Films, whether consciously or subconsciously…whether intended or not…usually end up becoming a product of their time in some form or fashion.
And as timeless as Burton’s original film is, it’s obvious that the inclusion of pop music would give it that extra ’80s spunk.
And the conceptual album to 1989’s “Batman” was produced, arranged and performed by Warner Bros’ leading artist of the day…the purple one himself…Prince.
Somehow, by god, it seems to transcend itself.
Meant by Warners and producer Mark Canton to capitalize on the success of “Purple Rain” in 1984, Prince’s material for “Batman” is delightfully playful…full of funk, innuendo; the kind of groove only Prince could provide.
It’s probably because I’ve been so attached to the film for my life, but while there is a tinge of ’80s nostalgia to the album…it doesn’t feel overtly ’80s to me. Especially the tracks used by the Joker in the film (“Partyman” and “Trust”) seem to fit right into Burton’s universe quite seamlessly.
Let’s take a look at the tracks individually:
The opening track (which is fitting considering it makes a brief appearance in the opening of the movie) has a bit more of a mellow beat without being a ballad and it’s actually quite haunting in its representation of Gotham City. Prince’s guitar riffs are pretty sweet here to (“Wait a minute!”). It’s definitely one that captures the overall mood of the film.
This is probably my favorite track on the album…used only subtly in the background during the party at Wayne Manor. It’s very fun, very much displaying Prince’s rock n’ roll side. The lyrics are also very catchy (“If a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind…then give me the electric chair for all my future crimes…OH!”) The synth beats are awesome and it’s just a rollicking track. Again, Prince’s guitar work is awesome here.
“Arms of Orion”
The first ballad on the album, the song is performed as a duet between Prince and frequent collaborator Sheena Easton. It’s very airy and beautiful (though not as much as the album’s second ballad) and the hushed nuance of Sheena’s voice coupled with the piano make it as heavenly as its title suggests.
The first prominent track from the film (used by the Joker during his terrorizing of the museum) “Partyman” is just that…a party of funk and pop fused into chaotic bliss that paints quite the portrait of Joker’s attitudes towards entering a room. This track really let’s Prince’s band mates shine…I love the saxophone delivered by Candy and the piano and brass work is memorably infectious.
Parallel to “The Future,” this track has a beat that’s played down a bit more compared to “Partyman” or “Electric Chair.” This is definitely Prince at his most instrumentally proficient as the track is chalk full of guitar, both electric and acoustic…as well as some African shakers, tambourines, synthesized drums, even some island instruments make it into the mix.
This is Prince at his most theatrical with the second prominent track…and probably the most memorable given its use for the Joker’s 200th anniversary parade. It’s so devilishly over the top and infectious you just can’t help but nod your head or tap your foot if you allow yourself to get into it. It’s also Prince as his most playful with his lyrics (“Sex…it’s not the type of party…oh girl, we’re gettin’ higher TONIGHT!”). Mirrored after parade music from venues such as Rio de Janeiro or Mardi Gras, several instruments like tambourines, trumpets and bells are prevalent. “Trust” is easily one of the best tracks on the album.
“Lemon Crush” is probably the album’s ‘Black Sheep’ (though it can be argued that “Arms of Orion” claims that stigma) but it’s still fun just the same. I especially love the second half of the song when it’s cleared its verses and just begins to roll with it. The voice-pitch gag at 2:49 in…gotta love that!
Most memorable for being used in the end credits of the film, “Scandalous” is clearly the most erotic track…and as second ballad on the album, it’s far a more beautiful track than “Arms of Orion.” The beat is also very refreshing given the aggressiveness of both “Trust” and “Lemon Crush.” The track laced with such genuine sexually and romanticism, it makes for a compellingly smooth track. Prince’s lyrics sometimes get downright raunchy (“Don’t be afraid baby. Touch it…and explode!”) but y’know what…it’s Prince. No one lyrically portrays sex quite like he can.
Pure ecstasy! This was the breakout hit that topped the charts when it was released before the film. “Batdance” is just a hodge-podge of segments, cues and pieces from previous tracks (lyrics from “The Future” and “Electric Chair,” percussion motifs from “Partyman” and “Lemon Crush”) it’s packed with actual dialogue delivered by Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger from the movie (several of the other tracks do so as well but not to this extent) and the song…as the title suggests…is just something fun to dance to. Love how Prince puts in a nod to the ’60s television show with his constant “Batman! Batman!” Great song…very memorable and rip-roaring.
The album, in only nine tracks, manages to give its own unique voice to Tim Burton’s depiction of the caped crusader…one that panders more to the playful, zany whims of the comic book without going into full on parody of the material. The tracks utilized by the film only enhance the overall experience of “Batman” and for that, Prince is to be commended.
I love the fact that Prince was the one tapped for the gig…his involvement in “Batman” led to my discovery of “Purple Rain” and today I’m a dedicated Prince fan.
His music is fun, catchy, sexy, funky…what’s not to love!?
“BATMAN”: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Prince, 1989)
Arranged, Composed, Performed and Produced by … Prince
“The Arms of Orion” Composed and Performed by … Prince with Sheena Easton
“Scandalous” Composed by Prince with John L. Nelson
Choir segments Performed by … The Sounds of Blackness Choir
Horn segments Performed by … Eric Leeds
Orchestra segments Performed by … Atlanta Bliss & the Clare Fischer Orchestra
Executive Produced by … Jon Peters and Peter Guber
1: The Future (4:07)
2: Electric Chair (4:08)
3: The Arms of Orion (5:02)
4: Partyman (3:11)
5: Vicki Waiting (4:52)
6: Trust (4:24)
7: Lemon Crush (4:15)
8: Scandalous (6:15)
9: Batdance (6:13)
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