Wednesday, September 28, 2022

"Batdance" by Prince

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3939
Date:  06/17/1989
Debut:  53
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Funk, Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In mid-1988, Prince wasn't really in a good spot. His album Lovesexy was not received well and by Prince standards it tanked missing the Top 10 and only going gold. Due to that and a costly tour, Prince's finances were not in good shape. He began working on songs for another album, but his manager didn't think a new LP was going to right the ship. Prince needed a commercial win to boost his career and finances. An opportunity came when his label, Warner Bros., took on the job of making a film version of Batman. Tim Burton was to direct and Danny Elfman would do the score. Warner wanted to get a hot artist to contribute songs to the film and the idea of getting Prince came up. Burton, a fan of Prince, wasn't so hot on the idea as he didn't want to be forced to use specific songs in the film, but then the idea was hatched to have Prince write an album of songs that were "inspired" by the film. Elfman could do his full score and then Burton could incorporate some of the Prince songs where it seemed appropriate. Prince saw a rough cut of the film and was left a tape of it. He got to work and fleshed out a set of songs that were based on the characters in the film. Burton liked what he heard, but asked for a couple of replacements and Prince obliged. When the film was set for release, there were two soundtrack albums ready to go. One was Elfman's original score and the other was Batman by Prince. One of the first tracks Prince recorded for the LP was this initial single. Prince took parts of other songs he had been working on along with snippets of raw dialog from the rough cut of the film to create a sort of promo track for the movie. An edit of the 6-minute song would be pushed out as a single prior to the film's opening. Thanks to the film taking off at the box office, the song quickly ran up the chart and reached #1 in a short eight weeks (#1 R&B/#1 Dance/#18 Modern Rock). The album would then get to #1 and remain there for six weeks (#5 R&B). It would end up being a double-platinum seller. The tactic to get Prince back on top had worked.

ReduxReview:  The Batman movie ushered in a few things that still are happening today. While there had been a few superhero movies prior, like Superman, Batman took things to a new level. The franchise would continue while others would soon follow. The film also introduced the concept of having an album of "inspired by" music along with a separate release for the actual film score. Batman was influential as was Prince's LP at the time with this nearly avant garde promo single leading the way. However, in the long run, the LP and especially this song are looked at as curiosities in Prince's catalog. This song worked at the time, but once the movie's run was done, no one really wanted to hear it. Other songs from the album suffered the same fate as well. The LP got the job done for Prince and the film, but it wasn't nearly in the same league as Prince's classic Purple Rain soundtrack. It is kind of a fun nostalgic exercise to hear the LP once in a great while, but in general it was product for a purpose. This single was just bat-shit crazy (pun intended). It was a weird, messy mash up of songs, dialog, and other things that kind of worked in a Prince-ly way. I'm not sure another artist at the time could have pulled this off and grabbed a #1 hit. Really, I'm not sure any artist had the balls to do this so to Prince's credit, he certainly played into the spectacle of the movie and nailed it. That said, do I really want to voluntarily hear this now? Not really. I might toss it in a playlist as something fun and odd to creep up on you, but other than that, it was a song for a specific time and reason.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While the Batman album was a boost for Prince's career, it wasn't exactly the most perfect situation. Since the movie was a Warner Bros. project, they definitely wanted a share of any music that was to be associated with the film. Therefore, they wanted the publishing rights to Prince's contributions. Weighing the good vs. the bad, Prince and his team agreed to the terms. That meant that if anyone wanted to use any Prince song from the Batman album, they would have to deal with Warner, not Prince. Because of that, none of the charting singles from the album were included on any Prince compilation. It wasn't until after Prince's death that "Batdance" finally was allowed to be on a compilation. It was the only single from Batman to make 4Ever, the first release of any kind that came out after Prince's death in April of 2016.


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