Published Sep 22, 2015A present to poptimists everywhere, Ryan Adams' full album cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 hears the oft-acclaimed alt-country rock'n'roller reimagining the most recent pristinely polished effort from America's reigning pop princess. Adams strips the tracks back to their bare bones, putting Swift's songwriting to the test — and it holds up extremely well.
At its best, Adams' version of 1989 is an adoring homage to Swift's overlooked talent as a storyteller, though there are also a few key moments that fall flat without the high-gloss bombast that the originals were treated to. "Welcome to New York" and "Shake It Off" — anthemic, millennial-friendly earworms from Swift — are rendered ridiculous when sung by a weathered rock star, while "Blank Space" and "Out of the Woods" also fare better as Swift's unabashedly radio-ready renditions. That said, "Bad Blood" aces its transformation from cheesy chart-topping pot-shot at Katy Perry to a jangly example of what marketable folk-pop should be, and when the songs touch on more universal, sentimental themes of love and loss ("I Wish You Would," "This Love," "Clean") Adams hits his mark.
"Style" also proves surprisingly successful, with its ringing guitars and Adams' gruffed-up vocals, while "Wildest Dreams" is an equally impressive feat in its new alt-country dressings — an endearing what-could-have-been moment for fans of Swift's humble country roots.
At its core, the original 1989 was a defiant declaration of a young woman finding her place in the world. Given Swift's pop cultural persona and stereotypical teenybopper following, it's unfortunate that so many will dismiss Adams' cover album as a cutesy joke project. As Adams' proves with his translation, 1989 is so much more than that. It's filled with heart and heartbreak — and yeah, sometimes fun for fun's sake, too. (Pax-am)