Last October, Taylor Swift released here wildly successful pop album 1989. I think all of us heard “Shake It Off” well before the album came out and we continue to hear it today, followed by “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood.” Swift’s songwriting talent is seriously praised in all circles, but it didn’t make me interested in the album. Suffice to say, I knew it was probably good, but not my listening focus.
Enter Ryan Adams.
Adams is also highly praised, but not an artist I have followed much. I have absolutely nothing against him: he was just a “one of these days” musician — one of these days I will investigate him more fully.
Today is that day.
Adams recently released an album that is a reworking of the entire Taylor Swift 1989 album. Yes — you heard right. In less than a year, he re-created each song in a new way. All the reviews were coming in with high fives. This was a success. Taylor loved it. Adams said he was humbled by it.
The idea of this struck me as massively creative. The process artist goes through constantly fascinates me. The fact that Adams — a worthy star in his own right — would take this approach was original and inspired. Yes, songs get reimagined all the time — but this was different.
I decided to check it out, and immediately I could tell the praise was definitely warranted. I already liked “Blank Space” quite a bit, but Ryan’s version brings it closer to the heartbreaking reality of the lyrics. The same can be said for “Shake It Off.” The song “Out of the Woods” gets the most critical praise for its atmospheric approach and deepening of the lyric. In fact, from the opening track, “Welcome to New York” until the very end, this album feels like Springsteen in another dimension. It has helped me understand the praise consistently heaped on Swift for her songwriting. I consider Springsteen an incredible wordsmith — and with Ryan Adams at the helm, Swift’s songs take on an entirely new magnification, the lyrics rising up to meet us. My favorite of all is “How You Get the Girl.” This is when taking the song from a female voice to a male voice intensifies the lyric. I’m so inspired, I intend on teaching myself how to play this on guitar this afternoon — as soon as I’m done praising it here. Which is now.
Check out Adams singing “Blank Space” below. Check out the album. For $7.99 on iTunes, you can’t go wrong.