Get the funk up! Prince and Batman: crown time is over?

Prince - Batdance video still (thecurrent.org)

Prince – Batdance video still

Introduction

In Europe Prince’s star had risen to uncharted heights. His last album, Lovesexy, was his crowning achievement and his best sold album ever. In the US however it was the other way around. He had turned into a star from the past who seemed to have lost his touch with his audience.

In the meantime in England, Tim Burton was working on a film, which was destined to bring in a lot of money in the summer of 1989: Batman.

New album?

I don’t recall there being a lot of talk on a new Prince album in the press. Because I worked at the only true record store Concerto in Amsterdam, I was aware of new albums sooner than the average record buyer. As was the case with Batman.

Prince - Batman - Pre-order, Discount & Ad (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Batman – Pre-order, Discount & Ad

(The Dutch article displays the images above in full.)

The information I had at the time was that the album was a soundtrack album for the upcoming Batman movie, which was to be released during the course of the summer of 1989. Of course, Prince had released soundtracks before, but they were made for his own movies. How was this going to work? And, perhaps more importantly, was he able to continue the almost endless stream of genius album after genius album? Every album he released in the 1980’s had been different, better, more wayward and more experimental than the previous one. The impressive line-up, Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign O’ The Times, The Black Album and Lovesexy, would be followed by Batman. Could that album live up to all those other titles?

Leading up to Batman

Batman - The Joker - Jack Nicholson (looper.com)

Batman – The Joker – Jack Nicholson

Taking Jack Nicholson’s (who played the part of The Joker) advice, Burton had used two Prince songs in the movie: 1999 and Baby I’m A Star. Both Nicholson and Burton were big admirers and wanted to ask Prince whether he was willing to replace those recordings with other, maybe even new, songs.

In the meantime Prince had decided to take some time off. He had just fired his management and had even booked a short vacation in Paris, France. The idea (or hope, from record company Warner Bros.’ point of view) was to take some time to implement a new management team and develop a strategy to bring in some much needed cash. The Lovesexy tour, particularly the US leg, had cost a lot of money and had left Prince in debt at the end of 1988. In February 1989 the tour would visit Japan for a number of shows. With the earnings from those shows the tour could break even.

Prince gets involved with the movie

Prince meets Tim Burton on the set of Batman, 01/21/1989 (pinterest.com)

Prince meets Tim Burton on the set of Batman, 01/21/1989

In December 1988 Prince is contacted and the idea is presented to him. He hesitates. Yet, he decides to visit the movie set in London on January 21st, 1989, sees raw footage and the scenes that hold 1999 and Baby I’m A Star. He is enthused by the movie, the set, the fantasy and maybe also by his memory of Batman, the television show. On several occasions, Prince mentioned that the first piece of music he learned to play was the theme to the original Batman series.

Back home in Minneapolis Prince went to work, by himself at Paisley Park. The first songs he picked were recorded in 1988 that fit the mood he was looking for. As he progressed he got more and more enthused. Inspiration took over, the planned holiday was cancelled and Prince desperately wanted out of the February Lovesexy tour. Luckily his management convinced him otherwise. Impatient and against his own wishes he went ahead and did the tour (which was stunningly good, the Japan shows were phenomenal). Upon returning home he immediately dove in to the Batman project. Song after song after song was recorded. The upcoming project was not going to be just 2 songs, it was going to be an entire album.

Because Warner Bros. made the movie and had a contract with Prince, communication was fast and both the film makers and Prince got what they wanted, they could go ahead with their plans: Prince got permission to make an entire album and the movie was granted use of Prince’s music. The reasoning was that both could profit off each other. But, in reality, it was Prince that would stand to get the best deal out of all this. Even then, consensus on Batman becoming a huge blockbuster, was omnipresent. If Prince were to associate his name and music to the project, it could very well set his career on the right track again in the US.

By the end of February Prince completed the first configuration of the album. He proposed to replace 1999 with the previously recorded Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic and Baby I’m A Star with the new 200 Balloons. However, Burton felt both of those songs didn’t really fit the scenes and requested other songs. After Prince obliged he assembled a new configuration for the album in March. Except for one song. it was the definitive version. The one song that wasn’t part of the album yet, was the very one that was selected to be the album’s leading single: Batdance. The song that was pulled was Dance With The Devil, a beautiful song which later on found its way to the fans on various bootlegs. Unfortunately, it has never officially been released and was pulled by Prince himself, because he supposedly found it too dark. After recording Batdance in March the album was done, a mere six weeks after he started it. Three songs had been previously recorded and had no relation to Batman.

