Chris Isaak’s most-iconic and most-covered song, “Wicked Game” can be a bit of a challenge for some cover artists. Isaak’s definitive, inimitable, swoony croony vocal is a tough feat for most singers, both in terms of the range and in terms of his twang.
The smart artists don’t try to copy him. Los Angeles-based singer Francesca Blanchard, who we last saw covering Dido, is not trying to imitate Isaak on her new cover of “Wicked Game.” She doesn’t avoid the challenges of the song so much as she makes the vocal her own.
Blanchard’s cover begins with softly, adroitly picked and closely-miced finger-style guitar, at basically the same tempo as the original. Blanchard’s voice is higher than Isaak’s and, somehow, it sounds like she’s singing even more softly than he is in the original. The pace picks up considerably at the bridge. And Blanchard adds tasteful piano to her voice and guitar, which is later supplemented by pedal steel. Three minutes in, the other instrumentation drops out for the verse and the sparseness highlights her voice. It’s a pretty, understated cover that doesn’t deviate much from the original but also is very much its own thing.