Slither Sounds: Classick reviews Prince’s “Batman” soundtrack (1989)


Batman.

This month, 24 years ago, Warner Brothers released what was a highly anticipated, long awaited film that captured the caped crusader on the silver screen in an epic fashion similar to what was done for Superman in 1978 and has been done countless times ever since. Batman was THE movie of 1989 and ushered in the future of comic book superhero cinema.

As an artist in Warner Brothers’ stable, Prince was tapped as the choice to perform the soundtrack for the movie. No, not just a couple of songs on the soundtrack, THE ENTIRE SOUNDTRACK! This was huge, but the genius behind Purple Rain, Controversy, 1999, Lovesexy, and much more (Sheila E., Vanity, Apollonia anyone?) seemed like the right man for the job. Was he?

PRINCE batman

Because today’s Prince Day and in honor of one of my personal favorite Prince albums, let’s do a Classick review of the Batman soundtrack! My rating system will range from 1 Bat Signal (Terrible) to 5 Bat Signals (Perfection). If you agree/disagree or just don’t care, comment below.

The Future

This played in the background of the Gotham city alley just before the two crooks mug the unsuspecting family, reminiscent of when Bruce Wayne’s parents were robbed and killed. Very subtle and somber funk tune that tells us how rough it is in Gotham City at the outset of the movie and the hope that things will change.
In the chorus, Prince refrains

I’ve seen the future and it will be, I’ve seen the future and it works. If there’s life after, we will see, So you can’t go like a jerk.

"What Are You?" "I'm what happened to Johnny Gobs!"
“What Are You?” “I’m what happened to Johnny Gobs!”

With various synths and guitar riffs, this is a nice background jam that comes right off a Prince B-side. You can tell this was done for Prince and just thrown into this album. Right at the end, we get a clip from the movie of Jack Napier/The Joker (played by Jack Nicholson) saying “Think about the future!”

Classick rating: 3 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Electric Chair

I have no clue what scene this was from in the movie, but it’s definitely an 80s rock tune. It starts off rather generic with the not-sung-but-rapped lyrics, but when Prince gets into the chorus the jam really comes together. Cool song, but nothing to really write home about. Again, a song that sounds like an S&M freak-you-down-from-across-the-room-with-my-eyes theme than a clip from the movie. Maybe this played on a transistor radio in Axis Chemicals in one of the outtake scenes? who knows?

Why wasn't this song or scene in the movie?
Why wasn’t this song or scene in the movie?

Classick rating: 2 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989

The Arms of Orion

Prince-The-Arms-Of-Orion-94189

This song wasn’t in the movie at all! But it’s a brilliant duet with Sheena Easton that reached the US and UK Top 40 lists in 1989 and the third single from this album. A nice mixture of piano, synths and strings make this a fantastic romantic song–surprised we don’t hear it more at wedding receptions and such. If I was back in the ’90s, I would have put this on more mixtapes and mix CD’s (for the ladies, of course). Hey, why wasn’t this in the movie?

Classick rating: 4 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Prince. Sheena Easton. Not enough conditioner to go around!
Prince. Sheena Easton. Not enough conditioner to go around!

Partyman

“Gentlemen… let’s broaden our minds! Lawrence? Brush!”

Now we’re talkin! You KNEW this was a Prince soundtrack as soon as Joker’s henchman pressed play on the boombox and this wicked jam blared all throughout the Flugelheim Museum. As The Joker and his gang vandalized artwork and danced merrily over the unconscious patrons (knocked out by Smilex gas), a gas-mask wearing Vicki Vale could only look on in horror. The song goes hard and is a trademark Prince get funky jam, loaded with horn samples. “Partyman! Partyman! Rock a party like no one can!”. In the theater when this scene came, I think Jack sold the song so well with his antics as The Joker.

Partyman

No doubt this song was a hit, reaching #18 in the US Hot 100 charts, #5 in the R&B charts and #14 in the UK charts. An interesting wrinkle thrown in near the end is what sounds like a Caribbean woman’s voice speaking. That voice belongs to one-time Prince protege Anna Fantastic. More on her later.

Classick rating: 4 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Vicki Waiting

Another previous Prince song recrafted for the movie, this was originally recorded as “Anna Waiting”, written for Prince’s then girlfriend Anna Garcia, a.k.a. “Anna Fantastic”. As with a few other tracks on this album, this doesn’t appear in the movie (unless I missed it), but is a nice fit in terms of setting the scene for Vicki Vale having to wait for Bruce Wayne, Batman and The Joker at various times throughout the movie.

You probably think this song is about you, Kim Basinger...
You probably think this song is about you, Kim Basinger…

The song itself is a decent R&B jam with your typical Prince guitar riffs thrown in… A very radio-friendly jam that would have made it a great single, had it not been for how low profile it seems on this compilation.

