I won’t profess to be a Taylor Swift fan (although I do admit to once purchasing her ‘Speak Now‘ album on vinyl for HRH) nor do I really know anything about alt-folk icon Ryan Adams aside from just about every girl on the planet seems to find him “dreamy”, so it comes to a pretty big surprise to me this morning that I’m listening to Ryan Adams cover of Swift’s ‘1989‘ album.
Swift’s album (released in 2014) represented a sonic departure from the country music of her previous albums, and is described by Swift herself as her “first documented official pop album”. One year later (this past September as a matter of fact), passionately chronicled through Twitter and Instagram every step of the way, Adams decided to re-do the whole thing and, once again, all my hippie female friends (and some males ones too) have their phasers set to “all my dreams have come true”. I guess I’m just going to have to see for myself on this mornings long 11k haul.
Every recorded song here is the end point of a long road with many possible forks in it—a series of small decisions about chord changes, melody lines, lyrics, and arrangements. Swift’s ‘1989′ songs are written for a specific kind of production – the melodies are clipped, percussive, and designed to hit with force at very specific times. They are written to be electro-pop songs, which rely more on big dynamic changes and repeating cells of melody. Adams, however, has instead transformed those ‘poptastic’ attitudes into a wistful and generic feeling of weariness; suitable for a beautiful autumn run.
Songs that sound like anthems (like ‘Out of the Woods’) were meant to be anthems and Adams allows them to remain in that light. ‘Style‘ is kind of garish though, coming off like Bono fronting for Survivor. ‘Blank Space‘, by comparison is turned into a Big Star-like heartfelt ballad and the big radio favorite, ‘Shake It Off‘ is delivered in a grim and determined tone that would be appropriate if he were singing about how conservative politics have decimated rural families at the inaugural Farm Aid, not mean girls in the hallway at school.
Reviews of the album are from one of two camps: it’s the campy product of a successful social media advertising campaign, or it’s 100% prolific. What do I think? I dunno. I’m kind of on the fence. While it’s not likely to change my opinion of either Taylor Swift or Ryan Adams, I will admit to singing along under belated breathe to ‘Style‘ heading out Michener Rd. and enjoying the slow, tick-tock slow-building fire rhythm of ‘Shake It Off‘ as I turned onto Point Abino heading toward the lake. Other tracks didn’t resonate so well but then again, every album has to have it’s weak point. What it certainly was was the perfect campaign for an otherwise gorgeous day of autumn running as the colors are in full bloom here in Ridgeway. The run back into Crystal Beach along Erie Rd. to ‘Wildest Dreams‘ was pretty sweet and, dare I say it, even enjoyable. So while I might not be a total Swift-Adams convert it is certainly an album I’d be happy to have in my record collection at some point.