[Editor's Note: Fuck Guilty Pleasures celebrates the over-produced, commercial, artless, lowbrow music that we believe is genuinely worthwhile. Like, among the best music ever.]
We've all been there. What normally would be a forgettable moment of your existence — standing in line at the supermarket, removing your CVS coupons from your wallet, getting your hair cut — suddenly becomes a blessed moment of exhilaration. We hear that familiar a-cappella, “ba da-dah bah-dup ba-dah ba-dah,” and suddenly we are transported to the mystical, magical world of Seal's “Kiss From a Rose.”
Is there anything better? Survey says no. But that doesn't mean the track doesn't have its haters.
Indeed, many people hate “Kiss From a Rose” more than seal clubbing. Internet denizens have called it everything from the worst song of the '90s to the worst song from a movie soundtrack; even the “worst song associated with Batman.” Some find it vague, plodding and overplayed. Some even blame it for inspiring over-the-top movie love themes, like Titanic's “My Heart Will Go On,” Armageddon's “I Don't Want to Miss a Thing” and Spider-Man's “Hero.”
Only a moderate success upon its 1994 release, “Kiss From A Rose” received a boost when Batman Forever director/franchise-ruiner Joel Schumacher contacted Seal a year later to include the song in his film. It snagged three Grammys in 1996 and has gone on to fill a unique role in our American songbook — as the most compelling of background music.
There are a number of different cuts of the video, but the most famous one has Seal singing next to the Bat Signal, which would be pretty cool, were it not for the numerous cuts to Jim Carrey in his horrendous skin-tight glittery green spandex Riddler costume.
But in my mind the song remains untarnished. “Kiss From a Rose” might be the definitive track of the '90s, if only because it sounds different from anything else from that decade. It's not the type of thing that comes around only once every ten years — it only comes around once.
What makes it so great? For one thing, the orchestration and harmonies are ridiculously complex, yet it's mixed perfectly; I was told once at a Best Buy that many stereo retailers use it to test their equipment. It also is one of the few waltzes compelling enough to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Oh, and it's extremely hard to sing, which is why you don't hear it much on karaoke nights.
I'll admit my love for the song is partly nostalgic. As a 9-year-old growing up in Minneapolis I was lucky enough to visit New York City with my mother in 1995. There, to promote Batman Forever, the Warner Brothers Studio Store in Manhattan had a replica bat-signal installed on its roof. They turned it on at night, marking for one of the last times I could immerse myself into youthful wonderment and have part of me believe Batman might be out there fighting crime.
I was a huge Batman fan and really felt like I was visiting Gotham City. The following fall I entered fourth grade, a year that introduced an avalanche of homework, stress and ridicule that all become recurring fun-crushing themes on the road to adulthood.
For that reason, hearing “Kiss From A Rose” will always bring me back to that vacation. It's now 2012, I live in New York and the song is just as magical. Admittedly, the lyrics are a bit vague. Folks have suggested that they're about everything from a love that saves a man's life to a couple's shared cocaine dependence, but part of me will always believe it's a riddle about the power of love sent straight from Batman himself, or at least Val Kilmer.