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Linda Ronstadt streams soar after ‘The Last of Us,’ evoking Kate Bush and ‘Stranger Things’

<i>Courtesy of Netflix</i><br/>The
Courtesy of Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix
The "Wednesday" dance trend significantly boosted the popularity of the 2011 Lady Gaga song "Bloody Mary

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

Linda Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time” appeared not once but three times in Sunday’s episode of “The Last of Us.” And fans of HBO’s newest hit were clearly moved by Ronstadt’s song, as streams of her ballad have ballooned since the episode premiered.

Between 11 p.m. ET and midnight on Sunday, Spotify streams of “Long, Long Time” increased 4,900% compared to the week prior, the platform reported this week. CNN has reached out to Spotify to confirm the number of streams before and after “The Last of Us” aired. In the meantime, the song is already appearing in TikToks from weepy viewers who loved the episode.

The song was performed by actors Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman in a pivotal sequence in the third episode of “The Last of Us” in which their characters meet by chance, take turns playing Ronstadt’s song at very different tempos on an antique piano and share a kiss (and, eventually, almost 20 years of their lives). The episode closes with Ronstadt’s rendition of the song played on a cassette tape.

“I knew that song needed to hit certain things about longing and aching and endlessly unrequited love,” series co-creator Craig Mazin told Variety.

Ronstadt released “Long, Long Time” in 1970 as a single from her second album, “Silk Purse.” It charted for 12 weeks, peaking at number 25, per Billboard. It was her first single to appear on a Billboard chart.

The renewed interest in Ronstadt’s ballad is drawing comparisons to the overwhelming wave of popularity “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” received when the Kate Bush power ballad was featured in several episodes of “Stranger Things” last year. Almost 40 years after it was first released, Bush’s signature song returned to charts, reaching No. 1i n the UK and No. 4 in the US. In 1985, the song peaked at No. 30, Billboard reported. Around the time the fourth season of “Stranger Things” was released in late May, “Running Up That Hill” began to net millions of streams a day.

Über-popular series, particularly those with large Gen Z viewership, have shown a unique power to resurrect certain songs, particularly on TikTok. “Euphoria” introduced younger viewers to the ’70s jam “Right Down the Line” by Gerry Rafferty, a song Zendaya’s character Rue grooves to more than once in the series’ second season. And it resonated, too, with millions of people on TikTok: The hashtag #rightdowntheline has been seen more than 5 million times on the app, and more than 34,000 videos use the official version of the song as an audio snippet. (HBO, home to “The Last of Us” and “Euphoria,” shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN.)

Netflix’s mega-hit “Wednesday,” which broke viewership records previously held by “Stranger Things,” included a viral scene set to The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck” in which the titular Addams Family daughter performed an idiosyncratic dance to the punk anthem. Netflix’s clip of the scene has racked up more than 43 million views and Google searches for the song spiked in early December, shortly after the show’s streaming release. But the scene also resurrected, if indirectly, Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary,” off her 2011 album “Born This Way.” Millions of TikTok users eager to recreate the “Wednesday” dance soundtracked their attempts to Gaga’s vampy deep cut, which rocketed the song onto Billboard charts for the first time (though it was Gaga’s 36th entry on the Billboard Hot 100).

Meanwhile, Ronstadt’s ballad isn’t even the first song featured in “The Last of Us” to pique fans’ interest. The pilot episode ended with Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again,” whose streams tripled overnight from 26,000 on the day the pilot aired to 83,000 the following day, according to Billboard. Depeche Mode’s official YouTube account even added a parenthetical to the title for the song’s music video: “(Heard on Episode 1 of The Last of Us).”

So far, few of the recent old-songs-turned-new-hits have reached the same heights as Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” did last year, but “The Last of Us” shows that its success was not anomalous.

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