Prince - Batman era (batman.wiki.com)

Prince – Batman era

Cooperation

Prince always seemed to do things his way and was unwilling to be accountable to others. Why did he go along with this project? Why did he even agree on delivering songs, by request even?

Whether he minded or not, he behaved impeccably. Prince said in an interview with Rolling Stone: “There was so much pressure on Tim. For the whole picture, I just said, ‘Yes, Mr. Burton, what would you like?'”. Of course, it probably was the smartest thing for Prince to do, as it provided him with a big hit and more knowledge about filming, which he could put to great use, as he already was in the planning stages for his fourth movie, Graffiti Bridge.

Prince - Batman (tidal.com)

Prince – Batman

Batman

Batman is the eleventh studio album by Prince, and it is one of two soundtracks to the 1989 Batman movie. The release date has been pinpointed at June 19th, 1989 (one day later in the US), but I bought it three days before, on June 16th, 1989.

All I knew from the album was the single Batdance, that had just come out a week before. I thought it was truly great. I couldn’t wait for the album to be released!

The album was released on Warner Bros. Records label and not on Paisley Park Records.

Songs

All songs are written by Prince (unless stated otherwise) and were recorded at Paisley Park Studios. A lot of the songs contain samples of the Batman movie, mainly dialogue. Also see the paragraph Contributions by others.

Prince - The Future (princevault.com)

The Future (single)

The Future

A stunning opener of the album. This is highly impressive minimalist robotic, yet swinging funk. The instrumentation is minimal, with just the right amount of embellishments. What an opener!

The song is rather dark (just like a lot of the other songs on the album) and creates a rather hopeless image of the future.

Systematic overthrow of the underclass
Hollywood conjures images of the past
New world needs spiritually
That will last
I’ve seen the future and it will be

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

Yellow Smiley offers me X
Like he’s drinking seven up
I would rather drink 6 razor blades
Razor blades from a paper cup
He can’t understand, I say 2 tough
It’s just that I’ve seen the future
And boy it’s rough

© 1989 Prince

This song was recorded in February 1989. The song was supplemented with parts of the orchestral version of the song Crystal Ball, which at one point was part of the previous configuration that led to Sign O’ The Times. In the end, the song was released on the 3-disc set Crystal Ball in 1998. Also, vocals by gospel group Sounds Of Blackness are sampled.

The Future was released as a Europe-only single on May 18th, 1990. It contained a remix of the song made by William Orbit (unique, Prince never allowed outsiders to even touch his music). The B-side to the single was another song off the Batman album, Electric Chair (see below).

The Future is part of my Prince top 50 songs (number 23).

Prince - Electric Chair - Live Saturday Night Live 09/24/1989 (nbc.com)

Prince – Electric Chair – Live Saturday Night Live 09/24/1989

Electric Chair

Pounding drums and glorious guitars. Bare, direct and hard. I had never heard Prince like this before. A welcome surprise.

If a man is considered guilty
4 what goes on in his mind
Then give me the electric chair
4 all my future crimes-OH!

© 1989 Prince

This song was recorded in July 1988, so it existed before Prince was involved with Batman.

On September 24th, 1989 Prince played this song live during a guest performance at the satirical television show Saturday Night Live. Instead of seizing the opportunity to promote Partyman (it was the current single at the time), he opted for the more obscure and heavy Electric Chair. The performance was outstanding, by the way.

N.B.: The SNL performance marks the first time Michael B. and Candy Dulfer played live with Prince.

Electric Chair was released as a remix, also made by William Orbit, as the B-side to the The Future single.

Prince - The Arms Of Orion (single) (princevault.com)

Prince – The Arms Of Orion (single)

The Arms Of Orion

(written by Prince and Sheena Easton)

Well, and then this song comes along… Upon first hearing it I was genuinely shocked. This song is monstrous. Sickeningly sweet, and it’s just so ordinary, so Middle Of The Road. I couldn’t believe (still can’t actually) this song was coming from the same man who could write songs like Head, Controversy, Automatic, When Doves Cry, Condition Of The Heart, Mountains, Sign O’ The Times and Positivity, just to name a few. Was Prince fallible after all?

