We’re big Ryan Adams fans. Huge. He was incredible during his two night stint at Carnegie Hall last fall. You can pick up that live album (both nights) but it’s his front-to-back cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 that we’re completely wearing out this month.
In what has become this year’s most anticipated release yet, Adams’ full-length cover project didn’t begin that way. It began more like therapy. Unlike Swift’s Millennial trivialities, Adams belts (and in many places whispers) Swift’s tunes out with the conviction and sincerity of a Gen Xer going through a heart-breaking divorce. He needed these songs more than they needed him perhaps. Stripped of the glitter and exuberance, Adams goes as far as to change some of the lyrics in pivotal places to give his signature melancholy room to breath.
Our favorite song to come out of the bunch is the rocker ballad “All You Had to Do Was Stay”—which surprisingly surpasses the original. Adams originally laid down four songs from 1989 on an old four-track cassette recorder, in the acoustic style of Bruce Springsteen’s harrowing Nebraska. That four-track exploded shortly thereafter and those originals were lost. Eventually, he came back to the pop album. The polished versions that eventually made the cut embody a confessional, lonely, yet urgent feeling. There’s a simple keyboard riff on “Shake It Off” that is haunting and so perfect. Adams’ 1989 comes off more earnest and, in its way, sincere and sentimental than the original. He’s essentially gifted Generation X a 1989 we can shamelessly sing along to.