Review: BATMAN FOREVER Soundtrack

     Some record executive at Warner Bros. must have finished off the last of
the cocaine from the eighties that was in the office while he was coming up
with the concept for this album. The Batman
(1995) soundtrack is a unique time capsule into how corporate
conglomerates used their film and music subsidiaries to promote each other
during the nineties. This record should’ve been an absolute disaster, but by
some miracle it doesn’t wind up being half bad. The soundtrack sold almost as
many copies as Prince’s Batman (1989)
soundtrack. That’s largely due to the fact the artists featured on this album
were at the top of their game.
When Batman Forever (1995) was
released into theaters if became the second highest grossing film of the year.
However, it was quickly overshadowed by the sequel Batman & Robin (1997) which was so bad that it killed the
Batman franchise for nearly ten years. This does not mean that Batman Forever is some sort of
underappreciated classic. It’s not. It’s a mediocre movie that the audience
forgot about as soon as the credits rolled. Which in hindsight is befuddling
considering that this film had an all-star cast consisting of Val Kilmer,
Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey, and Tommy Lee Jones. Val Kilmer could have been a
great Batman had he been given better material to work with. Nicole Kidman is
absolutely stunning in her role as Dr. Chase Meridian. She looks every bit like
and Golden Age Hollywood starlet in this film. Tommy Lee Jones took the role of
Two-Face at the insistence of his son and his performance reflects that. He
doesn’t take anything seriously and goofs around the entire movie. Had he had
stronger material and taken the role seriously Jones could’ve been an excellent
Two-Face. The only actor in this film that truly shines is Jim Carrey. In 1995,
Jim Carrey was at the top of his game and he channels his inner Frank Gorshin
perfectly as the Riddler. Overall the movie is completely forgettable on almost
every level. That’s because the Joel Schumacher helmed Batman films were more
focused on selling merchandise to kids.
A part of the Batman Forever merchandising
campaign was the soundtrack. The soundtrack featured artists who were all
signed to Warner Bros. which produced the film and owned the Batman character.
Warner Bros. used the Batman franchise to give these artists increased
exposure. It worked better than it had any right to. This album is the perfectly
shows what rock, pop, hip hop, and R&B in the mid-nineties was like.  This album does have its flaws. It’s clear
that the people in charge of curating this album only cared about the Seal, U2,
and Brandy songs. Everything else was just filler so the record company could
have an excuse to charge people fifteen dollars for a CD.
Another thing about the Batman
soundtrack is that ‘The Riddler’ by Method
Man is one of the only songs on the soundtrack that attempts to reference the
movie. For that I’ll give Method Man an ‘E’ for effort. Method Man also raps
about rubbing shoulders with Batman. Which is either incredibly stupid or
incredibly awesome depending on how you look at it.
Although the curators for the Batman
soundtrack treated most of the songs like filler, none of the songs
on this album can be considered truly bad. Several are forgettable, but for the
most part the songs are pretty solid. One of the weirdest songs on the album is
INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence’s cover of Iggy Pop’s song ‘The Passenger’. Hutchence
tries to turn the punk rock song into a synthesizer based dance tune. The
result was weird, but successful enough to be used in a Budweiser commercial. The
Offspring’s cover of The Damned’s song ‘Smash it Up’ is a
fantastic cover. However, the song didn’t receive the amount of radio play like
The Offspring’s previous songs ‘Self-Esteem’ and ‘Come Out and Play’ did.
‘Smash it Up’s’ lack of success had to be somewhat of a disappointment for
Warner Bros. Records and The Offspring.
      The best songs on this album are ‘Where
Are You Now?’ by Brandy, ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’ by U2, and
‘Kiss from a Rose’ by Seal. ‘Where are You Now?’ was
written, and produced by Lenny Kravitz, but sung by Brandy. ‘Where are You
Now?’ has that distinct classic nineties R&B sound and has a great funky
guitar riff played by Lenny Kravitz himself. However, this song was lost in the
shuffle once ‘Kiss from a Rose’ became an R&B hit.

A still from the ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’ music video.
      U2 contributed ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss
Me, Kill Me’
because scheduling conflicts prevented Bono from being able to
make a cameo appearance in Batman Forever.
This song was released at a time when U2’s career was at a crossroads. After
their success in the late eighties and early nineties, U2 had trouble finding a
new creative direction as they tried to sound like other bands and musical
trends instead of sounding like U2. Their previous record Zooropa (1993) charted at
number one all over the world and sold millions of copies, but the record did
not yield any hit singles. U2 did not release another album until 1997, which
was entitled Pop. Pop was a critical and commercial flop
and U2 did not return to prominence until the next decade. ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me,
Kiss Me, Kill Me’ is the best U2 song from this turbulent period and it’s not
even really a debate. The animated music video would receive plenty of airplay
on MTV. The song would also go on to chart at number sixteen on the Billboard
Hot 100. ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’ was a sign that U2 could still
write a great song.

Batman Forever helped Seal score the biggest hit of his career with ‘Kiss from a Rose’.
       The best and most successful song on
this album is ‘Kiss from
a Rose’
by Seal. The song was initially featured on Seal’s second
self-titled album and was released as a single in 1994. However, the song
failed to chart and seemed doomed to obscurity. However, director Joel
Schumacher heard the song and felt it was perfect for a love scene between
Bruce Wayne and Dr. Chase Meridian. The studio initially refused to feature the
song on the album and in the film, but to Joel Schumacher’s credit he pushed
hard enough that they eventually relented. A compromise was reached and the
song was played over the end credits instead of during the love scene. Even
Seal did not think highly of ‘Kiss from a Rose’. Seal originally wrote and recored
a demo for the song in 1987, but said that he felt “embarrassed by it”. Even
during the recording Seal was had a lukewarm opinion about the song. He would
credit producer Tim Horn with the track’s success. “To be honest, I was never really that proud
of it, though I like what Trevor did with the recording. He turned that tape
from my corner into another eight million record sales and my name became a
household name…Of course I love it now and I am just so appreciative of the
fact that I have a song like that, that most people love.”
        The Batman franchise would give ‘Kiss
from a Rose’ the boost that it desperately needed as it would become one of the
biggest songs of 1995 and one of the most popular love ballads of the decade.
The music video was directed by Joel Schumacher and depicts Seal singing the
song on top of a building next to the Bat-Signal. The music video also shows
various clips from the movie which focuses on the relationship between Bruce Wayne
and Dr. Chase Meridian. ‘Kiss from a Rose’ would be Seal’s biggest hit as the
song went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Kiss from a Rose’ became so
popular that it soon overshadowed the Batman
film. Seal would win the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record
of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for ‘Kiss from A Rose’. It’s
safe to say that ‘Kiss from a Rose’ is the sole reason for the soundtrack’s
commercial success and the sole reason why Batman
is even remembered in the first place.

        The Batman
is a unique hodgepodge of songs that highlight what the music scene
in 1995 was like. This album is better than the movie that it was inspired by
and the fact many of the songs are still relevant nearly twenty-five years
later. If a young person asks you what the mid-nineties were like just tell
them that U2, Method Man, Brandy, and Seal were used to promote a Batman movie.
In other words, the nineties were weird. 
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