Wicked Game

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"Wicked Game"
Wicked Games by Chris Isaak US commercial cassette.jpg
U.S. commercial cassette single
Single by Chris Isaak
from the album Heart Shaped World
B-side"Wicked Game" (instrumental)
ReleasedNovember 8, 1990
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
Producer(s)Erik Jacobsen
Chris Isaak singles chronology
"Don't Make Me Dream About You"
"Wicked Game"
"Blue Spanish Sky"

"Wicked Game" is a song by American rock musician Chris Isaak, released from his third studio album Heart Shaped World (1989). Despite being released as a single in 1990, it did not become a hit until it was later featured in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart (1990). Lee Chesnut, an Atlanta radio station music director who loved David Lynch films, began playing the song, and it quickly became a nationwide top-ten hit in January 1991, reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the first hit song of Isaak's career.

It has subsequently been covered by many other artists and been featured in numerous high-profile 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.[1]

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.


The song is in the key of B Dorian mode[2] performed in what AllMusic describes as a "brooding, sorrowfully conflicted" tone.[3]

Although it is often interpreted as a ballad about unrequited love,[4][5] Isaak himself has said that the song was inspired by a telephone call from a girl seeking to arrange a casual sexual liaison and is about "what happens when you have a strong attraction to people that aren't necessarily good for you".[6] It was written in short order following the call.[7]

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 came up with the distinctive guitar lead;[8] both the bassline and drums (except the cymbals) were sampled from previous recordings of the song and then looped.[9]

Music videos[edit]

There are two different music videos for this song. The most well-known music video of the song was directed by Herb Ritts, 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 featured supermodel Helena Christensen rolling and frolicking on the beach with Isaak. It was mostly filmed in black and white. Isaak and Christensen were shirtless through most of the video, although her nudity was concealed by clever camera angles. In the middle of the video, Christensen was seen only in her black lace bra and panties. The video won the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Male Video, Best Cinematography and Best Video from a Film. It was ranked #13 on VH1's 100 Greatest Videos, #4 on VH1's 50 Sexiest Video Moments, #73 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 100 Top Music Videos, and #1 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.[10][11] It features scenes of Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) from the film, interspersed with black-and-white footage of Isaak performing the song.

Track listings[edit]


Charts and certifications[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[30] Gold 45,000^
Italy (FIMI)[31] Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[33] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Other versions[edit]



"Wicked Game"
Wicked Game.jpeg
Single by HIM
from the album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666
ReleasedSeptember 28, 1998
FormatCD single
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
HIM singles chronology
"Your Sweet Six Six Six"
"Wicked Game"
"Join Me in Death"

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 lastly 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.[34] HIM frontman Ville Valo had this to say about "Wicked Game": "I went to Pasila's library and borrowed the soundtrack-vinyl of Wild At Heart and recorded it on tape. So with Linde we tried to 'learn' the song from the tape. It was kind of funny, that we learnt the song a bit wrong. We did not hear the guitar parts well enough from that 'bad quality' tape. We also heard the lyrics wrong, and when the song was later recorded to our first EP, there were a few funny mistakes in the lyrics."[citation needed] Their version appeared on an episode of Smallville.

Track listings[edit]
German release
  1. "Wicked Game" – 3:54
  2. "For You" – 4:00
  3. "Our Diabolical Rapture" – 5:20
  4. "Wicked Game" (666 Remix) – 3:58
Finnish release
  1. "Wicked Game"
  2. "For You"
2000 UK release
  1. "Wicked Game" – 3:36
  2. "When Love and Death Embrace" (Amnt Mix) – 3:34
  3. "The Heartless" (Serdlidlim Mix) – 3:11
2000 Swedish release
  1. "Wicked Game" 2000
  2. "When Love and Death Embrace" (Amnt Mix) – 3:34

Il Divo[edit]

"Wicked Game (Melanconia)"
Il divo --- wicked game.jpg
Single by Il Divo
Released4 November 2011
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
Il Divo singles chronology
"The Time of Our Lives"
"Wicked Game (Melanconia)"
"Por una Cabeza"

Il Divo bought the copyright and covered the song in the classical crossover genre, performing the song in Italian. It was included on their 2011 album of the same name.[35]

Gemma Hayes[edit]

"Wicked Game"
Single by Gemma Hayes
  • March 10, 2012 Ireland
  • March 12, 2012 International
RecordedJanuary 2012
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
Producer(s)Gemma Hayes

Singer and songwriter Gemma Hayes recorded a version of the song.

On February 16, 2012 Hayes revealed in an interview with Evening Echo's 'Downtown', she recorded a cover version of Wicked Game" for US Teen drama Pretty Little Liars, the song featured throughout her 2012 tour playlist.[36]

On 1 March 2012, gemmahayes.com confirmed her cover of "Wicked Game" would appear on Pretty Little Liars on 12 March and will be available to download as a single.

The track was released after her fourth studio album Let It Break and before her fifth studio album release Bones+Longing.

