six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

By Jason Snell

Ryan Adams releases his ‘1989’

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Last night singer-songwriter Ryan Adams released his cover version of Taylor Swift’s “1989” on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music and elsewhere.

Covering an entire album is a pretty bold gesture, and doing it while the previous album is still in the public consciousness is even bolder.1 Swift’s original is very much modern pop infused with an ’80s pop sensibility, which—as an ’80s pop music fan—I love. Adams’ choices in reinterpreting the songs are fascinating—I hear Springsteen, Neil Young, even Chris Isaak at one point.

Cover versions can also show off just how well written a song is. Mediocre songs are often improved by clever production choices, but great songs shine when they’re reinterpreted. (This is a lesson I learned when I heard Christopher O’Riley’s classical-piano interpretation of Radiohead, which is amazing, as is the all-Reggae version of OK Computer by the Easy Star All-Stars.)

Some of “1989’s” weaker songs don’t hold up in Adams’ interpretation, but others truly shine. And it’s a lot of fun to hear a talented artist like Adams find approaches to Swift’s songs that fit his own sensibility.


  1. I wish a punk or new-wave band had released a cover album of “Thriller” in 1983. ↩

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