Starting in August of this year, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, who I basically only know because he was the former Mr. Mandy Moore, began posting a series of social media posts that might change the course of the universe. Just kidding. Maybe.
What he did post were videos of him covering songs from Taylor Swift’s newest album 1989, which Taylor apparently fully endorsed, as evidenced by the following Twitter exchange:
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 6, 2015
Adams’ reimagining of 1989 was released on September 21, 2015 exclusively on the Internet. It’s received interesting reviews, and I listened to it a few times over the last week from front to back before realizing that it’s not quite a cover of the album as much as it is a reimagining of Taylor’s original record.
Adams’ original Instagram posts about the project stated that he would cover 1989 in the style of The Smiths, and I think he was right on. The soft synth tracks are a vague tribute to Morrissey and Taylor Swift.
The most obvious difference, though, is the very different places that both artists were when recording their versions. Adams has openly stated that he was “going through a hard time”–i.e. going through a divorce–when he began the process of recording 1989. The feel of the album is distinctly about adults hashing out their own, very adult problems. Taylor’s album feels more youthful, as it should.
Instead of an album of anthems, Adams creates a beautiful but melancholy experience that almost condemns singing along. You feel his pain because he puts it out there, and you almost forget that Taylor Swift wrote (or co-wrote most of the songs). Adams only took the songs that he related to and made the rest of us relate to them, too.
My favorite song in the reimagining is “All You Had To Do Was Stay”, a totally wonderful cover that is honestly an improvement on the original. I never quite loved the high-pitched vocals on the “stay”. Ryan Adams paces it and makes it more consistent, making for a truly spectacular experience.
You can now stream Ryan Adams version of 1989 on Spotify, which was an interesting choice for him considering Taylor’s well popularized aversion to the company.