Release Date: Sep 21, 2015
Record label: Pax Am
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Ryan Adams1989(PAX-AM)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars You may question Ryan Adams’ motivation for doing a song-by-song cover album of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Is he honoring Swift by bestowing indie-rock credibility on her sturdy pop compositions? Or is he showing her up by revealing depth and nuance in the songs that get lost in the choreography-cognizant productions of Swift’s versions, perhaps even giving her a master class in lyrical interpretation with his cracked croon outdoing her earnest emoting? STREAM THE ALBUM What you can’t question about this 1989 is the effort and care that Adams put into conceiving these covers. The knee-jerk reactors out there are probably expecting hushed versions of Swift’s own bombastic tracks, Adams simply taking out a rickety old acoustic guitar and finding the chords along the way.
Here’s a confession. I know Taylor Swift’s version of 1989 is better than Ryan Adams’. I know it’s better than any cover version, in any style, could ever be. To my shame, though, I also know I’m always going to prefer Adams’ take. This makes next to no sense on the surface, and it ….
When Taylor Swift heralded 1989 as her “first documented official pop album,” Grantland‘s Steven Hyden scratched his head. “How is Swift’s previous album, 2012’s Red, not a pop record?” he wrote. Truer words, Steve. Truer words. But I’d argue that Swift’s pop sensibilities ….
Review Summary: A daydream dressed like a nightmare.The surprising thing about Ryan Adams covering the biggest album by the world’s biggest pop star isn’t that it exists; given the state of Adams’ cluttered record collection and even more impenetrable well of rarities and tossed-off B-sides, 1989 feels inevitable. This is the same artist who I described in a 2010 review as someone “who could probably take a shit and come up with a gem of a pop hook, but [he] seems to lack that which most of us were blessed with at birth: bowel control.” No, the surprising thing is that it’s here, fully formed, as gorgeous a Ryan Adams record as anything in his own catalog. At the least, 1989 isn’t too far off his usual tack.
A present to poptimists everywhere, Ryan Adams' full album cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 hears the oft-acclaimed alt-country rock'n'roller reimagining the most recent pristinely polished effort from America's reigning pop princess. Adams strips the tracks back to their bare bones, putting Swift's songwriting to the test — and it holds up extremely well. At its best, Adams' version of 1989 is an adoring homage to Swift's overlooked talent as a storyteller, though there are also a few key moments that fall flat without the high-gloss bombast that the originals were treated to.
When one considers all the baffling things Ryan Adams has done throughout the course of his career (following up his beloved albums Heartbreaker and Gold with the butt-rock abomination Rock N Roll, releasing a godawful vinyl-only heavy-metal sci-fi concept album, spending part of the mid-2000s on a daily speedball regimen), covering an entire Taylor Swift album may be the most sensible thing he's done in years. Whereas most of his previous musical tangents have only served to alienate his original fanbase, 1989 has netted Adams possibly more press than ever before. This is hardly surprising.
Covers are a tricky business. For every â€œHallelujahâ€ there is a â€œFaith.â€ For every â€œHurtâ€ there is a Punk Goes Pop 5. Most covers fall into obscurity only diehard fans ever care to dig up. Often they are buried on B-side records or unnecessary deluxe collectorâ€™s editions.
Sometime in August 2015, Ryan Adams let everybody in on a secret: he'd decided to cover Taylor Swift's 1989 in total. This was not the first album-length cover of Adams' career (he never released his version of the Strokes' Is This It), nor was this his first attempt at 1989. He initially attempted a stark, four-track rendition of the record -- naturally dubbed his Nebraska -- but he wound up settling on "in the style of 'As played by the Smiths'," which was an elegant way of saying Adams' 1989 could easily slide onto a PostModern MTV playlist from 1989-1990 and not ruffle many feathers.
It always seemed to be slightly dodgy territory when men start covering pop songs in that earnestly sincere way that lads with guitars tend to have. It seemed to all start with Travis, who many years ago performed a deathly slow acoustic version of Britney Spears‘ Baby One More Time on Mark Radcliffe’s radio show, and then everyone was at it. Arctic Monkeys tried to improve on Girls Aloud‘s Love Machine, which as everyone knows is an absolutely impossible task, and the Godfather of Folk Music himself, Richard Thompson, sang Oops I Did It Again live to much condescending laughter from the audience.
