Wicked Game

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Wicked Game"
US commercial cassette single
Single by Chris Isaak
from the album Heart Shaped World
B-side"Don't Make Me Dream About You"
ReleasedJuly 14, 1989 (1989-07-14)[1]
Length4:46
LabelReprise
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
Producer(s)Erik Jacobsen
Chris Isaak singles chronology
"Don't Make Me Dream About You"
(1989)
"Wicked Game"
(1989)
"Blue Spanish Sky"
(1991)
Music video
"Wicked Game" on YouTube

"Wicked Game" is a song by American rock musician Chris Isaak, released from his third album, Heart Shaped World (1989). Released as a single in July 1989, it became a sleeper hit after being featured in the 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart, starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. Lee Chesnut, an Atlanta radio station music director who loved David Lynch films, began playing the song, and it quickly became an American top-10 hit in January 1991, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Internationally, the single became a number-one hit in Belgium and reached the top 10 in several other nations.

"Wicked Game" has been covered by many other artists and been featured in numerous movies and television series and advertisements, so much so that Dazed magazine questioned whether it might be the most influential love song in modern music.[2] It has subsequently received retrospective critical acclaim, being listed in the 2010 book 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and noted by Dave Marsh in an updated edition of his 1989 book The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

Composition[edit]

The song is in B Dorian,[3] performed in what AllMusic describes as a "brooding, sorrowfully conflicted" tone.[4]

Although it is often interpreted as a ballad about unrequited love,[5][6] Isaak has said that the song was inspired by a telephone call from a woman seeking to arrange a hook-up and is about "what happens when you have a strong attraction to people that aren't necessarily good for you".[7] It was written shortly after the call.[8]

During the sessions for Isaak's third album, many different versions and arrangements of the song were made before the final version was completed. James Calvin Wilsey wrote and played the distinctive guitar lead using a Fender Stratocaster's vibrato arm;[9][10][11] both the bassline and drums were sampled from previous recordings of the song and looped.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

The Aberdeen Evening Express extolled the "haunting strains" of "Wicked Game."[13] Grant Walters of Albumism praised the song as a "pristine union of Isaak's aching vocal and the desolate wail of James Calvin Wilsey's '65 Stratocaster." He added, "Underneath, the brushed drum loop, simple bass line, and muted background vocals create a simmering atmospheric buzz."[11] Steve Huey of AllMusic described it as a "shimmering," "spare," "smoky," and "moody masterpiece."[10][14] Larry Flick from Billboard called it "[a] delicious treat."[15] Alaister Moughan from Dazed wrote, "Some songs are masterpieces, some represent moments in time, and others are simply good jams. Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" is all three."[16] Joe Rhodes from Entertainment Weekly stated that this is "perhaps the album's darkest mood piece," noting its "otherworldly" opening guitar line.[17] Pan-European magazine Music & Media described it as "[a] laid-back C&W tinged song featuring Isaak's Orbison-esque vocals."[18] Duncan Holland from Music Week felt that its "dexterity and panache is something rarely heard. The touches of Roy Orbison only make it stronger and given the right airplay, Isaak should score a significant, if unpredictable hit."[19] A reviewer from Sunday Life complimented it as "[a] brooding ballad, image-laden, and worthy of Roy Orbison in his heyday."[20]

Music videos[edit]

There are two different music videos for this song. The more well-known video was directed by Herb Ritts and shot in Hawaii at what was formerly known as Kamoamoa Beach in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The newly formed black-sand beach was created from lava from Kilauea volcano flowing into the ocean about a mile away. The beach was covered by lava not long after the video was shot. The video features supermodel Helena Christensen rolling and frolicking on the beach with Isaak. It was mostly filmed in black and white. Christensen is topless through most of the video, although her nudity is concealed by camera angles. In the middle of the video, Christensen is seen only in her black lace bra and panty; other times, she wears only a men's white brief. The video achieved heavy rotation on MTV and MTV Europe,[21][22] winning the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Male Video and Best Cinematography. It was ranked number 13 on VH1's "100 Greatest Videos", number four on VH1's "50 Sexiest Video Moments", number 73 on Rolling Stone magazine's "The 100 Top Music Videos", number one on Rolling Stone magazine's "The 30 Sexiest Music Videos of All Time", and number one on Fuse's "40 Sexiest Videos" in 2010.

Another video was commissioned for the Wild at Heart VHS release and was directed by David Lynch.[23][24] It features scenes of Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) from the film, interspersed with black-and-white footage of Isaak and his band performing the song. This video won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film.

Track listings[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[61] Platinum 90,000
Italy (FIMI)[62] Platinum 100,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[63] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[64] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
Germany July 14, 1989 7-inch vinyl Reprise [1]
United Kingdom November 12, 1990
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • cassette
London [65]

Other versions[edit]

Covers (studio releases)[edit]

HIM[edit]

"Wicked Game"
Single by HIM
from the album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 and Razorblade Romance (UK and US releases)
ReleasedSeptember 28, 1998
GenreGothic metal
Length3:54
LabelBMG
HIM singles chronology
"Your Sweet Six Six Six"
(1998)
"Wicked Game"
(1998)
"Join Me in Death"
(1999)

The Finnish band HIM remade this song, first using it in their demo This Is Only the Beginning, then on their EP 666 Ways To Love: Prologue, followed by another recording of it on their first album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666, and again on the British and American versions of their second album Razorblade Romance. The last recording they made of it then reappeared on their compilation album And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997–2004. "Wicked Game" became the band's breakthrough song in their native Finland.[66] Their version appeared on an episode of Smallville.

Track listings[edit]

Parra for Cuva[edit]

"Wicked Games"
Single by Parra for Cuva featuring Anna Naklab
ReleasedOctober 14, 2013
Recorded2013
Length3:15
LabelSpinnin' Deep
Parra for Cuva singles chronology
"Luhya"
(2013)
"Wicked Games"
(2013)
"Sacred Feathers"
(2016)
Anna Naklab singles chronology
"Something Near"
(2013)
"Wicked Games"
(2013)
"Fading Nights"

In 2013, German house producer Parra for Cuva released a cover version that featured Anna Naklab. The single was re-titled as "Wicked Games" in plural. It was first released on Beatport worldwide as a digital download in August 2013, then a mainstream release as a digital download in France in October 2013 and in Germany on February 14, 2014. The song has charted in Australia, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Track listing[edit]
  1. "Wicked Games" (radio edit) – 3:15
  2. "Wicked Games" (original mix) – 5:58
Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[82] Platinum 70,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[83] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Boy & Bear[edit]

Australian indie folk band Boy & Bear recorded a cover of this song which was released as a single on February 14, 2020[84] and was later included on their album Boy & Bear at Golden Retriever Studio. It was certified Gold by ARIA in 2023.[85]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "'Wicked Game' sheet music". musicnotes.com. October 21, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. "Wicked Game – Chris Isaak". allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  5. ^ Kim, Jae-Ha (April 21, 1991). "Chris Isaak finally wins success in wicked game". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
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