Ryan Adams transforms “1989” into an alt-country sensation

Ryan Adams transforms “1989” into an alt-country sensation

Julia Greenspan, Staff Writer

It has been a almost a year since Taylor Swift released “1989” and graced the world with multiple chart-topping singles, a star-studded tour and an array of dazzling music videos.

But this multi-platinum album just gained a little more popularity thanks to Ryan Adams.

Since the release of his “1989” cover album last week, he has scored seven spots on the Billboard Hot Rock Song Chart, a sixth spot on the Billboard 200 (one rung higher than Swift) and a new appreciation in the music world.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Who is this Ryan Adams character, anyway?”

I like to call him the anti-Swift: his limelight is tainted by malicious celebrity feuds, divorce, heroin and just about every other aspect that Taylor’s PR team would wipe clean in a nanosecond.

Over the past two decades, Adams has transformed from punk rocker to alt-country star and his career as a solo artist has not gained him much popularity up until now.

With a raspy-voiced charm, an air of nonchalance and a hair-do fit for the quintessential indie artist, Adams has given Taylor Swift’s project a new sound and even some new meaning.

Let’s start on a positive note with his rendition of “Wildest Dreams,” which is also Swift’s newest hit. While she takes on this song with a breathy and mysterious sound, Adams adds a pinch of emotion and nostalgia to it. It may not be the most popular of the array, but it definitely shows the true talent he possesses.

 He takes on “Shake It Off,” “I Know Places” and “Clean” in similar way, slowing down the original pop tempo and adding his own alternative flair through strings and solos.

Another less popular Swift song he shines through is “Out of the Woods.” I have always felt uneasy about the original version because of its over repetition, excessive use of synth and lack of lyric creativity. Adam’s version, on the other hand, is the cornerstone of his emotional sound. He was able to disregard Swift’s factors and turn the song into a beautiful waltz. It gives the impression of being guided in circles by the soft strum of his guitar and soothing vocals.  

Adams, known for his passionate song “New York, New York,” takes another stab at singing about the Big Apple with Swift’s “Welcome To New York.” While she opens up her version with high energy, Adams uses the sound of seagulls, waves and calm strumming to contrast his paradise-like New York with Taylor’s overwhelming idea of the cityscape.

However, some of Adam’s takes are a little too Springsteeny and sound-dominated. On “Style,” his vocals fall short and almost sound forced above the multiple guitars playing. Another issue is the change in lyrics from Taylor’s “I got that red lip classic thing that you like” to the very mundane, “You’ve got that long brown hair thing that I like.”

His cover of “All You Had To Do Was Stay” is similarly lackluster. Adam’s use of a dominating heavy beat and strained voice make for a song full of unbalanced qualities.

Cover albums don’t always have a place on the charts, especially when they’re up against their original quintuple-platinum album that has been on the charts for 48 weeks. But when covers sound like Adams’, they’re more than chart-toppers, they’re masterpieces hallmarked by unique styles and sounds.