Album Spotlight: Ryan Adams 1989

ryan adams 1989

Ryan Adams | 1989 | Pax Am Records | 2015

Last fall, Taylor Swift released 1989.  This fall, Ryan Adams released a track- by- track cover of 1989 on his Pax Am label.  No idea how he got the legal rights to do that.

Anyway, if you expected an album called 1989 to sound more like, well, 1989, take it from someone who lived there.  Taylor Swift’s 1989 isn’t a celebration of 1989, it’s a celebration of Taylor.  Ryan Adams’ 1989 has a lot more 80’s going on.  Think Bruce Springsteen, U2, Paul Westerberg, The Smiths, steely strings, distance guitar, and reverb.

Adams’ album gives us proof that Taylor could have taken her songs anywhere.  Taylor took the trendy route.  Her newest songs feel like a new dress from Forever 21- stylish, but you’ll need a new one in two years.  Adams focuses on songwriting and instruments.  Those things have a lot more staying power, and it makes the songs stronger.

Adams makes more than a few changes, mostly to rhythm and personal pronouns.  For example, his “Style” lyrics change “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye/ And I got that red lip classic thing that you like” to “You’ve got that long brown hair thing that I like/You’ve got that good girl faith and ass so tight”.  He definitely personalizes the songs, but all are recognizable as Swift creations.

Maybe it’s because I think Taylor is a raging narcissistic money monger, but I vastly prefer Ryan Adams’ 1989.  Adams makes some of Taylor’s stupidest songs (“All You Had To Do Was Stay”,”I Wish You Would”) his best.  “Shake It Off” takes on a quiet, driving tone reminiscent of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.  On the flip side, “Out Of The Woods” falls flat.  “Out Of The Woods” actually does have stupid lyrics, but Max Martin did a hell of a job mixing it for Taylor.

Adams says his divorce from songstress Mandy Moore inspired the project. and the album gets a little weepy at times.  But overall, Adam’s 1989 immortalizes these songs.  This album makes 1989 a formidable choice for Album of the Year.  Thank him later, Swift.

Best Tracks:  Welcome to New York, All You Had To Do Was Stay, Shake It Off


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