“1989” Ryan Adams (Music Review)

“1989” Ryan Adams (Music Review)

Now this is an interesting concept.

Ryan Adams, notorious mood rocker, has released a complete album that is a cover of the entirety of Taylor Swift’s massive hit record, 1989.

Not exactly what I would have expected.

What has been produced here, is an absolutely brilliant album.

Despite my musical taste being more towards classic rock and metal, I acknowledge, and unabashedly, adore Taylor Swift’s 1989. Say what you will about the current state of music, but there is no denying her ability to write catchy hit after hit, and create songs that have more depth than the infectious hooks may have us originally think.


And Ryan Adams’ reconceptualization of the entire album enables us to see it, and hear it, in a whole new light.

I thought that perhaps this was one singer/songwriter making fun of another, but it never comes across that way. Adams treats Swift’s work with respect, and does a marvelous job of stripping down the music, and getting to the true heart of the songs. And he does a very impressive job of it.

The covers on this version of 1989 range from soft and moody, to upbeat and electric, and they are all very good. It would seem difficult to transform “Shake it Off” into anything other than what it is: a catchy pop song with a ton of repetition that you can’t help sing along to, but he manages to do it, transforming it into something dark, capturing the essence of the lyrics that Swift has created.


The true strengths of the album lie in the hits. They are the best songs on Swift’s version, and the updates are the best songs on Adams’ version: “Bad Blood”, “I Wish You Would”, “Style”, “Welcome to New York”, “Blank Space”. They have already become significant pop hits, and Adams takes them to another place, making them wholly new songs that are very listenable, and very good.

With the stripped down versions, it is easier to see the very strong songwriting abilities that Taylor Swift has. And it is easy to see that there is depth to her lyrics, despite what we may initially think about her, that she just breaks up with boyfriends in order to write cheesy breakup songs about them. There is so much more there, and for those who haven’t seen it, Adams brings it to the forefront on his cover album. There is actual pain there, longing, below the lipstick and beats that T-Swizz produces.


Adams takes care with each of the songs, and breathes a different life into each and every one of them. He was created a very listenable album, for someone who is a Taylor Swift fan or not. Each of the songs is unique enough that you don’t have to have ever heard the original version to like the Ryan Adams version. What he has created with 1989 is a very good album of songs. To be honest, this is the first Ryan Adams album I have ever purchased, so I can’t pretend to know what his normal sound is all about in detail. I don’t know if 1989 is different for him, or much of the same. All I know is that it is good.

It just so happens that the songs aren’t his, that they belong to the biggest pop star out there at the moment.


It could be argued that Taylor Swift’s 1989 was one of the best albums of 2014-15 (I would argue this). With over 8 million albums sold, it is tough to say that others disagree. While she produced a fun batch of songs that will get you tapping your fingers, Ryan Adams has produced something deep, gloomy, and very listenable with his version of 1989.

Even though this album may primarily appeal to either Adams or Swift fans, it very much has crossover appeal, and should enjoy greater success that it probably will. This version of 1989 is one of the best albums I have listened to in a long time.

Well worth checking out.