347. “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak

There are plenty of songs I wish I’d written because I feel like I could’ve. As in, they are my exact sensibility.

“Wicked Game” I wish I’d written because this is the exact opposite of what I’m capable of. I am so jealous of this song. 

What an absolutely lacquered-thick atmosphere of love, lust, obsession, disorientation, desperation, and really, isolation. Few songs are as teleportational to a certain place, to a certain headspace.

A long, long time ago, I wrote about the minimal production that benefitted Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” The small number of instruments playing had the effect of putting the vocal out front-and-center, creating a feeling that represented the theme of the song: intimacy.

“Wicked Game” is a song, three decades later, that dutifully learned that lesson.

But it’s not just Chris Isaak’s utterly handsome crying baritone that carries this song. 

An outstanding lead guitar part serves as his foil, picking through gorgeous minor strains, then moaning over the silent space of the song with the impressively nuanced application of whammy bar.

The melodic cast of this song is intoxicating, from the impassioned vocal ideas to those lead guitar phrases. It’s a marvel of a creation in that way. 

In its structure, I have to praise the soft, subtle craft of the ending. This song deserved to have a true ending, not some fade-out or simple strike of the tonic note. Instead, it’s a two-part a cappella harmony of such affirmative heart. It’s a sequence that I’ll describe in the rarest way: Elegiac.

And maybe that works for the whole piece. 

I’m proud to live in a world of emotions as sweltering as this.