By Erich J. Kaletka ’18
On Sept. 25, Ryan Adams–Indie-Folk singer hailing from North Carolina–dropped the most anticipated cover of the year. Hundreds of tweets, Facebook statuses and Buzzfeed articles preceded the release of the cover of Taylor Swift’s record-breaking album, 1989, in its entirety. The new album traded the synthesized tones, electric guitar rifts, and earth-shattering bass favored by Swift for a more subtle simplicity characterized by acoustic guitar, piano and the occasional snare drum.
This change in style resulted in a radical change in the interpretation of the album. Adams, who changed pronouns and lyrics–not only losing the important cultural references but also the meaning of the songs along the way–removed the late-teenage angst and hopeful neuroticism that has come to characterize Swift as an artist and has ultimately led to her popularity. These universalizing qualities were traded in for chilled-out nostalgia and longing of a 40 year old man. This can be seen in one of Adams’ finer moments on the album during “Blank Space” where he does not change the original pronoun in the line “Oh my God, who is she?” This in effect changes the line from a phrase of imperative rage to one of humbled and fearful awe.
Most of Adams covers are interesting, if not generic. Multiple listens reveal the timelessness of the songs themselves, as opposed to revealing anything about the artist. As opposed to the album being revitalized or re-envisioned, this cover feels more like a college student grasping at straws when making a comment about a required reading they did not complete. This treatment works for songs that feel blander on the Swift album (particularly “How You Get The Girl,” “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” and “I Wish You Would,”). Overall, I genuinely like this album based upon its own merit. When compared to the original, however, it feels more like something that’s trying too hard to showcase a style too generic for the songs. The pop aspect, and the wide range of emotions Swift brings to 1989 is what makes the album a hit in the first place, and without that, all that remains is a collection of songs that sound like a male counterpart to Lana Del Rey, with less drugs and explicit sexual references, of course.