Batman (1989) is the follow up to the brilliant Lovesexy
Batman is a return to commercial form for Prince, with the title track reaching number one in several countries as well as the album itself. The world was Batman crazy as Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson brought life into an old classic, and Prince (for the first time) making an album that was itself totally dedicated to a movie, thanks in part mostly to genius Director Tim Burton being a fan.
Critics mostly disapproved of Batman’s minimalist approach and saw this album as a weak point in Prince’s career. However, the album, in my opinion is a brilliant concept album and part of the brilliant string of Prince albums made by Prince in the 80’s.
The first two tracks, The Future and The Electric Chair are absolute amazing songs and brilliant starts to the album. The Future uses samples from the movie, but has a minimalist backing drum track, the Electric Chair is a rock minimalist song, with a dark broody feel to it. Both songs remain to this day two of my favourite ever Prince songs.
The next song, is the gothic downer, “Arms of Orion”, sand with Sheena Easton, which is a dull non entity of a song, kept on the album because of the previous success on SOTT of You got the look. Batman, was actually a much bigger album, songs like “I love U in me”, and “200 ballons” and “Sex” where supposed to be included, but executives wanted a single album so the songs left on the album I guess as the most commercial of the lot. In anycase, I much much prefer “I love U in me”, a more sincere, a more original and a more amusing song than the drab Arms of Orion. The good news is that you got that song (as the B Side) if you bought I love I in me (as I did at the time).
PartyMan, the less successful followup single to Batdance, with a very ambitious video to accompanying, is as much fun as Camille can get but still having that “dark” gothic feel to it. The video shows Prince as the “Joker”, both side of his personality, fun guy and killer at the same time – I feel Prince really saw himself in the Joker, and this song was his cheeky rendition of a song I guess that the Joker would have made. The multiple faces of Prince really suits the whole Batman concept, no better than Partyman. For me, however, the next song, the understated “Vicki Waiting”, is another Prince classic, in the “Dorothy Parker” storytelling type of mood. Vicki Waiting, is his own story, (with jokes thrown in) about the character Vicki in the movie. In a way, one of his greatsest songs, often overlooked. For me, critics don’t notice songs like Vicki Waiting, because there is no hype associated to them, but it is precisely these classic songs that Prince fans like to discover and rediscover over the years.
“Trust” is next, a late 80’s early 90’s sounding song, which is apparently one of the few songs on the album that you hear in the movie (the other is the title track Batdance in the end credits). Actually the movie was disappointing for it’s lack of Prince music! Trust, is an OK, upbeat song, but with a dark message, I believe about that he doesn’t really trust anyone (except “God”) – simple. It’s a pretty fun song though, and a good upbeat counter-balance to the rest of the gothic album. Not to worry though, because next up is the amazing “Lemon Crush”. What inspired Lemon Crush, and what it’s about is still a mystery to me, but its an absolutely brilliant song, dark and gothic like the rest of the album, but with a killer beat, and twisty turny ending, with enough twists to keep you wondering when it’s going to end. Its just a fun, fun song, and I feel not meant to mean anything. I see Prince just jamming with this song in his studio and having a blast. The song, like Vicki Waiting, wasn’t released as a single, isn’t well known and is another one of those brilliant Prince songs that us fans like to rediscover and immerse themselves into.
The last two songs, both singles. Scandalous, a sensual, ethereal tune, weirdly co-written with his Dad, is one of his greatest ballads, and almost as good as the opus from SOTT (Adore), and equally as funny lyrically. It was, however a very weird choice of single and as expected, not a big hit – but did come with a monster 3 piece 12 inch version, called the “Scandalous Sex Suite” (of course), which as per his other b-sides and 12 inches enhances or even improves upon the song experience. You really can immerse yourself in Scandalous and for this reason, along with some of the other great songs before it Batman is such an amazing album. The album ends with the big hit Batdance, which is amore of a sample collection of bits of the album, and the movie, which Prince of course makes works very well. It’s not my favourite of songs, and most times the album ends for me at Scandalous, but Batdance needs credit too. He could have remade the junk Batman song of the 60’s series, but he really makes this his own. The fast/slow changes in tempo in the song, representing the two faces of the Joker (and of Batman) and (of Prince), is an encapsulation of the album’s theme overall. Ultimately though, Batdance is just a big jam session, with lots of killer guitar solos and funk riffs, in fact everything but the kitchen sink from the school of Prince is thrown in. Love the 12 inch of this, the Vicki Vale (ooh yeah, I wanna bust that body) mix in particular.
Overall, I must confess though, that Batman is a private joy, my little guilty pleasure. There is just too much to like in this to care what critics say. For me, Prince is still in his Prime when this comes out, and this album is underrated, maybe because of it’s association with the movie, but listened to closely, it should be recognised as one his greatest, because it simply is!!
4.5 out of 5 (lost 0.5 because of Arms of Orion)