Classick rating: 3 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Trust

Hubba hubba hubba! Money money money! Who do ya trust?!!
Hubba hubba hubba! Money money money! Who do ya trust?!!

THIS. WAS. MY. JAM! I tend to enjoy the Prince songs that are tied to actual movie scenes, and this one fit perfectly with The Joker standing atop a parade float tossing money in the air, making it rain all over Gotham’s greedy masses. Again, Jack Nicolson sells this song with his dance moves and acting, but you can’t say enough about Prince’s brilliance in combining horns, guitars, drums and his slick vocals to make this high-paced funk which, by the time you reach the bridge, sounds like a revival. Fantastic song!

“Get ’em… take the pictures… Gotham’s greed!”

Classick rating: 4 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Lemon Crush

And now we go back to another song that didn’t make the movie, but in keeping with the Anna Fantastic theme, is an ode to Prince’s then paramour/protege.

Anna Fantastic...appreciation.
Anna Fantastic…appreciation.

I think Lemon crush was some kinda drink she liked, but yeah… this is just OK. I listened all the way through hoping the song gets better, but it is one of Prince’s more forgettable songs. Not much better than Electric Chair, in my opinion.

Classick rating: 2 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Scandalous

The next to last song on the album, “Scandalous” holds the distinction of reaching #5 on the U.S. R&B charts and anchoring the closing credits to the 1989 “Batman” film. As a love song, a closing credits song, a soundtrack song and a Prince song, this one is PERFECT!

Jump to 1:15 in the clip below and enjoy!

Classick rating: 5 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Batdance

Hey, Prince is doing Batman! Wait... Prince... is doing Batman? (everyone in 1989)
Hey, Prince is doing Batman! Wait… Prince… is doing Batman? (everyone in 1989)

When this song was first released, not only was it panned critically, but the music video was considered a huge disappointment. Many, including young impressionable fanboys like myself, immediately questioned Warner Brothers’ choice of going with Prince for the entire soundtrack. I mean, this is Batman, not Purple Rain! There are no blouses or purple motorcycles in this flick!

Prince – Batdance (Batman Soundtrack)

But the crazed music video aside, giving this song another listen since I have a better appreciation for what Prince was trying to do here. “Batdance” is a funky medley of other songs and lyrics from the soundtrack, inter-weaved with clips from the movie. Prince singing “Batman” in style of the familiar 60’s “Batman” TV show tells you right away that this is what we would’ve expected as part of the movie. Thankfully, this song itself was never in the movie, but the early release of the single shot it up to #1 on the Hot 100 Charts. I attribute that to the feverish anticipation of the movie, which still hadn’t been released yet.  I’ll be generous and say it’s a so-so song.

Classick rating: 3 Bat Signals
batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

Overall rating

Well, there you have it, folks. The big winners to me from this album are “The Arms of Orion”, “Partyman”, “Trust” and of course “Scandalous”. “Batdance”, “The Future” and “Vicki Waiting” were just OK, and I could have lived without “Lemon Crush” and “Electric Chair”. All in all, however, I can’t think of a better artist to capture all of Batman in one soundtrack than Prince. Sure, more of the songs seemed to be geared toward The Joker’s personalities than Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s, but that kinda fits Jack Nicholson’s role, as he pretty much stole the show. And hey, I can always punch up Danny Elfman’s score from this film, which is by now iconic in its auditory impact (WB’s Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Sony’s Spider-Man, various other superhero movie soundtracks, etc.). But yeah, when it comes to Prince, I’m very mainstream, so this is my other go-to Prince album.

Overall album rating: 3 Bat Signals

batsignal1989 batsignal1989 batsignal1989

wait... I kinda like this one!
wait… I kinda like this one!

Like what you read? Have any recommendations for future “Slither Sounds” posts? Hit us up in the comments, or e-mail us at coldslitherpodcast@gmail.com!!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. love it! One of my favorite albums of all time.

  2. Nicely done, sir! I remember bringing my cassette boombox to summer camp for the main reason of not being away from this soundtrack.

  3. Dax Hotel says:

    Batdance is an amazing and mind-boggling mix of Prince’s funk-rock and the new dance sounds of the time (S-Express, Bomb the Bass etc). Next time you listen to it – just think – “one man made this song” how the hell did he do it? and you’ll have a new appreciation of it’s complexities.

  4. vince says:

    I have ro disagree with the marks, i love Vicki waiting, lemon crush and electric chair and in fact think they are the best songs on the album. I think trust and arms of orion are the weaklinks of the album.
    However like you I do love the album and it reminds me of my youth.

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