Prince’s ‘Batman’ Soundtrack: A Guide to Every Song
As legend has it, Tim Burton was listening to a lot of Prince music while assembling the early footage of his 1989 film Batman. The director thought it might be fun to use two of the acclaimed rocker’s tracks in his rough cut. Upon seeing how well “Baby I’m a Star” and “1999” worked within the movie, Burton reached out to Prince. The initial ask was for two songs. What he got in return was a full album.
Prince felt a wave of inspiration after watching an early cut of the film. He wanted to create an album in which each track took on the perspective of various characters from the movie. When Warner Bros. -- who happened to be both the film’s studio and the singer’s record label -- found out about Prince’s excitement, they jumped at the cross platform synergy opportunity.
For his part, Burton was less than enthused about the growing list of parties involved. "They’re saying to me, these record guys, it needs this and that," Burton told Rolling Stone, "and they give you this whole thing about it’s an expensive movie so you need it. And what happens is, you get engaged in this world, and then there’s no way out. There’s too much money.”
Burton, who was a long-time Prince fan, found it difficult to manage expectations. “There’s this guy you respect and is good and has got this thing going. It got to a point where there was no turning back. And I don’t want to get into that situation again. ... it completely lost me. And it tainted something that I don’t want to taint.”
The director eventually made massive cuts to Prince’s songs. Only a few actually made it into the film, while many others became editing casualties.
Still, Prince was able to use the Batman soundtrack as a vessel to get all of the songs to the public. He included nine tracks on the 1989 Batman album, released the same week as its accompanying film. Both pieces reached massive commercial success, as Batman became one of the biggest-grossing movies in history, while Prince saw his soundtrack spend six weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. en route to global sales of 11 million copies.
Read on for a brief track-by-track guide to the Batman album, and links to more detailed stories about each song.
The album’s opening cut, "The Future," finds Prince examining the classic battle of good vs evil. It’s a theme prevalent in the Batman film, something the rocker used as a common thread throughout his soundtrack contributions. “The Future,” while funky and engrossing, also features an element of danger. There’s something dark at work here, as Prince touches on violence and drug use while lamenting a society that “needs spirituality.” "The Future" was the fifth and final single from Batman. Though it failed to chart in America, a version remixed by William Orbit became a Top 40 hit in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
A hard-hitting beat, combined with haunting synths and stinging guitar riffs layer “Electric Chair.” The song was initially recorded in June of 1988, well before Prince got involved with the Batman soundtrack. Still, the track’s themes of crime and passion fit well with the film’s plot. Though “Electric Chair” was not released as a single, Prince notably performed the track during Saturday Night Live’s 15th Anniversary Special in 1989. His backing band that night included Levi Seacer Jr. on guitar and Michael Bland on drums, both of whom would later be part of the New Power Generation.
"The Arms of Orion"
One of two songs on the soundtrack in which Prince shares writing credit with another artist, “The Arms of Orion” was a collaboration with long-time cohort, Sheena Easton. The two previously teamed up on the hits "Sugar Walls" and "U Got the Look". Unlike the upbeat, dance-floor ready sounds of their previous work, "The Arms of Orion" was a ballad that featured the two singers trading lines in the verses and harmonizing on the chorus. The track’s inspiration came to Easton as she gazed upon the night sky. “I'm totally into the stars,” she remarked during a 2012 conversation with the Windy City Times. “Right outside my bedroom window, right over my front guest house, you looked right into Orion. I loved the concept of two lovers apart, looking up at the same stars and wishing they could be together."
Prince created “Partyman” by embracing the Joker character, played in the film by Jack Nicholson. Inspiration for the track stemmed from the first moment the purple one met the legendary actor. "He just walked over, sat down and put his foot up on a table – real cool," Prince recalled during a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone. "He had this attitude that reminded me of Morris [Day] — and there was that song." The song would go on to soundtrack one of the most memorable scenes of the film, as the Joker and his goons destroy priceless works of art in the Gotham City museum. "Partyman" was released as a single in September of 1989, peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Vicki Waiting” began life as "Anna Waiting" — an ode to teenage singer Anna Garcia. Prince wrote the original version of the song as a gift to Garcia for her 18th birthday. Prince revisited the track while working on the Batman album and saw many parallels between his own feelings and those of Bruce Wayne — insecurities, wealth and desiring something one cannot have. He wrote several new lyrics, making reference to Gotham City and the Joker, while also adding samples of the film’s dialogue. While "Vicki Waiting" eventually took on its own form, it maintained the themes of its predecessor.
Read More: Prince Keeps Vicki (And Also Anna) Waiting
In one of the film’s key scenes, the Joker lures the citizens of Gotham City to a parade with the promise of free money. At first, the maniacal criminal follows through with his claims, throwing stacks of cash into the crowd of people. But soon his evil plot becomes clear as the Joker uses giant balloons to spray deadly gas onto the onlookers. Prince initially created the song “200 Balloons” to accompany this scene, however Tim Burton vetoed the track. Prince submitted the funky “Trust” as a replacement, quickly earning the director’s seal of approval. “200 Balloons” would later appear as the B-side to the soundtrack’s lead single, “Batdance.”
The euphemism of juicing a lemon representing sexual gratification has been used by a long list of musicians, chief among them Robert Johnson and Robert Plant. Here it’s Prince’s turn to borrow that imagery for the funky “Lemon Crush.” The title comes from the popular drink of the same name, which happened to be a favorite of Prince’s girlfriend at the time, Anna Garcia. The track fuses Prince’s signature vocal delivery with drum machines and heavy beats, a reflection of the artist's infatuation with dance music at the time.
While other parts of the Batman soundtrack allowed Prince to explore dark themes or party songs, only one of the album’s cuts can be confidently referred to as “baby-making music.” That honor goes to “Scandalous.” The simmering slow-jam features Prince in his falsetto glory, enticing the object of his affection to “touch it and explode.” When “Scandalous” was released as the fourth single from Batman, it came accompanied by the "Scandalous Sex Suite." This 20-minute extended version was broken into three parts: "The Crime," "The Passion" and "The Rapture." The sounds of lovemaking heard on the track were allegedly those of Prince and actress Kim Basinger (who played Vicki Vale in the film).
The final song recorded for the soundtrack, “Batdance” was a strangely trippy potpourri of already existing elements. The six-minute song is littered with samples of the movie’s dialogue, most notably lines from the Joker. Clips from other songs featured on Batman -- including “Electric Chair” and “The Future” -- are sprinkled throughout. The campy theme to the 1966 Batman TV show is also featured. All of these ingredients are woven together via Prince’s alluring dance rhythms and fiery guitar riffs. The result was equal parts entertaining and weird. It was also a hit. “Batdance” became Prince’s fourth No. 1 smash, his first since Parade’s “Kiss.”