The first recordings for this song took place on January 25th, 1989, just 4 days after Prince’s visit to the Batman movie set. The song is sang by Prince and Sheena Easton, after Sign O’ The TimesU Got The Look the pair’s second duet.

The Arms Of Orion was released a single on October 16th, 1989. The B-side was the unreleased I Love U In Me, which was far superior to the A-side.

Prince - Partyman - Video stills (sharingmatrix.eu)

Prince – Partyman – Video stills

Partyman

Prince - Partyman (single) (prince.com)

Prince – Partyman (single)

Partyman is a straight forward funk song. I don’t play it very often, but it always lifts my spirit. It’s catchy. It is one of the few Batman songs that were occasionally played live after the 1990 Nude tour.

The song was recorded in March 1989. Extended (re)mixes took place between March and August of 1989. The 12″ marks the first time Candy Dulfer is audible on released Prince music.

Partyman was released as a single on August 18th, 1989. The B-side was the previously unreleased Feel U Up.

In the documentary Prince: A Musical Portrait footage of Prince is shown making additional recordings for the extended version of the song. In that version Candy Dulfer is introduced as follows: “When I need trombone, my dog is handy / But when I want sax, I call Candy”.

The video, which features Candy Dulfer, to the song is exciting and funny, in which Prince makes fun of everything and everyone, including himself.

Partyman replaced Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, which in turn was a replacement for 1999 in the movie and is played when The Joker paints over and demolishes paintings in the Gotham City museum.

Batman - Vicki Vale - Kim Basinger (gothamcalling.com)

Batman – Vicki Vale – Kim Basinger

Vicki Waiting

Originally recorded as a gift for Prince’s girlfriend at the time Anna Fantastic (real name Anna Garcia), the song was called Anna Waiting. After Prince was given permission to use the song for the project, the song (or was it just the vocals?) was re-recorded and titled Vicki Waiting, referencing the movie character Vicki Vale.

I told the joke about the woman
Who asked her lover “Why is your organ so small'”
He replied “I didn’t know I was playin’ in a cathedral.”
Vicki didn’t laugh at all.

© 1989 Prince

The song was originally recorded at the end of 1988, prior to Prince being contacted for the Batman project.

Prince - Trust (promo single) (princevault.com/discogs.com)

Prince – Trust (promo single)

Trust

Trust is a happy funky, yet rather nondescript, song that has its nice stop/start moments, but doesn’t endure in the end.

Trust was recorded in March 1989 as a replacement to 200 Balloons, which in turn was a replacement for Baby I’m A Star. It is played in the movie during the parade in honor of Gotham City’s 200 year anniversary, showing The Joker handing out free money while trying to poison the population at the same time.

Trust was released as a promo 12″ at the end of 1989, in Hong Kong (!) only.

Prince & Anna Fantastic (dailyentertainmentnews.com)

Prince & Anna Fantastic

Lemon Crush

A busy funk song, that is implicitly about sex. I think it’s a great song and love the many breaks and the unusual instrumentation. Lyrically it’s rather bland, but I really enjoy listening to it.

The song was recorded March 1989 and was, as some sources claim, inspired by Anna Fantastic.

Prince - Scandalous (single) (45cat.com)

Prince – Scandalous (single)

Scandalous

(written by Prince and John L. Nelson)

Beautiful ballad, on par with the high levels of Do Me, Baby and The Beautiful Ones. Prince uses his voice in a new way, at times even sounding hoarse, with his falsetto. An intimate song that relates to sex. In the song Prince states he has been waiting for his lover for a long time and that he’s tired of it now. He wants more.

De instrumentation is minimal, yet extremely effective. The Linn drum machine plays a great beat and the synthesizer builds a beautiful atmosphere.

Come. Closer.
Feel what U’ve been dyin’ 4
Don’t be afraid, baby
Touch it and explode
Understand, understand that I love U
But more than that – I want U
Everybody always told me
“Good things come 2 those who wait”
But I’ve got so much on the menu
I just can’t wait, I just can’t, I can’t wait baby
I can’t wait baby
I can wrap my legs around U girl
Cuz sugar, U know U’re just the kind of lover
That I’ve been looking 4
2 night why don’t we skip all the 4 play, mamma
And just get down here on the floor

Scandalous
I’m talkin’ about U and me
Marvelous – baby, baby, can’t U see
Anything U’ve ever dreamed of
I’m willing 2 be
2 night it’s gonna be scandalous
Cuz 2 night I’m gonna be your fantasy

© 1989 Prince

The song was recorded in October 1988 and wasn’t written from the Batman perspective.

