Please, Rita Ora and everyone else: stop covering Running Up That Hill before it’s too late

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Back in the university days, myself and a few friends came home in the early hours after a big night out. One of those friends and I decided, in our sozzled wisdom, that the perfect thing to play through the speakers was not some soft ambient music to soothe our aching brains before we shuffled off to bed, but rather, Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush. We were delighted in our choice — who doesn’t want to belt out an emotionally charged Eighties classic at 4am, right? — but it elicited groans of dismay from the rest of the group, and I’m not even sure we made it to the first mention of a potential deal with God before threats of physical violence forced us to switch it off.

I mention this as an act of solidarity with Rita Ora: you are not the only one to foist Kate Bush onto unsuspecting listeners when the situation simply did not call for it. Poor Rita has been on the receiving end of a social media slating after footage emerged of the London-raised artist — how can we put this? — over-singing a section of the Bush song during a performance at a Brazilian music festival.

In isolation, the performance is just one of those things: a little aside in which Ora managed to unearth quite a few notes that didn’t appear in the original, but ultimately, is pretty harmless. Except she’s not the only one.

Ever since Running Up That Hill soundtracked part of the fourth season of the smash Netflix show Stranger Things earlier this year, it feels as if every man, woman, child and their collective dog has had a bash at covering it. We’ve had the straight-up pop music covers. We’ve had the orchestral covers. We’ve had Metallica-style covers. We’ve even had Coldplay doing a cover, live at Wembley Stadium, with… Alan Partridge.

Is it blatant bandwagon-hopping? A cynical lunge for a chunk of the cultural zeitgeist? Or is it just a generation of artists remembering how great of a song it is? Probably a bit of both, depending on who you’re talking about.

Whatever the case, covers are a funny thing at the best of times. Go too close to the original and you run the risk of ending up in artistic redundancy. Go too far away from the source material and it can seem as if you’re just calling it a cover to try and get people to listen. And with something like Running Up That Hill — an era-defining, unassailably crafted song — there will always be a decent amount of people who ask why on earth someone would want to recreate something that’s already so perfect.

Covers can, admittedly, also just be a bit of fun. But as Ora sadly proved, it feels as if we have reached Peak Bush, and contrary to the saying, you can definitely have too much of a good thing — as anyone who’s played their favourite song on repeat until it sounds like nails on sandpaper will confirm.

We’ve heard your earnest piano version; your “tribute” that basically just sounds like the original; your tongue-in-cheek whatever-genre remix. We’ve heard them all. They were sometimes good, often fine, occasionally hideous. Let this be the beginning of the Post-Bush Era, where we all make do with the original masterpiece. Because if I hear one more rendition of Running Up That Hill — a song I love so much, I’d play it at full-whack in a university kitchen with little to no disregard for my friends’ nascent hangovers — I might start to hate it.