Review: 1989 by Ryan Adams

1989 by Ryan AdamsThere are several ways to approach Ryan Adams’ track-by-track cover of Taylor Swift’s massive pop smash 1989. If you’re particularly annoyed at how Taylor is hogging everything – from media attention to basic feminism tenets – lately, you can call this record a semi-ironic victory for “real” music, showing that real instruments and musical craftsmanship can always improve on any crappy pop record. If you’re a big TayTay fan, you can call this record proof of your queen’s musical supremacy, of how her record cuts through today’s fragmented audiences and becomes a genuinely universal experience, the world united by Taylor Swift’s music. Well. The most striking thing about 1989 is how it’s very sincere: there are no piss-takes here. And somehow, Ryan manages to flip around a record inspired by 80s pop and make it a more vintage proposition, one reminiscent of the angsty pop-rock ballads of the decade – a flip-over from the original. (It’s easy to mention Bryan Adams at this point, so, well, Bryan Adams.) Sometimes it’s brilliant (“All You Had To Do Was Stay” has this swagger that the original didn’t have) and sometimes it’s dreary (I still prefer the original “This Love”) but this is not something punched up entirely for kicks. It’s a respectful tribute – that term isn’t exactly accurate, however – that finds new things in the old. [NB]4/5

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