Surprisingly Original Cover Album
In October, Taylor Swift released her juggernaut of a pop album 1989. Swift’s record sold over 5 million copies in the United States alone, and dominated both the charts and the radio in the following months. On this record, Swift left all notions of her roots in country music for an 100 percent bona-fide pop album. Fans and critics alike were sold, praising the sweet playing melodies and catchy hooks that stay in your head for hours or days.
If anyone was left wondering what 1989 would sound like as a stripped down acoustic record they recently got their wish. Rocker Ryan Adams was wondering the same thing, and released a song-for-song cover album. Luckily the result sounds pretty good.
Adams did more than just transcribe Swift’s album for an acoustic guitar. Instead he re-imagined each song, looking for a way that he could take Swift’s lyrics and present them in a different, but still authentic style. For Adams’ take of “Blank Space,” the vocals back off into a subtle dissonance framed by acoustic finger picking. For songs like “Bad Blood” and “Wildest Dreams” he turns the tracks into lighter-waving roots-rock reminiscent of something you could find on a Springsteen record.
The highlight of this record is “Bad Blood.” He starts the song with a fiery guitar lick that grabs the listener’s attention. He layers the chorus with a melancholy piano riff in the background that really amplified the bad-breakup lyrics of the song. It is probably a good thing that Adams didn’t try his hand at rapping Kendrick Lamar’s verse, but who knows, maybe he could have pulled it off.
Taylor Swift has earned her stripes by taking heartbreaking lyrics, dipping them in a sweet candy shell and making them into upbeat songs that listeners find themselves singing with a smile. This treatment gives her lyrics based in failed relationships a slight tinge of hopefulness. On Adams record, he explores a more jaded take on the lyrics, and plays them as straight sad songs.
Adam’s 1989 achieves just about as much originality as a cover album can. In the end this record is a pleasant thought experiment of what one of the biggest albums of the year would sound like as something completely different, and it is worth a listen.