Batman (1989)


  
1. The Future 2. Electric Chair 3. The Arms of Orion 4. Partyman 5. Vicki Waiting 6. Trust 7. Lemon Crush 8. Vicki Waiting 9. Batdance

 

If you remember the summer of 1989, you remember Batman. Good Lord, this movie was everywhere. Unlike the successful avant garde television show of the 1960s, the first of many Batman feature films was more based on the comic book, the movie surrounded by marketing gimmicks galore – including a soundtrack by none other than Prince. What a perfect combination- since Prince sort of had that “comic book” allure about him – more myth than human, and definitely a super hero to everyone following pop music. What was somewhat sad, and incredibly ironic is that this soundtrack really isn’t that good. Then again, neither was the movie. A bit surprising since it was one of the highest grossing films of all time. Hindsight hasn’t been as kind to the film, and most would list a couple of other “Batmans” that followed in the years since as being superior.

It’s quite amazing what a successful PR campaign can do.

This collection of songs by Prince, all designed to jive somewhat with the movie, is the most mediocre thing he had released at the time. Had this album been compromised (i.e. a few legitimate songs amongst a host of movie music), one could easily forgive many misgivings. Unfortunately, the entire album is a legitimate attempt by Prince to contain nothing but original songs. The thing just reeks of being ordinary. Most of the songs here do have somewhat of a “beat” going through the tracks and this was 1989, so there’s synth-pop galore, but very few of the songs ever seem to rise above a bland level of average.

The Arms of Orion is a pretty, schmaltzy duet with Sheena Easton that is quite pleasurable, and Vicki Waiting is the best thing on here in terms of pop sensibility. There are a couple of other times when the songs sound like if they were given a couple of small tweaks they may have been able to shine much brighter and stand out as potential classics, but for most part, decisions were made to ignore such potential enhancements. Perhaps they were in a rush to get this album released?

There’s one true great song on here, and that’s the ballad Scandalous featuring Prince crooning in his falsetto voice throughout the entire six minutes. It’s been awhile since I saw the film, but I imagine this particular cut made a great background piece to a love scene. It’s a shame nothing else here on this album even comes close.

The biggest mystery on this album is the closing song/first single Batdance that was worn out by radio stations across the nation for, what seemed, the entire summer. It’s a mystery because the song sold well, topped the charts, was played everywhere, yet was unbearably awful. I simply can’t fathom how such a bad song could have been played so much at this particular time. It’s one of those six minute songs that seems as though it’s about 3 or 4 different tracks scrunched together in some sort of unbearable medley. Top the track with some random dialogue from the flick, and you’ve got one big cacophonic mess. I guess such a feat was possible given Prince’s reputation at the time. I’d like to think, however, that just about anything else that he might have come up with would have been much better than this.

Again, though, even though the film and soundtrack were a blockbuster, now that the hoopla has died down over a quarter century later, most look back at the experience as a victim of the times. It has aged rather poorly.

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