This Ryan Adams article was written by Kieran Stowell, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
When Ryan Adams stated he was recording his own take on Taylor Swift’s hit album ‘1989’ in full, it would not have been unreasonable to assume that it would never see the light of day. As fans of Adams would know, he has the strange tendency to hide away, working in his studio for long periods of time before deciding to scrap everything and release a completely different record entirely.
However, what makes this record interesting is the how the songs have resonated with Adams, resulting in his version of ‘1989’ being less of a standard album of Taylor Swift covers and more of a Ryan Adams record inspired by her writing.
Without taking liberties with the original source material, Adams cleverly picks and chooses what parts of each song he wants to reimagine or even leave out in order to fit his own agenda. For example, on ‘Blank Space,’ Swift takes a satirical standpoint, openly mocking those who’ve criticised her for her dating habits. In the hands of Ryan Adams, however the song takes a more melancholic approach.
While Swift wears her “long list of ex lovers” like a medal of honour, Adams sounds almost ashamed of his, as he sings softly behind the comfort of his guitar. On the record, Adams makes no secret of his 80’s rock influences, replacing Swift’s “James Dean daydream”, with a subtle reference to Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation’ in the chorus of ‘Style.’ Adams’ version of the song also removed the bridge and final chorus, making the song a short but spectacular rock anthem.
Adams’ interpretation of ‘1989’ is musically and incredibly far distance from anything Swift has, and most probably will do, in her career, but ‘I Wish You Would’ is a track that sees the lines between the two artists begin to blur. Adams re-imagines what was the best track on Swift’s original album as an acoustic band, thus creating a version that not only works as a beautiful rendition of the track itself but also serves as a love letter to Taylor Swift’s career as a whole.
The record as a whole is full of high points such as ‘Out Of The Woods’ and ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay,’ which highlight the incredible amount of effort Adams has put into making the record. Some of the other tracks, however, don’t quite accomplish the same feat.
Instead, Adams tries to force these songs into a sound that just doesn’t fit. For example the uplifting horns that were the base of Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ have been replaced with Adams’ moody reverb soaked vocals, a repetitive drum beat and the light playing of an electric guitar. While it’s an interesting take on the song, it really just ends up feeling like a Radio 1 Live Lounge cover than something you’ve paid to hear.
‘1989’ is out now via PaxAmericana Recording Company.