One cold day in late 2006, Ryan Adams decided, for whatever reason, to release 11 albums at the same time. Recorded under various pseudonyms like DJ Reggie, the Shit, and WereWolph and featuring novelty covers of songs like Creed’s “Higher”, the insomnia-indebted mini albums all streamed on Adams’s website at once, each one sloppily (and joyfully) crafted out of pre-loaded GarageBand samples, Adams own late-night howls, and a never-ending stream of makes-sense-only-to-him surrealistic jokes. One song was called “Pizza Police”.
One year after releasing 1984, his love-letter EP to mid-Eighties punk, Ryan Adams is back with an album-length cover of Taylor Swift's 1989. It plays like the latest chapter in his ongoing recent Tom-Petty-meets-the-Smiths re-imagining of the Reagan years. "You've got that Daydream Nation look in your eye," he sings, turning "Style" into a Sonic Youth flirtfest.
When Ryan Adams covered Oasis’s Wonderwall on his 2004 album Love Is Hell, he exploited the fecund space between Liam’s foghorn delivery and the sad, swirling longing of Noel’s lyrics. On Taylor Swift’s 1989, however, which he has recreated here in full, there is comparatively little room for Adams and his mournful guitar. He may begin the likes of Bad Blood and Blank Space by unearthing appealing melodies from Swift’s harsh, mega-pop productions, but once the choruses kick in, Adams is at the mercy of their unyielding, playground-style chants.
Born of heartfelt admiration, Ryan Adams’s cover album of Taylor Swift’s most recent work is, thankfully, no misguided attempt to give it a rock-approved rubber stamp. It’s lovely throughout, of course, but where Adams’s most famous cover, of Oasis’s Wonderwall, found a new tone in the song, all most of the candle-held-to-the-sun versions here reveal – from the hushed, sad, fingerpicky take on Blank Space to the hushed, sad, strummy take on Out of the Woods – is a strong urge to listen to Swift herself. His more lively reinterpretations of Style as a snarling, dark rocker, and Welcome to New York as a desperate hit of Springsteenian yearning, are the keepers from this pretty curio.
Ryan Adams' cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 is a lot of fun to think about and talk about, but not much fun to listen to. It is, in other words, a pure product of the Internet—a robust, cross-platform, thinkpiece-generating app that testifies mostly to Adams' ability to get attention. You have to hand it to him for knowing what he's doing: His album choice churns up some nice, irony-rich soil for culture and music critics to wriggle around in.
Ryan Adams goes wherever his muse directs him, which explains why he’s just as likely to release a hardcore EP as he is an alt-country masterpiece. But when news broke that he had decided to put his own spin on Taylor Swift’s 1989 (and was interpreting it in the style of the Smiths, no less), it was one of his more random, if not entirely unexpected, gestures. After all, Adams once made a blues version of the Strokes’ 2001 debut, Is This It, which never saw the light of day, and he’s decidedly un-snobbish about his musical likes.
Let’s start with the obvious question. What are we to make of a front-to-back “reinterpretation” of Taylor Swift’s 1989? It’s an album not only still riding high on the charts, but the hugest pop release in recent memory. The cynical take of Ryan Adams’ 1989 damns it for being little more than a stunt. His version of Swift’s blockbuster has already stoked a wildfire of cultural attention.
Full disclosure: I was not enamored of Taylor Swift’s “1989,” which steamrolled her country leanings last year and made her the most influential pop star in the world. I did love some of its singles — who can resist “Blank Space”? — but the sleek, soulless production left me cold. Even by pop standards, the album felt contrived and anonymous.
Ryan Adams has released his own version of Taylor Swift's blockbuster "1989" album. Ryan Adams has released his own version of Taylor Swift's blockbuster "1989" album. What if “The End of the Innocence” meant as much to Taylor Swift as “Like a Prayer”? That’s one of many questions that animates Ryan Adams’ “1989,” on which the crafty alt-country singer reimagines Swift’s blockbuster pop album as a polished roots-rock disc.
The idea of a partnership of equals is, at best, fallacy, and at worst, fantasy. Never is that more clear than when one-half of the team-up is Drake or Taylor Swift, the anchors of contemporary pop music. Sunday night, Drake and Future released their collaborative album, “What a Time to Be Alive.