One of the most interesting and unusual albums of 2015 is Ryan Adams' cover of Taylor Swift's entire 1989. Stream it above on YouTube. You can also check out Ryan Adams' version of 1989 on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.
Musically, Taylor Swift's 1989 is the most electronic and dance-oriented album she has made to date, departing entirely from her roots as a country singer-songwriter -- which is exactly why Ryan Adams' reinterpretation of 1989 is so interesting.
Adams has carved out a niche as one of the most well-respected alt-country and folk rock artists on the planet, and developed a style all his own over the years. As you can tell by his choice to cover Taylor Swift, Adams also has diverse tastes and a desire to push the envelope. It's also interesting to note that earlier this year Adams and wife Mandy Moore announced they were breaking up after almost six years of marriage. Turning toward the music of Taylor Swift, the queen of the breakup anthem, made perfect sense for Adams, and the results are breathtaking.
Adams' 1989 transforms the sound of Taylor Swift's songs to make them sound like his own. Replacing synthesizers and drum samples with organic instruments like guitar, piano, and live drums, this is an album that bears little resemblance to the original. The story remains the same, but the sound is a lot different.
Adams and Todd Wisenbaker (who collaborated with Adams on this album, and is also guitarist of the band La Sera) gave the story behind his decision to cover Taylor Swift's 1989 and the recording process with Zane Lowe on Apple Beats 1 Radio. Adams says Swift's songwriting ranks up with the most emotional songs by his favorite artists like Hüsker Dü and The Smiths.
Spoiler alert: Taylor Swift calls in at around 7:45 during the Apple Music interview. Her favorite songs from Adams' version are "Blank Space" and "How You Get The Girl."
Overall, this is an album that might be considered a little uneven. The great moments are really great, and there's storytelling that's dripping with emotion. The biggest drawback might come from the lyricism. Taylor Swift's songs are so clearly written from the perspective of a young female, and some lines sound clunky coming from Ryan Adams, who is now 40 years old. The lush guitar sounds and dynamic performances more than make up for those shortcomings, which is why this album is an overall success.
1989 became a cultural touchstone shortly after it was released in 2014. It became the best selling album of 2014, and one of the biggest stories in music business because of Taylor Swift's strong stance to not just keep the album off Spotify but remove her entire catalog from the streaming music platform. Adams' version of the album adds another layer of significance to 1989, as the songs continue to evolve.