Taylor Swift is the most scrutinized, celebrated and studied figure in pop culture. Kanye West and Beyoncé may give her a run for her money, but I digress.
Swift is still riding a killer wave from the release of her mega blockbuster album "1989," released last October. Her first purely pop attempt, "1989" was the best-selling album of 2014 and has sold over 8.5 million copies to date. Swift also made an impact earlier this year when she decided to pull her music off of streaming sites like Apple Music and Spotify, which put her fans in a difficult place. If you want to listen to "1989" without individually paying for it or illegally downloading it, you're out of luck. But prolific alt-country superstar Ryan Adams provides a compromise: a track-by-track cover of the album.
The hardest part of covering a song, let alone an entire album, is honoring the integrity of the original work, but still adding enough of one’s own style. Adams doesn't need to add anything new to "1989;" Swift has done all the work. Where Adams excels is reintroducing Swift’s songs and making them click for someone not used to her style. Even though you’re probably tired of “Shake It Off” after listening to it a million times on the radio, Adams's version is a stripped-down personal ode of self-preservation, and middle-schoolers will slow dance to it for years to come. Adams has to bring all of himself in order to expand Swift’s prowess as a songwriter, but this pseudo-partnership has lasting benefits for both parties.
Adams' alt-country sound should not scare anyone who defiles country music on a regular basis. The opening track “Welcome to New York” resembles Bruce Springsteen more than Ryan Adams. It’s a collage of a song with countless influences just in the one track, and it gives a good taste of what's to come. “Blank Space” benefits from soft vocals and strutting acoustic work to help give Swift’s lovely tune added dimension. Adams amplifies “Style” to eleven, and it will be a staple for your next top-down cross-country trip.
Ryan Adams’ and Taylor Swift’s versions of "1989" are polar opposites in sound and structure, so it's vital to listen to both iterations to get the whole picture. It's personal preference as to which is superior – Adams’ version could have an upper-hand in quality due to him and Swift’s presence in the album, but it is truly up to the listener to decide. If you loved the original "1989," take a chance on this new one.