Ryan Adams // “1989” (2015)

1989, it was the year when George H. W. Bush became the 41st President of the United States, when the Berlin Wall crumbled down, when the Game Boy was released in North America, when Voyager 2 came as close to Neptune as it has ever been before, when the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, when North and South Dakota both celebrate their 100th birthday, when The Little Mermaid premiered – and when Taylor Swift was born.

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25 years later, Taylor Swift released an album that would write history, titled “1989”, after the year she was born. It symbolized a rebirth, from country to pop. Many said Swift took a gamble, switching genres, hairdo and style, but it turned out to be the best move she could have made. “1989” was titled one of the best albums of 2014, producing unforgettable hits such as “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood”. The album made Taylor Swift an icon.

Merely one year after the release of “1989”, American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams released his “1989”. Adams did not cover just one song, he made the entire album his own. So much his own, that we can barely recognize Swift’s original songs in his covers. The melody, the feel, the mood and the instruments are all changed, except for the lyrics, which is the only clue that Adams’ “1989” is not entirely his.

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From catchy pop songs to acoustic ballads and Bruce Springsteen-like rock tracks; Adams’ handling of “1989” shows us once more that Swift’s songwriting is excellent and clever. Even in a completely different version, songs such as “Blank Space” and “Wildest Dreams” stick in your mind. If anything, Adams brought the emotion of the song to the foreground, whereas Swift focused more on the pure musical element with “1989”. With songs like “Out Of The Woods” and “This Love”, Adams delivers heavily emotional, touching and romantic ballads; songs that were poppy and full of synths on Swift’s original album.

The funny thing about Adams’ “1989” is that it sounds exactly like Swift’s “1989” would have sounded like, if only she had not changed her genre from country to pop. The use of the acoustic guitar, the diary-like lyrics, the romantic note and the long-swept melodies; all characteristics of Swift’s previous albums, such as “Red”, and Adams applied this exact formula to a pop album.

With covers, there is always the lingering question if the song is better than the original. In case of Swift vs. Adams, it would be like comparing cats and dogs: impossible. The difference between Swift’s and Adams’ “1989” is not in the quality of the albums, because they are both considerable, but in the genre. Swift created a pop album and Adams transformed it back into a collection of true singer-songwriter tracks. The question of all questions must remain unanswered, but that does not take away the fact that both albums are immensely enjoyable and definitely worth to listen to.

Love,

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