“Who, what, why?” – the three questions which have crossed the minds of fans of Taylor Swift and Ryan Adams this week, upon the release of Adams’ front-to-back cover of 1989.
“Who?” – Well, Taylor Swift is a household name, but Ryan Adams may not be so familiar; he’s an American musician, poet, painter and producer. Remarkably, both artists share similarities. They are accomplished within their own circles, and their romantic endeavours are well documented on the internet. The key difference between the two artists, however, is you can listen to Ryan Adams’ 1989 on Spotify – something you definitely can’t do with Swift’s original.
“What/Why?” – Adams has released a complete cover of Swift’s fifth album, 1989. Is he cashing in on Swift’s success? Is he trying to mock Swift’s achievements? Or is he genuinely a big fan of 1989? Perhaps it’s a combination of the three? Regardless of your opinion of Swift’s music, her songs are always there when you’re feeling – as Adams’ put it in his interview with Rolling Stone – a “little lost”.
1989 is Swift’s fifth musical offering, and it was the best-selling album of 2014 in the United States. The record has spawned 5 major singles, three of which became number ones (‘Shake It Off’, ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Style’). With its popularity and memorability factor, it’s surprising that Ryan Adams is the first artist to tackle a full-length cover version.
His stripped back, acoustic treatment of ‘Blank Space’ is effortlessly romantic, and the strongest cover on the album. Unfortunately, he omits the lyrics “Boys only want love if it’s torture, don’t say I didn’t warn ya” – something hardcore Swift fans may be disappointed with. He applies similar acoustic treatment to ‘Out Of The Woods’, and it works remarkably well.
‘Style’ is given the slick, heavier, rock sound it deserves, but Adams’ vocals struggle occasionally; Swift’s voice is superior on the original track. Again, he omits original lyrics; this time it’s the declaration “Take me home!” He’s also switched the gender references around – which will infuriate some listeners – but it makes sense within the song’s context, and isn’t detrimental to the track’s overall effect.
‘Shake It Off’ is toned down perhaps too severely for fans of the original, and the same goes for ‘Bad Blood’; but Adams’ inventive, gentler acoustic approach adds a new dimension to both songs. His efforts certainly do not fall short on his cover of Swift’s most recent single, ‘Wildest Dreams’. He successfully delivers the sweeping romance of the original in the rich, ringing sound of guitars.
Ultimately, Swift could easily release a knockout acoustic version of 1989, which would make for an interesting comparison to Adams’ release. The vast difference in sound may divide (or conquer) fans, but Ryan Adams’ 1989 is a genuine compliment to Swift’s pre-existing pop perfection, and fans of both artists should pay attention.
Now, all we need are Adams’ takes on Swift’s videos for ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Blank Space’…
1989 is out now via PaxAmericana Recording Company.