I got sucked in by “Stranger Things” Season 4 on Netflix. The story has been nothing short of exhilarating with a mystery that keeps you hanging on until a bomb is dropped at the very end that blows your mind. Now I’m impatiently waiting for the second volume to drop on July 1.
But aside from being a solid show, “Stranger Things” is also a vehicle into the past for the youth of today. The show takes place in 1980s rural America and may look like your own hometown. It mixes coming-of-age stories with horror in such a well-executed way (except season 2) that everyone from boomers to zoomers can’t help but be engrossed. However, its primary audience is the young, and through this show, they’re introduced to 80s pop culture. Particularly the music.
Season 4 is no different and possibly has done the best at introducing kids to new-old music than the others. One song, in particular, is standing heads and shoulders above the rest, and that’s “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. For those who need a refresher, you can listen to the song below.
To be sure, the song is one of the prime examples of how good pop music can be. It’s timeless, so much so that “Stranger Things” caused the kids to fall in love with it immediately and send it rocketing to the top of the charts after decades of it being buried in the 80s. As of this writing, it’s No. 4 on the Billboard singles chart. It’s also currently #12 on YouTube’s music category.
It’s numero uno on Spotify.
Not bad for a 37-year-old song.
But while Bush’s song is a solid example of how good pop music can be, it’s also a solid example of how bad pop music has become.
Maybe this is my elder millennial crotchetyness coming through, but when I turn on the radio I find myself reaching for my phone to turn on Spotify to find something off mainstream. The music is just plain horrible. It’s shallow, cookie-cutter, and they all seem to be about the same things. There’s no depth to them.
I can’t help but think of this scene from The Witcher when the bard Jaskier asked Geralt how his singing was.
“It’s like ordering a pie and finding it has no filling.”
It doesn’t stop at pop music either. Mainstream country music is hardly country. It reminds me more of hip-hop with a country twang. Alternative music is hardly alternative music because I can hardly differentiate it from pop music now. Rap is so full of mumblers mumbling about their lifestyle that it’s all fused into one. Rock music is…well, it’s dead.
My generation is probably the last generation that had mainstream music that really did include people who had talent, depth, and emotion. They wanted to say something, not just release a beat that was addictive and bled right into the next song. Gen Z was born at a time when hits were overly-produced clones that contained lyrics that either mean nothing or deal with shallow thoughts and actions.
Don’t look down on them for it. They don’t know any better.
But look at their reaction when they get something with actual substance and heart. Kids have “Running Up That Hill” on repeat. Reading the comments on the song, I’ve seen zoomers say that hearing the song in conjunction with this scene in Stranger Things Season 4 made them cry.
The youth seem to be enraptured when they’re introduced to good music. They can’t get enough of it.
This isn’t a nostalgia trip. These kids weren’t around when Bush released this song. They just heard something solid and now they keep going back to it. What do you think they’re feeling when they listen to it after having had to listen to some mumble rapper talk about how rich he is for the hundredth time or listen to some pop star make another shallow song about how much he or she loves someone?
They aren’t comparable to the genius of artists like Prince, The Police, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Rush, and Bush.
I think that deep down, the youth are lacking that depth and they’re thirsty without knowing they are. When they come across a song like “Running Up That Hill” they cling to it without really understanding why.
We need a cultural revolution and a return to good art. Mainstream culture needs to be dethroned, destroyed, and restarted.