Scandalous was released as a single on November 18th, 1989, titled Scandalous!. On December 1st, 1989, the 12″ was released using the moniker The Scandalous Sex Suite, containing the song Scandalous in three parts (The Crime, The Passion and The Rapture). The 12″ further contained the previously unreleased B-side Sex and Lovesexy‘s When 2 R In Love.

Prince - Batdance - Video stills (hq-music-videos.com)

Prince – Batdance – Video stills

Batdance

Prince - Batdance (single) (prince.com)

Prince – Batdance (single)

The first introduction to the new album and a shock to many. Robotic boom-chak drums and very little supporting music, samples, samples and more samples, a highly energetic guitar solo, followed by a funky middle section, upon which the song returns to the boom-chak and consequently ends abruptly.

I thought it was fantastic, different and new (especially for Prince). It was a song only Prince could create, of which you never thought he actually would.

It was something Prince had never done before, or would ever do again.

Get the funk up!
BATMAN

© 1989 Prince

Batdance is the last song to be recorded for the album and, besides samples from the movie, contains samples of the Prince songs The Future, Electric Chair, 200 Balloons and Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. It also contains a sample of a song he recorded with Mavis Staples in 1988, House In Order, which would be released on the 1993 Mavis Staples album The Voice.

The song was released as single on June 9th, 1989 as the lead single to the album. It contained the unreleased 200 Balloons as a B-side.

Prince - Batman - Ad (americanradiohistory.com)

Prince – Batman – Ad

Contributions by others

All vocals and instruments by Prince, helped by:

  • Clare Fischer – orchestration on The Future
  • Sounds Of Blackness – choir on The Future
  • Sheena Easton – vocals on The Arms Of Orion
  • Eric Leeds – saxophone on Trust
  • Atlanta Bliss – trumpet on Trust

As stated before, the album contains a lot of samples. A big part of those stem from the Batman movie:

  • Jack Nicholson – dialogue as The Joker in The Future, Partyman, Vicki Waiting and Batdance
  • Michael Keaton – dialogue as Batman/Bruce Wayne in The Future and Batdance
  • Kim Basinger – dialogue as Vicki Vale in Partyman, Vicki Waiting and Batdance
  • Christopher Fairbank – dialogue as Nic in The Future
  • Robert Wuhl – dialogue as Alexander Knox in Trust
  • Femi Jiya – voice in Partyman
  • Anna Fantastic – voice in Partyman
  • Matthew Larson – voice in Batdance
Prince - Gemini character (pinterest.com)

Prince – Gemini character

Characters

In the album’s booklet the songs’ lyrics are accredited to several characters in the movie:

  • Batman: The Future and Scandalous
  • The Joker: Electric Chair, Partyman and Trust
  • Bruce Wayne: Vicki Waiting
  • Vicki Vale: Lemon Crush
  • Bruce Wayne & Vicki Vale: The Arms Of Orion

Batdance is accredited to all of the above, including Gemini, a character developed by Prince, which is used in the video’s, a sort of schizophrenic character made up of Prince as well as The Joker.

Just two sentences are accredited to Prince himself:

  • “Who do you trust if you can’t trust God? Who can you trust – who can ya? Nobody.” in Trust
  • the word STOP!, which ends Batdance
Prince - Batman - Black box (princevault.com)

Prince – Batman – Black box

Extra songs

200 Balloons

B-side to the Batdance single. It was recorded on February 15th, 1989, and was offered to Tim Burton as a replacement for Baby I’m A Star. It didn’t really fit and another song was requested (Prince subsequently gave them Trust).

The song was also part of the 1993 ‘greatest hits’ compilation The Hits / The B-Sides.

Feel U Up

B-side to the Partyman single. Fantastic funk song. A definite favorite.

What’s the verdict? I don’t like suspense
How can you resist my burning touch?
Something ’bout the way you walk just really blows my mind
I never wanted anything so much, okay?

Let me touch your body baby, let me feel you up
Come on baby, come on, let me feel you up

© 1989 Prince

The song was first recorded at the end of 1981, it originally stems from the 1999 sessions. In 1986 it was re-recorded and became part of the scheduled Camille album, before the album was canned. This version is the one that got released.

