Review Summary: Prince quickly assembles a group of songs for a blockbuster film that ragined his popularity, but musically, it sometimes slips. Still a good record by all means, just far from our buddy's best.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
1988-89 was a major time of transition for the soon-to-be-symbol Prince. After the disastrous sales of "Lovesexy" including the poor ticket sales of the USA tour of said album, Prince was in limbo, so to speak. At this point, he was putting together a song sequence to what was to be the follow up to Lovesexy, entitled "Rave un2 the Joy Fantastic" (which ironically, came out in 1999 with a completely different track list except for the title track). It is also of notable mention that Prince had lost a ton of money due to his then accountant embezzling from him. To put it bluntly: Prince was broke as a joke.
Enter Tim Burton. Tim Burton had gotten the luxurious privilege to direct what was to be the summer of 1989's blockbuster film, Batman. Much was riding on this film. With a cast of Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and even Billy Dee Williams, Burton wanted a hot soundtrack for his soon-to-be hot film. Strangely enough, he approached Michael Jackson first (Can you honestly imagine MJ doing a soundtrack to this? Really?!), in which MJ declined.
Tim Burton approached Prince, who was hesitant at the time. However, as mentioned earlier on, Prince was in need of money. Tim Burton convinced Prince by showing him scenes of the movie with songs such as "1999", and "Lets Go Crazy" put into scenes of the rough cut of the film. Since Prince is prolific, he put together the album Batman in a mere three weeks, and in some spots it shows how rushed it really is. However, it should be noted that this is a damn good album, and that it was a fitting way to end Prince' stellar track record of fantastic albums in the 1980s.
The album has samples of some of the film's dialogue weaved into the songs themselves. Each track has its own, ahem, "narrator", with Prince playing as Batman, or The Joker. If you look at the booklet, each track shows which character is singing the song itself (when really, it's Prince but he puts himself in their shoes). It's wildly uneven, perhaps on the verge of insanity. Still, as with any Prince release, the gems are easy to find.
The album starts off with "The Future", sung by Batman. The lyrics are quite meandering, as is the song itself. That’s certainly not an insult as it is an entertaining one. As this ends quietly, "Electric Chair" booms right in out of nowhere. An extremely funky tune, this could very well be Prince's version of metal music, as the guitars are loud and the bass is ever so bombastic. This also boasts one of Prince's funnier lyrics ("You're face looked so good/ I wanted to touch your mouth/ my brain is jackin' all over the place"). Oh yeah, this track is sung by The Joker.
"The Arms of Orion" is pure Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. This is a duet with Sheena Easton, and it should have been left off the album. Since this is a duet, Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale sing this. "Party Man" is up next and this is the most commonly known song. This song is played when The Joker and his pals turn the gas on in the museum, and they paint over everything (you remember!). Obviously, this is sung by the Joker.
"Vicki Waiting" is one beauty of a song. Originally called "Anna Waiting" (as Prince was dating a young woman named Anna Fantastic at the time); he kind of cheated and changed the name of the tune due to laziness (or time constraints). Sung by Bruce Wayne.
"Trust" (sung by The Joker) is a funky throwaway tune, nothing more nothing less, while "Lemon Crush" (Vicki Vale) absolutely flounders as it goes nowhere. Things get better as Prince gives us his obligatory ballad, "Scandalous" as sung by Bruce Wayne. Sultry, sexy, and bold, this is one of the better tunes on the album.
"Batdance". Ok, this will be tough to describe. Batdance is sung by all of the characters, including Prince who goes under the name "Gemini". Batdance is pretty much cut-up samples of the movie, with different ideas of funky jams that Prince threw in for good measure. Somehow, someway it works. Also look out for Prince's guitar solo in this as it is brain-splitting (I wish he played more damn guitar on his recorded output rather than live bootlegs where he just blows everybody away with his bonafide geetar skills). This single also went to Number One on the Billboard 100 *scratches head*.
Certainly not his best album by far, it still managed to sell around six million copies, and debut at Number One on the album charts. Hopefully, the general public didn’t see this as "Prince by the numbers" as it feels like that to true Prince Fans, as everyone knows he is way more capable of better material. Regardless, it got Prince out of debt, and it gave him a boost in popularity once more. So what does he do next? He releases a terrible movie but with a stellar soundtrack. The irony is amazing. Up next is “Graffiti Bridge”