Credit to the pride of Minnesota, Prince, for nailing it right out of the gate: Few Batman fans of the right age can hear his infectious "Partyman" and not envision Nicholson-as-Joker destructively "broadening his mind" with a purple paintbrush in the Gotham art gallery, goofily dancing to Prince's funky awesomeness, the devilish grin permanently fixed to his face.
It's a great song from a great soundtrack--one that set a trend which has remained, despite this author's best efforts, entirely unexplainable. For the most part, the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney Batman films were abysmal failures, completely overshadowed by Christopher Nolan's serious, stellar efforts. But now that everyone is having a fit over Ben Affleck being named the new Batman, it pays to remind ourselves that, even if the film sucks, the soundtrack might be surprisingly great.
Case in point: the way-better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be Batman Forever soundtrack,
That one includes Sunny Day Real Estate's "8," a heaping serving of angry post-punk or proto-emo or whatever title you'd like to saddle them with. If goofy psychedelia is more your scene, there's the Flaming Lip's still-quite-awesome "Bad Days," from back in the days before Wayne Coyne became an insufferable caricature. And while if it's not Tical-level outstanding, even Method Man's "The Riddler" is worthwhile and fun, released just two fucking years after Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers.)
And though the proper soundtrack was just a Danny Elfman score, we can even give a nod to Batman Returns for the altogether brooding, goth-y Siouxsie and the Banshee's track, "Face to Face," used as a promo track for the film--it's still worth a re-listen for its own merits.
Even the truly terrible Batman and Robin supplied a few gems, notably Soul Coughing's pre-El Oso effort, "The Bug," where Mike Doughty's fractured, hip-hop-y brand of electronica propels forward infectiously--you can practically hear the industrial piercings jiggling around in this song.
That one even featured Underworld's "Moaner," a post-"Born Slippy" holding pattern that still supplies enough pleasure to get you off your seat and into whatever scary, gigantic clubs Underworld was rocking in the late '90s.
While I'm still not sure exactly how any of this happened (someone involved in the Batman movies thinks Massive Attack and Nick Cave are cool??), all of the cool-kid-cred Batman soundtrack songs are, of course, overshadowed by the towering "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal--which, if you haven't yet karaoke'd, you're not living your life.
Like most everything else collected here, the videos are now unwatchable because of the packed-in scenes from the terrible films, but taken by itself, it's just perfect: All the bombast and overwrought crooning, the "Baby!" that comes at the chorus a delight every time.
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Maybe the new Batman movie will suck; if Man of Steel is any indication, it probably will. But don't dismiss the soundtrack when it's released. You might have to wade past the Offspring- and Jewel- and Goo Goo Dolls-level crap, but there might just be something awesome tucked away in there, some record geek intern pushing for an unexpected track.