Given my immeasurable respect for Taylor Swift as an artist, what I’m about to say may sound borderline blasphemous. But please, give me a chance to explain myself. I think I like Ryan Adam’s full album cover of 1989 better than the original.
What I can’t quite figure out yet is whether that’s because it actually sounds better or whether it’s just because it sounds different. Sometimes I believe that reviewers and fans alike get sucked into the charm that a cover offers. Covers are inherently seductive. Personally, it’s the tribute covers that always make a mess out of me. I tend to hear myself saying things like, “that was beautiful” when in reality I hated the song in the first place.
So I’m trying very hard to look past the natural allure of the covers here and really listen to what Adams has done with the songs. There are noticeable arrangement modifications, none of which don’t work as far as I can tell. Adam’s appears to be channelling Neil Young with his vocals, which provides a stark contrast to Swift’s super cute squeak. The music itself is dramatically more sparse. Fewer instruments, but a richer sound scape somehow.
When 1989 was first released by Swift she said that it was the first time that she was able to really do what she wanted with an album. Somehow I always found that a little hard to believe. Yet, I think that listening to Adam’s interpretations of her songs has showed me what she meant. One way or another, what Adam’s has done with these songs proves two things: 1) that he is a phenomenally talented musician and; 2) that Taylor Swift is one of the great songwriters of our generation.