Bush's trademark Fairlight CMI and sung in her otherworldly soprano. The main melody is unusual for emphasizing a descending minor 7th, an interval rarely emphasized in any music, let alone the friendly confines of pop. (In fact, I cannot think of a single instance of this interval featured prominently anywhere and a cursory search on the internet resulted in lots of head-scratching theorists referencing only Gershwin's "An American in Paris," which does indeed begin with a descending minor 7th...that promptly resolves to a minor 6th—not quite the same thing.) Regular readers of this blog may also recognize our friend the pedal tone making a return appearance as the bass that accompanies the drum beat never once leaves the tonic note C despite all that is happening around it. Not even during that cool little bridge where Bush emerges from her art rock persona to sing something that sounds so pop ("come on baby/come on darling..."). It's such a special moment in this track because of how it so starkly contrasts with the prevailing mood of the song, which still sounds fresh and original to me over 25 years later.