Ryan Adams has always made Record Collection PopTM but here, with his full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s album (of, obviously, the same name) he merely proves he’s open to folly. Oh, I’ve no doubt that he means it, or thinks he means it, he probably even really feels it man (or did at the time, some headache-pill-overload fever-dream was the secret ingredient here no doubt). But the end result – especially a few months down the track – is something every bit as cynical as the original album.
People rushed to tell you that Adams miraculously turned a spunky pop album into bruised Americana. They even actually used terms like bruised Americana. And though I’m more interested in hearing Ryan Adams sing these songs than Taylor Swift – it suits my age and stage, it makes them seem more like ‘songs’ I think it cheapens Adams’ act and ultimately it cheapens the original album too. Comes across as party-trick. Not least because this is essentially just his cover of Wonderwall over and again. That’s the trick. That’s the move. The method. The format.
And so that gets boring. Shows little depth – ironic when trying to lift a pop record up and out of itself to take it somewhere new.
That’s probably the big crime here – after several listens, Ryan Adams’ version of 1989 is not only contrived it just doesn’t feel exciting or fresh. If anything it belittles the original version too, as if to say that this is how the songs should be dressed – he then puts them in the equivalent of a bland school uniform.
What’s most worrying though is that this arrives right when Ryan was on something of a hot streak once again. And as we prepare for a reissue of his debut it’s now starting to feel lie the momentum is slipping.
The internet is a great enabler – and this sort of project could never have happened in the pre-internet world; would never be dreamed up, would find no support.
In the end he seems to be saying that A Taylor Swift song is just fine if it feels like I might have written it. A strange way to validate a pop star du jour. And odd way to follow up your own current hot streak too.
Ryan Adams’ 1989 is fine on the surface. Look any closer and you won’t find layers. You’ll only hear him stripping songs of nuance as he convinces himself he’s adding something.
You could say that all he is really adding is a layer of creepiness – some sexist, White Male Knows Best version of the songs too.