The song was also part of the 1993 ‘greatest hits’ compilation The Hits / The B-Sides.

I Love U In Me

B-side to the The Arms Of Orion single. Also a ballad, but quality wise light years ahead of the inferior A-side. I don’t play it very often, but still think it’s a good song.

I promised myself not to come until she does
And she took both hands and a liar I was
No man in this world could ever hope to last
When my baby downshifts and starts pumpin’ fast

© 1989 Prince

The song probably stems from the summer of 1989.

The song was also part of the 1993 ‘greatest hits’ compilation The Hits / The B-Sides.

Sex

B-side to The Scandalous Sex Suite. A funky song, that carries some kind of house vibe. Nice song that handles the subject of sex way less than the title seems to hint at.

So my name is Endorphin, I can make U happy U see
I come from planet Venus and I’ll take U there
You could be my ecstasy
The 80’s are over and the time has come
for a new proclamation of love and fun
Monogamy and trust, is what I’m talkin’ ’bout
I’ll give up all my lovers if U can make me shout
Oh
S is for scandalous
E is for exciting
X is for adults only
let’s do something frightening

© 1989 Prince

The song probably stems from the summer of 1989. In 1992 a revised version of the song was offered to the Dutch band Loïs Lane, who released it on their Precious album and released it as a single, rather unsuccessfully by the way.

Prince - The Scandalous Sex Suite (rockitpoole.com)

Prince – The Scandalous Sex Suite

Kim Basinger & The Scandalous Sex Suite

As stated above, the song Scandalous was released as single. One week later the maxi-single was released, using the moniker The Scandalous Sex Suite. It contained 3 songs:

  • Scandalous
    As a suite made up of three parts:

    • The Crime
    • The Passion
    • The Rapture

    All parts play off the same musical theme and part three in particular is great, due to the beautiful subtle and heavy guitar work by Prince.

  • Sex
    See above
  • When 2 R In Love
    Stemming from Lovesexy, and The Black Album before that
Prince & Kim Basinger (closerweekly.com)

Prince & Kim Basinger

The suite tickles the imagination of many. At the time recordings for the suite were made, Prince and Kim Basinger were in the middle of a romantic liaison. It is said they were actually really smitten with each other. Basinger took part in the recordings for The Scandalous Sex Suite, which sound quite intimate. According to legend, a lot of honey was used during the session, used by Prince and Basinger to enhance the mood. Seemingly, the clean-up crew had their work cut out for them when they were given the task to remove the honey from the studio…

The relationship seems to have ended on a sour note. Several sources reported that the name Kim Basinger could not be uttered at Paisley Park for quite some time. Also the story about how Basinger had to be rescued from Prince’s paws was rather popular. Reportedly, Basinger’s family was seriously concerned about Prince’s unhealthy influence over her and were forced to stage her kidnapping from Minneapolis when Prince was absent.

I don’t know what’s true or not. Basinger did express a desire to record an album, but Prince was not very interested in playing a part in this. Perhaps that fueled the unpleasant demise. After the couple split, Basinger did record an album in 1991, which evidently was so bad, it was shelved.

In a 2015 interview with Basinger the subject of Prince was mentioned. She answers the questions calmly and with humor. It sets the story on the supposed kidnapping in a different light.

Reception

The album met with mixed reviews. Many reviewers were still so impressed by the previous genius run of Prince albums, that their disappointment was glossed over. But there were those who could finally vent their hatred for Prince and the album (like the Melody Maker reviewer).

Prince - Batman reviews (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Batman reviews

(The Dutch article displays the reviews in full.)

The most important remarks from the reviews are added below:

Heavy, not too subtle, but despite a few weaker moments, still a typical Prince-lp – with all the little gems and virtuoso arrangement-jokes that make his music so special.
(de Volkskrant, 06/16/1989)

THE record of the summer of ’89 is for sale now.
(Het Parool, 06/17/1989)

How much more human can Batman become? … In short, Prince does what he does and that leaves enough for us to discuss…
(OOR 12, 06/17/1989)

But the best are the Joker’s three songs proving that he’s definitely the coolest, funkiest villain around. Run to the nearest Bat Cave and throw it in the CD player.
(Billboard, mid June 1989)

A record that may be less varied than previous Prince-albums, but one that shines due to the excellent dance songs that show numerous brilliant ideas.
(Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 06/22/1989)

