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Wicked Game

When my sister and I saw “Wild at Heart” in a movie theater, I became fixated on the song playing during a scene that, if I remember correctly, involved a car accident. I don’t recall the scene so well because I leaned over to Sis and asked if she knew what the song was. She didn’t, and I was like a deer in headlights until the day I figured out what it was and brought home my own copy of the album. For months, I would stroke the cover as I played it in head phones while drifting off to sleep. I may have whispered, “My Precious,” on occasion.

I like a lot of Chris Isaak’s music, but I will always think of “Wicked Game” as a classic. It’s coming with me to that desert island if anyone makes me go. Especially if I’m not allowed to bring a man.

I’ve always thought the day my ears were assaulted by a punk version of it — spit out at me through a boutique’s speakers before I could get away — was a low point for music. (And I don’t hate punk rock; sometimes I like it very loud.) But now I’m reeling from Il Divo’s version (I can’t even believe I have their first album… ) on the Tonight show (which I’ve vowed never to watch on principle, but tonight I was too busy to change the channel) butchering this song as if the hairs on their heads were being ripped out as they sang.

Someone had arranged the music as if all our lives depended on my dictionary’s second definition of overwrought being completely understood. Right now.

Instead of leaving one of the world’s most perfect make-out songs to do its gloriously dirty work, they made my hands stop on the keyboard, my face cringe, and a certain part of me that has always been very open to this song, scream out, “No, no, no!”

All right. I think I’m done now. I’ve exhausted the immediate ways I can think of to insult Il Divo. I wish I had more. They deserve it. I can take my opera on the slightly overwrought side — my palate isn’t so sophisticated on that plane, and isn’t opera supposed to be that way anyhow? But if you go messing around with my make-out music, I ain’t gonna treat you nice.

I think it was Herb Ritts who blessed us with glorious images of Chris in the official video. For the uninitiated or anyone needing a little pick-me-up, here it is: 



25 thoughts on “Wicked Game

  1. I may have whispered, “My Precious,” on occasion.


    There are way too many songs being remade, and quite frankly, most of them are terrible. Or, at least in comparison to their originals, they’re terrible. I first heard the remake of “Wicked Game” by HIM, a band from Finland. Ville Valo has an incredibly romantic voice, though his version is a little “harder.” Most of his music is usually rather romantic.

  2. “butchering this song as if the hairs on their heads were being ripped out” …made me laugh out loud (or: LOL ’cause i so wanna be wit’ it) …anyway – yeah, a very sexy/hot track, and some nice turns of phrase in this post like “…to do its gloriously dirty work…” and more. continue girl…

  3. I do like the song, but I wish Chris Isaak would open his mouth and e-nun-ci-ate a little bit more, but maybe that’s just the classical musician in me. I’m also a little bothered by the half-dressed-woman doing the seductive-dance-on-the-beach while the man watches part, but maybe that’s just the feminist in me.
    I do agree that, once someone performs a particular song particularly well, no one else should touch it. For me, that one’s Jeff Buckley singing “Hallelujah.”

    • Thank you much for visiting, Sheriji. Maybe classical training is different — I had a singing class once where we were admonished to sing the vowels and not emphasize the consonants much. That irked me a little because I didn’t see where clarity came in. I’m lucky with Chris though. I can learn his songs by listening to him sing them. He sounds clear to me.

      As for the woman in the video, I was irked by her seeming indifference. She looked like a vacuous woman wielding sexual power and I thought both ‘characters’ were a little silly. What I loved was the photography. One of his close ups should have been a poster. Somebody dropped the ball on that. Sigh.

      “Hallelujah” is one of my very favorite songs. I might pass out if I heard it butchered.

  4. Hahaha, I agree with Laura. I’ve loved this song for a long time, but never knew the title, either. Great post, great descriptions of how this precious song was butchered.

    Nothing is worse than hearing a really bad cover of a great song. I don’t know about anyone else, but it tends to contort the feeling I’d feel every time I heard the original, before coming in contact with the cover. My stupid brain can never completely turn off the horrible riffs and crappy vocals of the cover that always loom somewhere in the background.

  5. “Wicked Game” is one of a handful of songs that evokes very specific memories from old days. It’s linked to a time where I was absolutely determined to marry Superman when I grew up, somehow, so that the song comes on and I’m 10 years old again, listening to this song I didn’t really understand but loved nevertheless.

    I am so glad I didn’t hear Il Divo’s butchering of it!

  6. Hey, did you attend music school? That’s funny, my bachelor’s is in classical music theory. Was the wrong career choice for me, but I adore playing violin still. Remakes are tough. If they aren’t brilliant, they’re usually a trainwreck. I think if a song is perfect and the guy has a great voice, remakes must be done carefully.

    • I agree with you on remakes, Emmy. And no, I didn’t go to music school. Chicago is home to the Old Town School of Folk Music. (They’re kind of famous.) They offer six to eight week classes in singing, various instruments, songwriting, and other arts. I’ve taken a couple of voice classes.

  7. I love this song. It makes me think of Bonnie & Clyde lol. In fact, I put it up there with “They Will Never Tear Us Apart” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RBR6kJMVkc&feature=related. In any case, you are right they are demolishing perfectly good music by the plethora of remakes. In most cases, they add nothing to the song dammit and worse of all they insult those who cherish the original. I know why though, musical creativity is on the decline so they are raping the archives. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it :).

    P.S. – I am still trying to understand why they remade Footloose OMG.

    • I wonder why Bonnie and Clyde? 🙂 Anyway, if I ever get to make my album, and anybody hears it, I’m sure someone’ll get ticked off about the remake I’m thinking of. I know. I should be ashamed of myself after having written this post.

  8. Haha, I love videos that have something for everyone 🙂 . The song is great. Isn’t it funny how sometimes it’s the “sounds” we recall not the “images” ….or maybe that should be – the sounds cement the images. I also agree that Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” is the definitive one. Done – none better. ……….and I promise not to try to cover this tune,Ré, and spoil it for you.

  9. “Someone had arranged the music as if all our lives depended on my dictionary’s second definition of overwrought being completely understood. Right now.” WONDERFUL.

    I’m catching up on your blog much later than I wish I were, but it’s GOOD to be reading your words again. 🙂 And oh man, yes, Chris Isaak. I started hearing his music on the radio when I was fairly young, and though I liked his songs I didn’t think about them too much. Then I rediscovered “Wicked Game” (and “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing”) when I was in college, and yeow!! All my recently awakened nerve endings said hello-oooo!!!

    • Thanks, Lisa. You really ‘get it’ then, I can tell! I’ll have to figure out how to tell my Chris Isaak story some time. It’s not dirty, but it’s why I know a guy can set a wonderful series of events into motion, just by being a guy. (At least for me.)

      • Ooooooh, I want to hear that story! 😉 And yes, I get that completely, and more and more with time. Masculinity is so interesting to me; I don’t get much exposure to it, what with a family that’s mostly female and few male friends.

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