On Sept. 21, Ryan Adams released his reinterpretation of Taylor Swift’s newest album 1989. Ryan Adams is best known as an indie rock musician, but has also been successful as an alternative country artist, poet, painter, and producer, producing albums for artists such as Willie Nelson and Fall Out Boy.
Adams’ take on 1989 comes from a dark time in his life as he and Mandy Moore, his wife of six years, were going through a divorce.
This heartbreak adds a sense of vulnerability to Swift’s playful album. Adams’ emotion-filled track list takes listeners on a journey of the sadness and loneliness Adams felt.
Many of Swift’s more upbeat titles such as “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” are slowed down in this rendition and infused with Adams’s whispery vocals, creating a sense of daunting distress.
The powerful ballad “Out of the Woods” is stripped and lengthened to six minutes in Adams’ version of the song. Although the track has a darker tone to it than the original, the beautiful violin at the end of the song leaves the same hope of the future that Swift’s version does.
One of the most raw and real moments in the album occurs in “Bad Blood” as Adams sings the line “You say sorry just for show.” Whereas Swift’s take on the song sounds more about revenge and anger towards her subject, Adams instead focuses on the sadness of losing someone who was once so close to him.
Adams does, however, offer a few light-hearted moments throughout the album. “Welcome to New York” begins with the chirping of a flock of birds and keeps the same upbeat nature of the original song, just replaced with his signature rock sound.
“Wildest Dreams” also keeps its whimsical instrumentation, but loses its dream-like sound as Adams’s burden-heavy voice tells a new story.
Adams’ overall interpretation of 1989 is bittersweet. Many of the fun tracks on Swift’s album were reinvented as ballads, and many ballads were given an even deeper and new meaning.
Saying that, Adams is very serious in his rendition of the pop album, causing many of the tracks to lose their exciting, amusing sound. But Adams keeps the integrity of the album, rarely changing lyrics, and instead simply applies each track to his own life in this hard time.
However, the honesty in Adams’ voice can’t be replicated. He often sounds as if he’s about to break down in the middle of a song. It’s this realness that makes you feel like you are at a Ryan Adams concert and he is standing just feet away.
Yet Adams’s take on Swift’s record hasn’t been a hit for everyone. The album, which debuted as No. 7 on the US Billboard 200 chart, has been called “bad karaoke” and “hollow.” The album has received 3.5 out of 5 stars on iTunes, with many mixed reviews.
But fans of Ryan Adams and fans of alternative rock and folk music may find this album to be a breath of fresh air. Adams took a talented artist’s work and gave it new depth and sincerity.
Adams’ cover album is a stark contrast to the lively original. But his bold renditions offer an ironic and personal interpretation of the pop songs we all love.