Tuesday night’s (February 23) episode of “American Idol” was full of notable moments, including the real judging debut of Ellen DeGeneres (more on her later) and attention-grabbing performances care of Katelyn Epperly and Paige Miles. But the highlight of the night was undoubtedly Siobhan Magnus’ performance of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”
Magnus’ performance of the song was only so-so (Simon described it as “a bit dark”), but she deserves credit for taking on an unusual and difficult tune. “Wicked Game” is an extremely tough song with a twisting melody that is more about tone and mood than Isaak’s vocal performance. Originally released in 1989 on the album Heart Shaped World, “Wicked Game” became Isaak’s breakthrough hit after being featured in the David Lynch film “Wild at Heart” (which came out in 1990 and starred Nicolas Cage and Lynch favorite Laura Dern). Since then, it has been somewhat ubiquitous in pop culture, scoring numerous television shows (including key moments on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Friends” and “Melrose Place”) and has been covered by everybody from Giant Drag to H.I.M. to R.E.M. to Stone Sour.
But perhaps the most notable aspect of “Wicked Game” is the incredibly sexy video that accompanied the song’s rise to the upper echelon of the Billboard charts. The clip, directed by legendary fashion photographer Herb Ritts (Madonna’s “Cherish,” Michael Jackson’s “In the Closet”) features Isaak writhing around on a beach with barely-clothed model Helena Christensen. Shot in black and white, it became an MTV staple for a brief time and scored Isaak three VMAs. It regularly shows up on lists of the greatest videos ever made, and it’s extremely easy to see why.