Adams’ ‘1989’

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Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s “1989” in the style of The Smiths and Bruce Springsteen. That is incredibly confusing, and yet it’s how this album of covers was billed by its songwriter, Ryan Adams. Who is this Ryan Adams? He is an indie singer who has had an incredibly diverse and successful career over the past two decades, despite not being a household name. That is until this year, when Adams announced he was going to do an entire cover album dedicated to pop music’s queen, Taylor Swift, and her most recent album, “1989”. This garnered a lot of press from both indie sites that regularly covered Adams, such as Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, as well as MTV and other popular media sites that usually stick to covering pop music.

With the hype that was built up to this album, it was exciting to listen to for the first time. The thing I personally love about covers is that they’re familiar and yet completely fresh and new all at once. The only downside about a cover is that it can very easily turn into an incredibly subpar version of what was once a great song, which ruins both the cover and the original for the listener.

Luckily, that was not the case on “1989”. Adams is able to do Swift’s songs the justice they deserve. Throughout the album, he switches from a pacing electric guitar that sounds much more vintage than it is, to his toned back acoustic takes on songs such as “How You Get the Girl” and “Out of the Woods”. “Blank Space” sounds as if Bruce Springsteen is about to break into “I’m on Fire” at any given second. That’s the great thing about this album though, is that Adams was up front about his influences during the recording process, and was unapologetic about incorporating them into the album.

The acoustic songs are where Adams’ covers go over best. Not only are they arranged and sung masterfully by Adams, they also showcase the component that seperates Swift from many of her peers: the songwriting. Though in the last two albums, she has moved away from the Nashville roots and simplistic acoustic guitar that made her a star, Swift still has very personal and beautifully written lyrics that sometimes get lost in the full-scale pop production. Adams’ version of these songs helps the listener remember fondly the magic of early Swift songs, such as “Teardrops on My Guitar,” while appreciating how far she has gone as an artist. This album was just as much a Taylor Swift project as it was Ryan Adams’, because through this album the listener can see Swift’s music through a different lens, which is an amazing experience for anyone who is a fan of Swift.

Ryan Adams’ “1989” was wonderfully done, so long as you take it for what it is, a cover album. These are reinterpretations of how the song was originally meant to sound, so obviously it won’t be as good as Swift’s album. And yet, somehow Adams is able to give the songs his own spin, while keeping the songs as fun and upbeat as they were originally.  Nothing will live up to the original “1989,” because that is pop music at its absolute finest in our time, but Adams’ version is great to check out for any fan of music, especially if you ever wondered what Taylor Swift’s music would sound like sung by an older, male, indie musician.