If I had heard Ryan Adams' version of 1989 before Taylor Swift's, I think I may have liked it...just maybe. I could be biased because Taylor Swift makes me cringe on her good days, but Adams didn't help lessen my disdain towards the country-turned pop commodity. 1989 is an album that was designed for the top 40 rotation and it doesn't have any purpose otherwise. Adams tried to give the commercial product more depth, but really, his version of 1989 was just a suffocating attempt at her music that will probably only feed her enormous ego even more. It's bad enough she incessantly brings stars to her stage only to create a media buzz for even more attention, but now we've got an artist recreating her entire album. Shouldn't 1989 exist once, and only once, if at all?
"Welcome to New York" and "Blank Space" echo Elliot Smith or Big Star, classic acts whose sound shouldn't be cross-bred with Taylor Swift. Despite the rushed, anxious feeling Adams' folky renditions transmitted, he did succeed with Swift's radio hit "Style" by accepting its pop nature rather than attempting to transform it into a sad pop-folk love child like he did with the opening two tracks. His version is actually kind of funky and fun with dramatic, tumbling drums and breathless vocals, and it was nice to see at least this song transfer over well. His rendition of "Out of the Woods" is actually quite beautiful also, and it's one of the few that sound like it could have been an Adams original.
"Shake it Off" was close, but no cigar. Really, if 1989 were soaked in gasoline, "Shake it Off" would be the cigar that set it aflame. Its beginning is seductive and it had me believing that something epic was on the way. Once the chorus transitioned into the second verse, that's when I knew this cover would also be anticlimactic. I'm sorry Ryan Adams, the players most likely won't play this one, but the haters are definitely going to hate.
I was hoping that Adams would transform "Bad Blood" into something I could stand, but that didn't happen either. Instead, it just made me uncomfortable, just as he did on "I Wish You Would." I've never heard Swift's "I Wish You Would," and after hearing Adams cover it, I especially don't care to.
In "Wildest Dreams" like most of the songs on this cover album, Adams's voice is so calming that it creates a disrupting paradox with the pop backbeat. He did one thing well though, writing guitar parts for these songs. The guitar is layered and adds dimensions to the songs that were not there otherwise. What would be computer generated pop tones on the radio, Adams recreated into something that only a talented musician would be able to hear. I almost believe if he didn't sing on these tracks, I'd really enjoy them. But not only should Swift's songs stay in the pop-world they were born and raised, Adams should stay in his lane also. A voice like his just doesn't mix well with music like Swift's, so unfortunately this album was just doomed from the start.