Chris Isaak released Heart Shaped World in 1989 to tepid sales. A year later, David Lynch used an instrumental version of tonight’s pick, “Wicked Game,” in his totally weird & awesome flick, Wild at Heart, with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern back when they were still both totally weird and awesome. From there the single generated enough radio play to belatedly become a monster hit, and the album topped out at #7 in 1991 — almost two years after its release. And it’s not like Wild at Heart was a runaway hit in movie theaters and everybody just had to hear that one song and became instant Chris Isaak fans.
Crazy until you listen the “Wicked Game” again and watch the video again. I don’t know why audiences didn’t find it the first time around, but once they did they went crazy for it.
The music is haunting. The lyric is a simple one, but equally haunting. It’s an old story which goes like this:
• Boy meets girl
• Boy knows girl will break his heart
• Boy falls for girl anyway
• Girl breaks boy’s heart
• Boy learns that knowing in advance this would happen only makes the heartbreak worse
I know the story well, having lived through it right around the time the song came out. Maybe that’s why I found it so haunting, and still do.
Here’s the part which undoes me every time:
What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you.
What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to make me dream of you.
And the whole album is just like that — beach music for the clinically heartbroken.
And the video? It’s a memory of a perfect day together, maybe the last one, starring Isaak, the beach, and a hauntingly beautiful (and stunningly photographed) Helena Christensen. This is one of those rare cases where the video perfectly fits the lyric which is perfectly complimented by the music.
If Heart Shaped World isn’t already part of your collection, it really ought to be.