“Running Up That Hill” is the song that has been playing on a loop for me lately. Watching the video for very long, however, makes me feel somewhat awkward. Not only because watching most dance makes me feel both bulky and graceless, but because this video seems to be so achingly sincere even when they’re thrashing violently. Michael Hervieu (Kate’s partner in this interpretive duet) lifts her into the air, weaves her round his body, lays her out on the floor, and one hand drifts painfully past her cheek in the seemingly endless blue church light and shadows. Oh it hurts.
It’s a song that’s chronically misinterpreted, but somehow compelling anyways. Most people assume that the deal with god is to swap places with his holiness – a sort of “Kate Almighty” situation, but what the song is actually about is the insecurity and misunderstandings that occur with romantic love and the wish for God to allow us to swap places with our lover so that we might truly understand each other.
The video was choreographed by Diane Grey and primarily features just the two dancers wearing Japanese hakamas. It was designed to be different than everything else on MTV at the time when Kate thought that the majority of movement in mainstream videos was haphazard, trivial, and exploited. She wanted something meaningful, classic, and different. And the team succeeded. So much so that MTV wouldn’t air this version of the video supposedly because, just then, MTV was much more geared towards videos that showed artists lip synching their songs. Kate’s invisible bow-and-arrow moves weren’t quite their speed. So MTV aired one of Kate’s live performances instead.
It’s also slightly disturbing (in that way that old, under-budgeted Star Trek episodes can freak you out) that as the song begins to climax, the lovers are pulled apart by a stream of anonymous masked strangers wearing photocopies of the other person’s face or their own (See? Low budge – still freaky.). Kate said the effect was to be that of drowning in yourself and becoming distanced from your lover, but mostly it just leaves me with my head cocked to the right with a painful nose wrinkle that asks “Why?”
But then again – that’s sort of what I love about Kate. The “why’d you have to do it like that?” abandon that says to me that she really means the weird things she does and trusts implicitly in her own art. That level of faith has always been reassuring to me. I was listening to a recent BBC interview with her where they were asking her about her process and techniques as she writes her new album. She said that she has some gardening bone meal housed on her piano while she’s composing. It was all accidental – she was on her way to the garden and stopped at the piano, abandoning the bone meal, but the work she produced in the following days was so satisfying that when she discovered the bone meal was still there she thought to herself, “why not?”
They also asked her, “when was the last time that you heard one of your songs as you were going about your business?” and she said that the last time that had happened to her was six months ago while driving in her car. “Running Up That Hill” came on the radio and they asked her what it was like to hear it again. She said, “I thought it was all right, that one.”
We think so, too, Kate. We really do.
Bless you and your weirdness, Kate. Keep the good tunes coming and we’ll overlook any number of odd dance moves – that’s my deal with you.
PS – Incidentally the song was supposed to be called “Deal With God” but the record company made her change it since they were afraid that having the word “God” in the title would cause the record to be too controversial and result in lower sales so the title was changed to be “Running Up That Hill.”