Wicked Game

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"Wicked Game"
Wicked Games by Chris Isaak US commercial cassette.jpg
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]
Genre
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). Despite being released as a single in July 1989, it did not become a hit until it was featured in the 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart. 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, making it the first hit song of Isaak's career. 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 the key of B Dorian mode[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 casual sexual liaison 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 came up with the distinctive guitar lead;[9] both the bassline and drums (except the cymbals) were sampled from previous recordings of the song and then looped.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Scottish newspaper Aberdeen Evening Express noted the "haunting strains" of "Wicked Game".[11] Grant Walters from Albumism wrote that the song is 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."[12] Steve Huey from AllMusic described it as a "shimmering", "spare" and "moody masterpiece".[13] Larry Flick from Billboard called it a "delicious treat".[14] 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."[15] Joe Rhodes from Entertainment Weekly stated that it is "perhaps the album's darkest mood piece", noting its "otherworldly" opening guitar line.[16] Pan-European magazine Music & Media described it as a "laid-back C&W tinged song featuring Isaak's Orbison-esque vocals."[17] Duncan Holland from Music Week said that the song's "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."[18] A reviewer from Sunday Life called it a "brooding ballad, image-laden, and worthy of Roy Orbison in his heyday."[19]

Music videos[edit]

There are two different music videos for this song. The more well-known video 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 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 won the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Male Video and Best Cinematography. It was ranked number 13 on VH1's 100 Greatest Videos, number 4 on VH1's 50 Sexiest Video Moments, number 73 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 100 Top Music Videos, number 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 30 Sexiest Music Videos of All Time, and number 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.[20][21] 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 and certifications[edit]

Other versions[edit]

Covers (studio releases)[edit]

HIM[edit]

"Wicked Game"
Wicked Game.jpeg
Single by HIM
from the album Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666
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.[61] Their version appeared on an episode of Smallville.

Track listing[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

Parra for Cuva[edit]

"Wicked Games"
Wicked-Games-by-Parra-For-Cuva.jpg
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]
Chart (2013–2014) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[62] 14
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[63] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[64] 21
France (SNEP)[65] 72
Germany (Official German Charts)[66] 89
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)[67] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[68] 54
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[69] 5
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[70] 6
Scotland (OCC)[71] 4
UK Dance (OCC)[72] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[73] 6
Year-end charts[edit]
Chart (2013) Position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[74] 50
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[75] 45
Chart (2014) Position
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[76] 82

Others[edit]

Release Artist Details
1995 R.E.M. From 1988 through 2011, R.E.M. rewarded members of their official fan club with special, exclusive Christmas singles. They released their cover of the songs on 1995 Fan Club Single Served Fresh And Hot[77][78]
2009 Peter Jöback Swedish singer Peter Jöback covered the song on his album East Side Stories; it features guest vocals from Australian singer-songwriter Sia.[79][80]
2012 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.[81] On March 1, 2012, gemmahayes.com confirmed her cover of "Wicked Game" would appear on Pretty Little Liars on March 12 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.
Chart positions

Hayes' cover was released on iTunes on March 12, 2012.[82] The song performed well in the charts peaking at number 5 in Canada, number 4 in Ireland, number 3 in France and number 1 in Sweden.[83]

2017 In Flames Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames recorded a version of this song as part of their extended play Down, Wicked & No Good.[84]
2020 Céline Dion Céline Dion recorded a version of this song at Electric Lady Studios, New York, which was released as a Spotify Singles exclusive track.[85]
2020 Lingua Ignota American experimental musician Lingua Ignota recorded a cover of this song. It was released as a single on August 7, 2020, and features background vocals from Daughters frontman Alexis Marshall. Additionally, her cover samples Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki's 1961 piece Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in its instrumental.[86]

References[edit]

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