By David Cutting
The thrall of seagulls lures the first haunting notes from Ryan Adams 1989 song-for-song cover album. Adams has genre flipped an album that was the number one selling record of 2014 for Taylor Swift, plunging seamlessly from country to pop. If you’ve never heard the Swift original than this concept might be lost on you, but each song is reintroduced with a fresh new timber.
A respectful approach is taken in preserving Swift’s gentle but potent lyrics. Adams paints a sweeping emotional landscape that screams to emotional hearts. Track by track, this album delivers victories for Adams’ redux. His voice is suitably affected, sounding as if his heart is breaking as he croons “…this love is good, this love is bad, this love is alive, back from the dead.”
The opening track reveals the personality of New York, a city where one can recreate and reinvent oneself. It soars with misty vocals and doesn’t hold back. “Blank Space” is subdued and romantic, all gentle finger picking while his soft croon cascades overtop. “Style” has a shuffling, dance hall vibe that recalls the working-man (or woman) blues. Mega-hit “Shake it Off” is given a total overhaul as the clacking of a simple drum anchors his sad, reverberating vocals. He gives “Bad Blood” a full Springsteen style guitar entrance, yet falls short as he doesn’t deliver the ferocity that the subject matter deserves. He does however sell us his heart as he builds “How You Get the Girl” into a bellowing love song as he gently whispers “…you say you want me” with his very last breath.
The most genuine element of this album is the care that is taken to make this an entirely different record, as opposed to a better one or a carbon copy. The deconstructed millennial swill that is at times Swift’s redeeming trait can be heard on the original if you choose; something else can be heard entirely. Adam’s 1989 is for people who understand music can be expressed in a multitude of ways.1989, Ryan Adams