Ryan Adams, in all his alternative rock glory, covered the entirety of Taylor Swift’s pop album 1989 and everybody freaked out — including Taylor Swift, her army of fans, and me. Immediately following its release on September 21, I listened to the album and full on lost myself in the artistry of it.
Ryan Adams stripped down the songs and characterized them in a whole new way that not only showcases his incredible talent, but also draws extra attention to Swift’s lyrical genius. Swift insisted in an interview that, rather than cover songs, the tracks are “re-imaginings” of the originals with different emotions attached to them. It’s a bittersweet reflective album about love and regret — the instrumentals sweep you away and make you feel as though you are getting introduced to 1989 all over again.
Taylor Swift expressed her excitement through many posts on her social media and described the event as “surreal and dreamlike” to have an artist who has long influenced her songwriting to be covering her record.
The album is hard to place in one genre, as each song is so unique. If I had to, I would call it indie rock — but some of the songs have gothic and folk touches in them.
Onto my favorites. “All You Had to Do Was Stay” is a regretful heartbreaker with a baseline and a muted beat replaces the chaotic, greatly underrated, pop anthem. “I Know Places” represents old school gothic rock that chills you. “Style” is my number one pick for sure, because Adams made it into a rock song — just when you thought the song couldn’t get better, Adams swoops in and pays respects to Sonic Youth by changing the original lyric “James Dean daydream look in your eye” to “Daydream Nation look in your eye” and “red lip classic thing” to “pent up love thing.” I almost fainted, the true-to-form rock fangirl I am.
“Wildest Dreams” remains not too altered but a beautiful track on the cover album, and something I would love to see them sing together. And, finally, “Blank Space” is morphed into a chilling ballad, just Adams’ voice and the delicate fingerpicking of acoustic strings.
Even if you didn’t like the pop princess’ original hit record, Ryan Adams’ is a different sound and story that is worth a Spotify shuffle or an iTunes purchase. Try not to feel overwhelmed with feelings at some point — it’s almost impossible. When an exquisite set of renditions like this gets deposited to the public music world, it demands to be heard.