Ryan Adams – 1989

Reviewed by James Lavender

One is a former country singer who has had considerable success breaking into mainstream music, the other is Taylor Swift. Cross the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s ground-breaking 1989 album with Ryan Adams’ indie/alternate country sounds and what have you got? A curiously good crossover album.

The most obvious point to start with would be comparing the two albums. Swift’s is a glossy, high-production pop spectacular whilst Adams has managed to strip the songs down to their basic musical components, with the results being a joyously simple acoustic version of ‘Blank Space’ and a solid drum, bass and guitar arrangement for ‘Shake It Off’. In some cases, Adams’ powerful guitar-based music can actually add to the emotional impact of the originals. Take ‘Style’ for instance. That song has a sleek digital beat powering the song, whilst the lyrics are a raw, emotional reflection on Swift’s former partner, One Direction’s Harry Styles. In contrast, Adams ramps up the emotional impact with his echoing vocals and choppy guitar, completing it with an epic drumming to finish the song on a high.

Much as Taylor Swift has borrowed from hip-hop and dance music, so has Ryan Adams taken influences from American rock music. From the opening song, ‘Welcome to New York’, Adams has managed to channel Bruce Springsteen as much as Taylor Swift and similarly, ‘Wildest Dreams’ jangling guitar is reminiscent of early R.E.M.

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The more you look into the backgrounds of both artists, the more you notice they have more in common than you originally think. They both started their musical journeys very young, both started in country music and both have used wide-ranging influences to create a unique sound in pop and rock music respectively. When viewing their music from this perspective, it does make sense that Swift’s knack for songwriting effectively compliments Adams’ own musical stylings. The result is a pleasant tribute to both these artists’ talents.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Track: Style

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