What Is Max's Favorite Song in Stranger Things? - Upsmag - Magazine News

What Is Max’s Favorite Song in Stranger Things?

Spoilers for Stranger Things 4, vol. 1 below.

A Stranger Things binge is an instant trip back to the ’80s, thanks to the accurate retro outfits, hair styles, set design, and cultural references. (Will we ever think of The NeverEnding Story the same way again?) But the music, of course, plays a huge part in nailing that effect, from the synthy theme song by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, down to the impeccable Journey soundtrack in the official season 4 trailer.

Of Stranger Things 4, music plays an important role in the battle against a new evil from the Upside Down. Named Vena, this villainys on people who have said some sort of trauma; he infiltrates their minds, haunts and entrances them, then brutally kills them. There seems to be no escape for his targets at first, but our favorite Hawkins teens discover that music therapy can surprisingly help: Playing a song the victim loves can wake them and break them free from Vecna’s trance before he can destroy them.

Their theory proves to be true when Max is targeted by Vecna ​​in episode 4. She’s haunted by her step-brother Billy’s gruesome death and is lured into the villain’s trap with visions of Billy. She’s close to death when her friends, including her ex-boyfriend Lucas, save her by blasting her favorite song through her headphones to wake her up: It’s “Running Up That Hill (Deal with God)” by Kate Bush.

First of all, let’s take a moment to applaud Max’s taste. Second, the song choice isn’t completely random. Three episodes earlier, at the beginning of ST4, Max is listening to it during a slow-motion walk down the school hallway to the guidance counselor’s office. We’re assuming she’s listened to it a bunch before then too; the song from Bush’s album Hounds of Lovedebuted in 1985 and was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 20 weeks, peaking at number 30. It’s totally possible a teenage girl in 1986, like Max, would’ve heard it on the airwaves and fallen in love with it. Plus, its meaning closely resonates with her life.

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“At the start of this season 4, Max seems to be trying to manage her extremely complex feelings of emotional estrangement from her friends, meshed with the devastating loss of her brother Billy. ‘Running Up That Hill’ is very deeply connected to Max and ultimately serves as her emotional touchstone and source of strength, ” Stranger Things’ music supervisor Nora Felder explains to ELLE.com via email. “Her friends also quickly realize that this song could be the key to freeing her from this powerful monster.”

The lyrics in the chorus could also add a painful layer to how Max feels about losing Billy: “And if I only could / I’d make a deal with God / And I’d get him to swap our places.” Bush explained in a 1992 interview with BBC Radio 1 that she wrote the song about men and women in relationships, and how they would better understand each other if they were in each other’s shoes. “And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! And I think it would be led to a greater understanding,” she’d said. But in Max’s case, the lyrics might also describe her sadness over Billy’s death and possible regret and guilt for not knowing how to save him.

Max (Sadie Sink) is almost taken by Vecna ​​before being saved by her friends—and Kate Bush.

Courtesy of Netflix

The song elevates the drama of Max’s escape from Vecna ​​too. In the climactic scene, the track’s pounding percussion adds to the adrenaline rush while Bush’s commanding vocals give it emotional weight. The version of the track in the show also includes swelling strings to make the moment feel even bigger. Max sprints through Vecna’s foggy red lair, dodging spikes and falling debris from the sky as she races to the portal her friends have opened for her—all while Bush is singing, “Be running up that road / Running up that hill.” Literally and sonically, the song just fits.

“We were all thrilled that Kate Bush was a fan of the show and allowed the use of the song.”

“A lot of brainstorming went on as this song [selection] Really had to be something unique and special serving as such an integral part of the story,” Felder says. “When I was running through varied ideas to present, as is part of the process, I remember getting instantly excited. ‘Running Up That Hill’ popped in my head. It is such an inspiring and soulfully centered song which seemed like something Max could really identify with. The song also has a great musical build which was also a key element Matt and Ross [Duffer, the Stranger Things creators] wanted. I was really quite pleased that it resonated for the Duffer Brothers. We were all thrilled that Kate Bush was a fan of the show and she allowed the use of the song.

So, thank you, Kate Bush, for saving Max.

Kate Bush Peter's Pop Show 1985

Kate Bush circa 1985.

United ArchivesGetty Images

While “Running Up That Hill” takes center stage this season, Felder was also able to include other ’80s hits in other moments. “This season of the show starts in the first quarter of 1986 so naturally this was a time frame we did want to bring into focus for the season,” she says.

“Some songs were character-based selections, such as the Kate Bush song for Max. ‘Pass The Dutchie’ by Musical Youth aided in establishing the new teen character, Argyle, who adds a very welcomed humorous and endearing dynamic to our teen gang. It also introduces us to the Pizzamobile that serves as an essential element for the season.

“Songs were also selected to introduce a couple new locations including the Rink-O-Mania Roller Rink. Specifically for this environment an eclectic playlist was needed to establish the varied types of teens that went there. After all, in the ’80s, who didn’t love to skate? Songs used ranged from ‘Tarzan Boy’ by Baltimora, ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ by Dead or Alive, and of course the Surfaris classic ‘Wipe Out’ was featured.”

Felder doesn’t quite have a favorite song pick this season, but she does love the way “Running Up That Hill” evolves through the story. “The way it’s used is similar to how ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by The Clash was used for season 1 of the show,” she says, referencing the song Jonathan and Will Byers bonded over and communicated with when Will was missing early in the series.

“Although there is quite an eclectic mix of songs that includes many recognizable songs of the era,” Felder adds, “Stranger Things certainly has a way of connecting each of the songs in a very unique and special way to its audience young and old, and around the world!”

Check out some of the songs from Stranger Things 4 below.

“California Dreamin’” by The Beach Boys

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“Object of My Desire” by Starpoint

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“Fever” by The Cramps

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“Play with Me” by Extreme

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“Steve’s Rocking Star Spangled Banner” by X-Ray Dog

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“Detroit Rock City” by Kiss

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“Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora

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“You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive

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“Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco

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“Wipe Out” by The Surfaris

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“Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads

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“Hard Feelings” by Al Kerby

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“Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Ella Fitzgerald

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“Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth

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Erica Gonzales
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more.

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