Ryan Adams delivers a soulful alternative take on Taylor Swift’s 1989 that not even the haters could hate.
In the era of auto-tune and diminishing lyrical integrity in the pop music industry, it is difficult to come across an album that captivates and intrigues its audience. Two albums this year have managed to excel lyrically and musically, and they both happen to share the exact same track list!
Since rock hero, Ryan Adams announced his plans to cover Taylor Swift’s album on Instagram in August, fans and Swift herself have eagerly awaited its debut, and it has managed to exceed our “Wildest Dreams”.
Where Swift goes pop, Adams goes punk, and the result is somewhere in the middle of country rock perfection, echoing both artist’s North Carolina musical roots. The1989’s original synthy-electro style is substituted with acoustic guitars and heavy bass drums to produce a post-punk, country rock sound reminiscent of The Smiths and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’. Adams’ signature folky, alt-rock style and Swift’s insightful and eloquent lyrics form an unlikely, yet perfect pair.
Arguably two of the more lyrically basic songs on Swift’s album Bad Blood and How You Get the Girl receive an indie revival to die for. Adams’ vocals intensify the once girly fight song Bad Blood, to create a melancholy drum heavy track evoking feelings of betrayal. Swift’s upbeat, punchy style expresses revenge and triumph, whereas Adams’ soft moody style conveys hurt and loss.
The former Whiskeytown front man’s unique storytelling ability and haunting vocals transcend How You Get the Girl into a heartbreaking tale of lost love. The slow acoustic melody and echoing vocal delicately extract and evoke the ghosts behind the lyrics leaving Swift’s fun, upbeat, pop song in the dust.
Swift’s songs, notorious for exhibiting themes of heartbreak, are stripped back to their core as Adams reaches into each phrase pulling out the pain and darkness in the lyrics. The quiet acoustic renditions allow fans to experience Swift’s lyrical mastery in an entirely new light.
Even pop smash hits Shake it Off and Blank Space get a country-rock style shake-up with Adams ditching the original satirical and comic themes for those of solidarity. Adams delivers both songs in a more introspective manner seeming to come from a place of self-loathing where Swift, a place of self-mocking. As Swift giggles and brushes off the phrase “I go on too many dates, but I can’t make them stay”, she oozes youth and confidence; Adams spits the same phrase through gritted teeth and mummers “I shake it off” echoing defeat and bitterness.
The album in its entirety pushes Swift’s heartbreak anthems to the edge and then over it, taking already near-to-perfect pop love songs and transforming them into songs of despair. Adams’ 1989 echoes the true country roots from which both artists stem from, with the only album to rival it being Swift’s herself. – Kaitlyn Wilson
Top photo of Ryan Adams’ 1989 album cover, from Ryan Adams’ Instagram.