First Impressions: Ryan Adams ‘1989’


It’s one thing to cover her songs on Youtube, it’s another to get the O.K. from Taylor herself. My first impressions of Ryan Adams ‘1989.’ 

Unless you just signed a six-month extension on your lease under that rock, you know that Ryan Adams (guy you might have never heard of) just released an entire cover album of Taylor Swift’s (gal you’ve definitely heard of) 1989 and you can stream it now. Here are my first impressions.

Let’s start this off by saying Taylor Swift can write a damn song. She knows how to market, she knows what she’s doing. 1989 is a pop achievement that will grace the Best of 2015 lists. Now it’s got company: Ryan Adams brought a whole new 1989 to the table and I’ll have seconds, thirds and fourths. Adams didn’t skimp on the details. Covers are often devoid of any personal character and are more an imitation than a tribute. Adams wouldn’t do this if he didn’t appreciate the songs he’s spending hours of studio and personal time with it. It shows, and it shows big.

“Wildest Dreams” makes me forget there was that whole Taylor-is-appropriating-colonialism schpele that got everyone’s social media panties in a bunch. There’s a highway-riding, Americana pastoral beauty in Adam’s take, still pop-driven but very top-down Mustang. Kind of something Taylor would’ve had done with “Wildest Dreams” in her country days.

“Blank Space” = gorgeously timid, languid finger picking guitar. Adams takes this chart topping hit down a notch.

“Style” may be the most cross-genre cover in the whole album and the most modified from the original piece. I get elements of New Order, War on Drugs, and longing desperation of ’80s pop noir.

“Out of the Woods” is down-tempo and highlighting Adams’ beautiful singing. There’s a sadness and maturity in his voice that brings “Out of the Woods” into a different realm of the song’s escapism and defeat.

I’m buying my tickets for the Taylor Swift x Ryan Adams tour right. Now.

I’ll take this cover of “Bad Blood” over Taylor’s any day. It’s my least favorite from 1989 but Adams gives it new life. It sounds less like a tiff with your ex-BFF and more intimate, like an uncomfortable conversation with a significant other on an issue that can’t be resolved. Note: no Kendrick Lamar on this cover.

  Last thoughts: Alright, I have to go to work, where you hos and bros can read my prose. For that last segment of the listening populous that dismisses or just can’t quite get into Taylor Swift, Ryan Adams is that extra nudge to get them on her good side. Sorry, disgruntled cynic – Adams’ 1989 sounds like the summer of ’69 that will drive you through the heartland with the sun setting before you and the landscape of love found and lost.

Here’s the rest of the videos available now on Youtube.


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