In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite comics-related songs.
Like any good and conscious citizen of the world, I don’t much like R. Kelly. He’s a shitty dude, and one that takes advantage of his fame and possible idiocy to manipulate women far too young to know any better. And that’s made liking some of his songs that much harder. I know I shouldn’t be into “Ignition (Remix)” or “I’m A Flirt,” but I still haven’t trained my body to wholly ignore the beats. And it’s the same thing with “Gotham City,” which Kelly released in 1997 on the soundtrack for the very bad and very purple Batman & Robin. With its ridiculous video directed by Hype Williams, “Gotham City” isn’t a particularly good song, what with its empty platitudes about justice, peace, and “how children are drowning in their tears,” but damn if I don’t find myself drawn to its simplicity. I know I should hate it—I hate R. Kelly—but I almost respect just how bad it really is. If the song and the video are to be believed—and knowing what I do about Kelly, I have no reason to doubt them—the singer fancies himself as some sort of real-life Batman, gazing out at the city in his white robe before swooping in to rescue Gotham City’s residents from their “quiet nights in the midst of crime.” That kind of Simple Simon rhetoric has always been present in Kelly’s material, but here, in tandem with a notoriously flat comic book movie, it finally works, even if Kelly’s bat accessories probably wouldn’t.
The song acts in parallel to Batman & Robin’s black-and-white messaging of good versus evil, Alicia Silverstone versus Uma Thurman, hot black leather versus cold blue Mr. Freeze. I highly, highly doubt Kelly (or whoever wrote “Gotham City”) made that connection on purpose, but I’ll at least allow myself to enjoy the song for that dichotomy, even if I question everything else about its creator and its message.