In March 2015, a video musical session was recorded playing this song at St. Patrick's Chapel – Irish Cultural Center, Paris.[37]

Chart position

In January 2012, Hayes was asked to record a cover version of Chris Isaak' 'Wicked Game' for US teen drama 'Pretty Little Liars'. The track appeared on US TV in March 2012.[38] The track was released on iTunes on 12 March 2012.[39] The song performed well in the charts peaking at #5 in Canada, #4 in Ireland, #3 in France and #1 in Sweden.[40]

Parra for Cuva[edit]

"Wicked Games"
Single by Parra for Cuva featuring Anna Naklab
Released14 October 2013
LabelSpinnin' Deep
Songwriter(s)Chris Isaak
Parra for Cuva singles chronology
"Wicked Games"
"Sacred Feathers"
Anna Naklab singles chronology
"Something Near"
"Wicked Games"
"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 14 February 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

October Noir[edit]

In January 2020 gothic metal band October Noir released their own version of "Wicked Game" as a non-album single.[41]


Chart (2013–14) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[42] 14
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[43] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[44] 21
France (SNEP)[45] 72
Germany (Official German Charts)[46] 89
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)[47] 40
Ireland (IRMA)[48] 54
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[49] 6
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[50] 4
UK Dance (Official Charts Company)[51] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[52] 6


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[53] Gold 35,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format
France 14 October 2013 Spinnin' Records Digital download
Germany 14 February 2014
Ireland 24 October 2014
United Kingdom 26 October 2014


  • Chilean band La Ley released a cover (in Spanish) of this song as a single in 2014, with the title "Sin tí".
  • The debut trailer for open world racing video game Forza Horizon 3 shown at E3 2016[54] featured a cover of the song performed by Ursine Vulpine featuring Annaca.[55] The same version of the song also featured in a TV commercial for the car manufacturer Alfa Romeo.[56]

When played and broadcast the UK, American listeners to American Election:Wicked Game hear adverts and product endorsements voiced by British VO Artist Ed Gillham.


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  2. ^ "'Wicked Game' sheet music". musicnotes.com. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  3. ^ Huey, Steve. "Wicked Game – Chris Isaak". allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  4. ^ Kim, Jae-Ha (21 April 1991). "Chris Isaak finally wins success in wicked game". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  5. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (17 February 1991). "Isaak's 'Wicked Game' a Surprise Smash". L.A. Times. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Chris Isaak Shares Intimate Details of "Wicked Game" Music Video". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Chris Isaak : Songwriter Interviews". www.songfacts.com. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  8. ^ "The Rise and Fall of James Calvin Wilsey". Rhythms.com.au. 2019-02-16. Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  9. ^ a b "Classic Tracks: Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game"". Mixonline.com. 2002-05-01. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
  10. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (3 July 2012). "Watch: David Lynch Directed Alternate Video For Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game"".
  11. ^ Dazed (2 May 2017). "Is this the most influential love song in modern music?".
  12. ^ "Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". Discogs.
  13. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  14. ^ "Ultratop.be – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  15. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  16. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  17. ^ "Lescharts.com – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game" (in French). Les classement single.
  18. ^ "Musicline.de – Chris Isaak Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  19. ^ Irish Single Chart Irishcharts.ie Archived 2009-06-03 at WebCite (Retrieved February 23, 2008)
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Chris Isaak" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  21. ^ "Charts.nz – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". Top 40 Singles.
  22. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". Singles Top 100.
  23. ^ UK Singles Chart Official Charts Company.com (Retrieved August 9, 2008)
  24. ^ a b c Billboard Allmusic.com (Retrieved August 9, 2008)
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  28. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 1991" (PDF). Music & Media. 8 (51–52): 21. December 21, 1991. Retrieved January 17, 2020 – via American Radio History.
  29. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1991". Archived from the original on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
  30. ^ "Danish single certifications – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved July 10, 2019. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2019 to obtain certification.
  31. ^ "Italian single certifications – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved September 2, 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Wicked Game" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 12, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Wicked Game in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  33. ^ "American single certifications – Chris Isaak – Wicked Game". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 1, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  34. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Popular Music – Colin Larkin".
  35. ^ "New Il Divo Album Announced!". www.ildivo.com/uk. Archived from the original on 2014-01-12.
  36. ^ "Gemma Hayes wicked game Galway". YouTube. 5 February 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  37. ^ madmoiZelle (10 March 2015). "Gemma Hayes – Wicked Game" – via YouTube.
  38. ^ "PLL Wicked Game – Gemma Hayes". YouTube.
  39. ^ "iTunes – Music – Wicked Game – Single by Gemma Hayes". iTunes.
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-11. Retrieved 2012-04-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ Wicked Game by October Noir on Amazon Music
  42. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Parra For Cuva feat. Anna Naklab – Wicked Games". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  43. ^ "Ultratop.be – Parra For Cuva feat. Anna Naklab – Wicked Games" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  44. ^ "Ultratop.be – Parra For Cuva feat. Anna Naklab – Wicked Games" (in French). Ultratop 50.
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  46. ^ "Musicline.de – Parra For Cuva feat. Anna Naklab Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
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  49. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Parra For Cuva feat. Anna Naklab" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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  54. ^ "Forza Horizon 3 Official E3 Trailer". YouTube. Microsoft Studios. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  55. ^ Hryb, Larry (13 June 2016). "Playlist: Music Heard During The Xbox E3 2016 Briefing". MajorNelson.com. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  56. ^ "Alfa Romeo TV Commercial 2018". 10 May 2018.

External links[edit]