Musically, the album that’s virtually filled by Prince alone, doesn’t offer anything new. Songs like Electric Chair and Partyman may be extremely swinging funk-outings, they are also somewhat lazy, especially when measured against the Prince standard.
(Het Parool, 06/24/1989)

This is not a lot of fun. After a stream of outrageously overrated records, which at least had moments of maverick magic, the charlatan with the most affected unaffected grin in the game has finally come a cropper.
Prince as a religion, however, is a thing of the past. Someone should’ve twigged this a year ago (although the last time I described him as “a greasy little fascist” nobody even noticed).
You need to defend this rusty old slag like you need a lobotomy. Prince is dead. Prince is dead dead dead dead dead.
(Melody Maker, 06/241989)

To be sure there is no ‘Kiss’ nor ‘Alphabet Street’ here, and apart from a nod towards House there is little that hasn’t already been dealt with in the Princely back catalogue. But given the constraints of fitting in with the movie, there are enough flashes of brilliance to make this a triumph.
(NME, 06/24/1989)

Batman as hero, Prince as Batman. Charming film music and musical depth. In short, significance as a trademark. A virtue made out of necessity. Anyone who understands that, knows why Prince rules.
(OOR 13, 07/01/1989)

All in all, ‘Batman’ seems to be a kind of quickie to Prince that pales when compared to his best work, yet still has enough to offer.
(Leeuwarder Courant, 07/07/1989)

The reviews are all less enthusiastic than before. The review in Melody Maker really stands out for its unrelenting views and remarks. While I do understand that Prince may not be everybody’s cup of tea, comments like “outrageously overrated records”, “charlatan”, “greasy little fascist” and “Prince is dead dead dead dead dead” suggest way more than just an objective observation. It seems like the writer was personally harmed or something (although claiming the opposite of what is commonly accepted to be the truth, always garners exposure) and it doesn’t help in gaining reliability in the judgment.

Prince - Batman - CD (45worlds.com)

Prince – Batman – CD

Sales

Prince - Batman - Gold award (icollector.com)

Prince – Batman – Gold award

Batman was a huge success. The hype surrounding the movie helped Prince and his album enormously. It did work the other way around as well. The Prince album, and the preceding Batdance single in particular, upped the unbearable tension even more in the US. The movie, the music and, as a consequence, Prince were everywhere. Prince enjoyed a major success again and was elated.

Within two months the album was certified 2 x platinum for the sales of 2 million copies in the US alone. The album held the number 1 position of the Billboard Top Pop Albums charts for six consecutive weeks. I read somewhere that global sales figure for the album were about 20 (!) million copies. According to wikipedia that figure is about 11 million. Other, more reliable ?, sources state the number is somewhat around 8 million. I guess the numbers vary from 8 to 11 million, then.

The singles were successful as well in the US, of which Batdance sold the most. It reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Hot Black Singles and Billboard Hot Dance Music – Club Play charts.

Record company Warner Bros. was very happy as well, because Prince finally brought in a lot of money again, making Batman his biggest success since Purple Rain. Obviously, Warner Bros. the movie company was happy too, because Batman had turned into the best selling movie of all time before the year was over.

Complete madness: merchandising is increasingly important - Oor 16, 08/12/1989 (apoplife.nl)

Complete madness: merchandising is increasingly important – Oor 16, 08/12/1989

Complete madness

Besides Prince, complete madness was unleashed upon the world regarding the movie. The merchandising industry, that was just on the rise at the time, made billions of dollars on the movie and anything connected to it.

The movie yielded two soundtracks, the Batman album by Prince and the movie score composed by Danny Elfman.

Batman - Film music - Dutch advertisement leaflet Batman movie - September 1989 (apoplife.nl)

Batman – Film music – Dutch advertisement leaflet Batman movie – September 1989

N.B.: The picture above was printed the wrong way. The Gemini character had The Joker part on the left side of Prince’s face.

In conclusion

Consensus on the album doesn’t exist among fans and critics alike. It is often discarded whenever the subject of the ‘best Prince albums’ is raised as it is regarded as a throw-away record. A contractual trick, that provided him with a lot of goodwill with Warner Bros., once again proved his hit-potential and helped him secure his next project, Graffiti Bridge. The term ‘automatic pilot’ gets mentioned a lot.

