Hollywood has been making Batman movies more-or-less continuously for a generation now, going back to 1989 and continuing through this past summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. The 1989 Batman was intended to make everyone forget the colorful, cartoonish Batman of 60s TV. Its Caped Crusader would be dark and driven, and Gotham City would be a forbidding futurescape and not the cardboard New York of TV. It would star Jack Nicholson as the Joker, dream casting at that moment in history. It would be directed by Tim Burton who, while not yet the famed auteur he would become, was already known for possessing a unique vision. Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman. As odd as that strikes us now, it was strange even then, for Keaton was known as a comic actor. And it would feature soundtrack music by Prince.
It’s that last part that interests us here, for Batman inspired one of the World’s Worst Songs: “Batdance.”
“Batdance” doesn’t actually appear in the film, although it contains random snippets of dialogue. According to Wikipedia (so who the hell knows), it’s “an amalgam of many musical ideas floating around [in Prince’s head, presumably] at the time. Elements from at least seven songs (some unreleased) were incorporated into ‘Batdance.'” Which would explain the mess that it is, a schizophrenic pile of ideas patched together without rhyme or reason. When it hits a groove, it quickly abandons it and goes looking for another to abandon. You can’t hum it, you can’t sing it, you can barely dance to it, and on the radio it sounds like something has gone dreadfully wrong at the station.
Prince and his record label knew going into the Batman project that it would represent a significant milestone in his career—so how come “Batdance” is so lazy? Only the Purple One knows for sure. One thing we know: a sin shared in common by many of the World’s Worst Songs is sloth, and “Batdance” is one of the most slothful singles ever to make #1.
The only version of “Batdance” available online is the full-length one, which runs seven minutes, and in which Prince’s pastiche of discarded ideas at least has room to breathe. It’s a vast improvement over the four-minute radio edit, although it still sounds like the collection of outtakes it is. Hear it and see the video here.