The ‘Batman Forever’ Soundtrack Might Be the Greatest Album of the ’90s
There's literally nothing to compare it to.
You cannot listen to the real Batman Forever soundtrack online. Neither Spotify nor Apple have the actual soundtrack album that was released for the famous Joel Schumacher-directed 1995 film. Sure, some playlists have been hastily constructed on both streaming platforms, but it’s not the same. The internet has not preserved the ’90s in the way we think it has, and the absence of the Batman Forever soundtrack is proof. If you had this album on CD or cassette in the summer of 1995 then you know it was a big deal. But, if you only think the Batman Forever soundtrack was all about Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” I’ve got news for you: That’s just the tip of the bat-berg. The Batman Forever soundtrack is the greatest album of the 1990s because it represents the era nearly perfectly. On top of that, something like this could just not happen again.
In the new film The Batman, Paul Dano plays a deranged new version of the Riddler. This is cool and interesting, and Paul Dano is great. However, I’d like to point out that Paul Dano’s Riddler does not have a theme song written for him by Method Man. This single fact — the idea that Method Man wrote a rap song based on Jim Carrey’s version of the Riddler — should seem shocking, but, for some reason, isn’t. In the ’80s and ’90s a soundtrack album stacked with super-popular contemporary artists wasn’t uncommon, but what was uncommon was for the majority of those tracks to be good and for the talent pool to be diverse as hell. Case-in-point, in 1989, the Ghostbusters II soundtrack somehow featured Bobby Brown, Elton John, and RUN DMC. The problem is, the Elton John song (“Love Is a Cannibal”) isn’t any good, and New Edition’s “Supernatural,” is just meh.
In other words, the Ghostbusters II soundtrack really only had the one hit, Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own,” and maybe the RUN DMC version of “Ghostbusters.” It’s not a good album, and there’s simply too much Bobby Brown on there to really love it.
But why bring up Ghostbusters II? Well, because there are a lot of great soundtrack albums from the ’80s and ’90s, and many of them have memorable line-ups that seem to make no sense, but none are both as audacious as Batman Forever or as legitimately, track-for-track, as solid.
The Batman Forever soundtrack is remembered for the Seal single “Kiss From a Rose.” Which makes sense. The music video, featuring Seal in an unbuttoned silk shirt, standing in front of the Bat-Signal, is one of the most iconic moments of the 1990s. If you were in high school or middle school in this period, this wasn’t just a song. This was the song. For almost no good reason, “Kiss From a Rose” was the most important song a 13-year-old in 1995 had ever heard. It was a love song. It was some kind of cautionary tale. (is this love Seal sings of like being dead?) And, most importantly, it somehow had to do with Batman.
A movie cross-promoting a big song like this could not do this in 2022 and be taken seriously. Imagine if John Legend had a new single out that was tied to the soundtrack for the new Robert Pattinson-starring film The Batman. Now imagine that soundtrack album also had tracks from the Foo Fighters, Childish Gambino, the Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers, and Megan Thee Stallion. You can’t imagine it, because it would literally not happen. Having a shit-ton of different kinds of popular music crammed onto a Batman soundtrack would (probably) never happen now because it wouldn’t fit with the “brand” of what Batman is now. But, in 1995, the brand of Batman was, from a musical point of view, everyone and everything. Need proof? Here’s the full tracklisting.
“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” by U2
“One Time Too Many” by PJ Harvey “Where Are You Now?” by Brandy “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” by Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn “Nobody Lives Without Love” by Eddi Reader “Tell Me Now” by Mazzy Star “Smash It Up” by the Offspring “There Is a Light” by Nick Cave “The Riddler” by Method Man “The Passenger” by Michael Hutchence “Crossing the River” by the Devlins “8” by Sunny Day Real Estate “Bad Days” by the Flaming Lips
First off, notice how “Kiss From a Rose” isn’t even the first track. Instead, the album opens with U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” which, at the time, had an equally amazing music video, in which the members of U2 seem to exist inside of their own Batman comic book. Either this or the Seal video would have sufficed for cross-promotion of the film, and yet, both things existed. And, both were in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 at the time.
But, beyond those famous two tracks, can we talk about how you forgot that both The Flaming Lips and Mazzy Star are on this album? In terms of 90s cool-cred, the only thing missing is Big Star.
Meanwhile, in 1995 Brandy was one of the most important singers don’t the planet, and she’s got a track here that’s just unceremoniously jammed between PJ Harvey and Seal. As previously mentioned, the existence of the Method Man “Riddler” track feels like a miracle, but then you have to notice that Massive Attack is here, too. This would kind of be like if Daft Punk had only put one song on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack in 2010, instead of doing the whole thing.
Track-for-track, the Batman Forever soundtrack isn’t really an album at all, of course. It’s a mixtape of what was considered important and relevant in 1995, all unified under the cape of Val Kilmer’s full-lipped Caped Crusader. It might not be a mixtape that makes any sense, but that’s also the entire point. When this album came out, Batman wasn’t just selling a comic book story to the masses, Batman was selling the idea of cool. It may not have been healthy, baby. But if you try to compare the Batman Forever soundtrack to something, you’ll come up with a bunch of tortured analogies like the half-dozen I’ve just tried out. Maybe that’s why Seal had to get by with “a kiss from a rose on the grave.” It makes so little sense that it’s the only analogy that fits.
You can get the Batman Forever soundtrack on vinyl right here.
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