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‘Batman’ At 35: A Track-By-Track Guide To Prince’s Dark Knight Soundtrack
List & Guides

‘Batman’ At 35: A Track-By-Track Guide To Prince’s Dark Knight Soundtrack

Sung from the perspective the film’s main characters, each song on Prince’s ‘Batman’ album furthered his own explorations of light and dark.

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How Prince came to record an entire Batman soundtrack album is now the stuff of legend. With director Tim Burton using some of the star’s earlier songs as placeholders in rough cuts of the film, it soon became clear that brand-new Prince music would make for the kind of world-conquering tie-in no one had yet attempted. Enthused by the project, Prince – who had taught himself the Batman TV theme tune as a child, while learning to play his dad’s piano – recorded more material than was needed, but, as shown by this track-by-track guide to the Batman album, whether the songs were used in the film or simply inspired by its themes, the Purple One could more than hold his own against the Caped Crusader.

Though crediting each of the song’s lead vocals to a character in the film, there’s no mistaking Batman as the work of any other artist. Filtering the movie’s themes through his own vision, Prince came up with an idiosyncratic soundtrack album that paved the way for future cross-industry collaborations.

Listen to the ‘Batman’ soundtrack album here.

‘Batman’: A Track-By-Track Guide To Prince’s Dark Knight Soundtrack

The Future

Lead vocal: Batman

With some introductory scene-setting (“What are you?” “I’m Batman”), Prince surveys Gotham City through the Caped Crusader’s eyes while laying out his own vision for what the Batman soundtrack will become. This sparse track – a simple beat; synth washes and guitar runs; ghostly vocals rising up like steam from a manhole cover – is almost gothic in mood, with Prince standing astride the good-versus-evil tale of his source material, rejecting drug use (“Yellow smiley offers me X/Like he’s drinking 7 Up”) and gun crime (“Pretty pony standing on the avenue/Flashin’ a loaded pistol – 2 dumb 2 be true”) while laying out a manifesto for salvation that picks up where his Lovesexy album left off: “New world needs spirituality/That will last/I’ve seen the future and it will be.” And yet The Joker has the last word – via a snippet of film dialogue – as if to remind listeners that a battle lays ahead.

Electric Chair

Lead vocal: The Joker

As far back as his Controversy and 1999 albums, Prince sought to harmonise his spiritual and sexual sides while also setting them against each other in a way that would suit his approach to the Batman/Joker struggle for supremacy. The careful tread of The Future is replaced by cutting guitars and rump-humping bass for Electric Chair, marking the confident arrival of The Joker as an insatiable lothario, “brain jackin’ all over the place” as he eyes up the nightclub even while dancing with a potential paramour. Prince’s supplicatory side (see the Purple Rain era’s God or Lovesexy’s Anna Stesia) makes itself felt in the chorus, as bed-hopping “crimes of passion” lead to a final sentencing: “If a man is considered guilty/4 What goes on in his mind/Then give me the electric chair/4 all my future crimes.”

The Arms Of Orion

Lead vocal: Vicki Vale and Bruce Wayne

Released as the third single from the Batman album, The Arms Of Orion is co-credited to Prince and Sheena Easton. The Scottish singer – who had played Prince’s feisty vocal foil on Sign O’ The Times’ U Got The Look – wrote the lyrics while gazing at the constellation of Orion, visible from her bedroom window. Prince turned them into a yearning duet between Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale, with twinkling piano and falsetto vocals raising the couple to the heavens as they implore the stars “2 light the way 4 love”.

Partyman

Lead vocal: The Joker

If, as they say, the Devil has the best tunes, then The Joker gets the best jams on Prince’s Batman soundtrack. Used to playful effect in the film, during a scene in which the villain (played by Jack Nicholson) and his cronies run amok in Gotham Museum, defacing artworks en route to a dinner date with Vicki Vale, Partyman is a horn-boosted funk cut that owes as much to James Brown as it does to Prince’s own effortless way with a groove. While assembling early edits of the movie, director Tim Burton originally used the song 1999 for the scene; when it came to filming a promo clip for the single release of Partyman, Prince took a cue from Nicholson’s anarchic performance, resulting in one of his best music videos.

Vicki Waiting

Lead vocal: Bruce Wayne

Initially written in 1988 as Anna Waiting, for Prince’s then girlfriend, Anna Garcia, the pop-funk Vicki Waiting was given a few lyric updates in order to reflect the mindset of Bruce Wayne. If the first two verses, full of vulnerability and self-doubt (“I told her 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”), arguably do more than anything in the movie to explore the psychological complexity of its protagonist, the third verse sees Prince acknowledge some of his own insecurities regarding commitment and potential fatherhood. It’s one of the most compelling examples on the album of Prince expressing himself through the fictional characters he’s ostensibly singing for.

Trust

Lead vocal: The Joker

Although Trust is credited to The Joker in the Batman album’s liner notes, the song, sung from the perspective of a lover persuading his partner to “let yourself go”, features a rare attribution to Prince, who asks, towards the song’s end, “Who do ya trust if U can’t trust God?” An upbeat dance cut – all layered percussion and guitar interjections – Trust soundtracks a scene in which The Joker parades through Gotham City, throwing free money at its citizens before gassing them. Prince’s question, not included in the movie edit, makes clear how he saw in his soundtrack album the chance to fold Tim Burton’s take on the Batman franchise into his own spiritual quest.

Lemon Crush

Lead vocal: Vicki Vale

As with much of Prince’s music, the songs he recorded for Batman deal with the duality of light and dark – which might explain why Vicki Vale declares herself “the victim” and Bruce Wayne “the robba” in their relationship. Upending the role of Gotham City’s hero – when it comes to love, at least – Lemon Crush is a lusty, club-focused track whose euphemistic lyrics take little decoding. Another Batman song originally recorded with Anna Garcia (nicknamed Anna Fantastic) in mind, its title came from her favourite flavour of the Crush-branded soft drink.

Scandalous

Lead vocal: Batman

Responsible for some of the best songs ever written about sex, Prince inevitably brought Batman into the boudoir, giving the Caped Crusader the floor for Scandalous – and then watching as he writhed all over it. A quiet-storm ballad that leaves listeners drenched with desire, Scandalous may, in all reality, be more Prince than Batman, but that’s no bad thing as he delivers a pitch-perfect seduction – “Anything U’ve ever dreamed of/I’m willing 2 be” – that hit No.5 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart following its release as the album’s fourth single. Taking the Batman role-play to its natural conclusion, Prince began a relationship with Vicki Vale actress Kim Basinger, and invited her into the studio to contribute suggestive vocals to The Scandalous Sex Suite, a 19-minute extension of the original song, split into three parts: The Crime, The Passion and The Rapture.

Batdance

Lead vocal: The Joker, Gemini, Vicki Vale, Bruce Wayne and Batman

A frenetic mash-up of instrumental hooks, sampled film dialogue and shouted exhortations (“Get the funk up!”), Batdance was recorded in one all-night session during which Prince unloaded a stash of ideas lifted from released (The Future, Electric Chair) and unreleased (House In Order, We Got The Power) songs alike. Based on a shelved track called 200 Balloons – later issued as a Batdance B-side – and replacing the more downbeat Dance With The Devil as the closing song on the Batman album, Batdance topped Billboard’s Hot Black Singles, Hot Dance Music – Club Play and Hot 100 charts. A curtain call of sorts, it also marked the first official appearance of Prince’s half-Batman, half-Joker alter ego, Gemini, also seen in the Partyman promo clip.

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