But when examined more thoroughly, Batman doesn’t deviate that much from previous work, like Lovesexy, conceptually. Isn’t Batman another album about the struggles between good (Batman) and evil (The Joker), just like Lovesexy is, good (New Power Soul) and evil (Spooky Electric)?

Who do U trust if U can’t trust God, who can U trust? ..Nobody! Don’t dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. The curious try and always die.

© 1989 Prince

Does the message above, stemming from the Batman liner-notes really differ from the message portrayed by Lovesexy?

Hasn’t Prince used the Gemini character to incorporate the Batman symbolism into his own Prince world, instead of the other way around?

I think so. And that’s where the real charm of the album resides.

Prince - Batman era (double-photo) (imdb.com/prince.org)

Prince – Batman era (double-photo)

Review

And yet again Prince delivered a new album, that sounded completely different from all his previous albums. It was much darker, perfectly in synch with the mood Tim Burton tried to evoke with his movie. I played the album to death at the time, be it just for the reason of it being a Prince album and my desire to really get to know it.

Prince - Batdance - STOP! (prince.org)

Prince – Batdance – STOP!

But is the album actually worth the time and effort, musically? Yes and no.

Yes, because:

  • The Future is truly phenomenal. I can’t stress enough just how brilliant this song is
  • Electric Chair, Vicki Wating, Lemon Crush and Scandalous are all fine Prince songs
  • Batdance made Prince enter into new territory. The song stands alone in his body of work

No, because:

  • The Arms Of Orion is a shaming worthless song, unworthy of Prince
  • Partyman and Trust are ok songs, but also songs he can write (and probably even perform) in his sleep

The album is not a part of my favorite Prince albums and I wouldn’t recommend it to Prince-newcomers. After the formidable run of genius albums, Prince’s glory days have, inevitably, come to an end.

Is the album bad then? No, not at all. It just doesn’t live up to the expectations Prince had set himself following the unparalleled string of previous albums. If I was asked to grade this album I would give it a 6.5 (out of 10). When I take the B-sides of the era and The Scandalous Sex Suite into account as well I’d grade it 7.0. A great grade for an album that was assembled within just six weeks, but compared to the Prince benchmark insufficient.

And next

Prince - 4Ever (treblezine.com)

Prince – 4Ever

No tour was organized following the album’s release. The setlist for the next tour, the 1990 Nude tour, contained 3 Batman songs (The Future, Batdance and Partyman). After that tour Prince almost never played anything from the album again. Only Partyman has been played on a couple of occasions.

It’s also remarkable that none of the songs were ever a part of ‘greatest hits’ compilations, while he was alive. This is mainly caused by the vast use of movie samples, that are owned by and copyrighted to Warner Bros. Movies and DC Comics. Clearing those samples seems to be a huge puzzle, so it wasn’t even tried. After Prince’s passing Batdance was added to the compilation Prince 4Ever.

In closing

Was Batman really a quickie as was claimed? That would be revealed in 1990, when he went on tour and would present his new album and movie Graffiti Bridge. More on that at a later time

For now, what do you think of Batman? Let me know; it is highly appreciated!

Thank you
I would like to sincerely thank Bram and Edward for their proofreading.

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Get the funk up! Prince and Batman: crown time is over?. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

10 comments

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    • Angel R. Cortes on 06/18/2019 at 2:08 PM
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    As always great thanks for these!!!

    1. And as always: you’re more than welcome Angel!

    • Viv on 06/18/2019 at 6:40 PM
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    A good read and, I think, a fair assessment. The remix of The Future wasn’t quite unique even back then- Pettibone had done Glam Slam the previous year, and Hot Thing the year before that.

    1. Thx. You thought those remixes were better too?

        • Viv on 06/18/2019 at 8:24 PM
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        I love the Glam Slam remix.

        1. That one is super indeed!!

    • Simon on 06/20/2019 at 6:30 PM
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    Not particularly well…

    1. Agreed!

    • KUTImack. on 06/21/2019 at 7:35 AM
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    Great read! Just a heads up: none of the songs from this album were included on Greatest Hits packages while he was living because part of the agreement to allow him to record the entire album was that Warner Bros owned the publishing of all the songs which was atypical of the rest of his catalogue.

    1. Ok, thx for your reply. I can imagine the ownership issue being a thing now, but around the time of The Hits/The B-Sides as well? Thanks for the heads up though, I will look into it!

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!