Taylor Swift cover album is an ’80s soundtrack homage


Ryan Adams’ ‘1989’ album review

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor


Ryan Adams released his cover version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album last month, showing the world a new side to the pop star’s music. Turning dance songs into ballads and angry tracks into cheerful tunes, he displays his musical talent in transforming Swift’s teenage girl lyrics into his own, mature style.

Adams’ album begins with “Welcome to New York,” in which he captures the fun sound of an ’80s film soundtrack when the lead character arrives in the Big City for the first time, taking in the sights and sounds all around him. The relaxed rhythm, full of electric guitar, drums, and tambourine—a stark contrast to Swift’s synthesized version—can get listeners clapping along and swaying with the easygoing beat.

Adams carries this Bruce Springsteen-influenced sound into several other tracks, including “Style” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay.” “Style” has a powerful concert echo to it that’s reminiscent of ’80s iconic pop tracks such as Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” Adams’ “All You Had to Do Was Stay” captures the emotions of a sad reflection on good times, much like Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.”

While many of Adams’ versions have improved on the originals, Swift still dominates a number of the 1989 songs with her sassy attitude and pop influence. Where Adams falters is during his slowed-down renditions of Swift’s pop tunes, which relied on their fast beats, along with their lyrics about relationship drama, to achieve their popularity. “Out of the Woods” and “Blank Space” are examples of Adams’ acoustic tracks that don’t quite capture the excitement of Swift’s originals.

The most popular track on the album—and arguably one of the best—is Adams’ cheerier sounding version of “Bad Blood,” which reflects on a damaged relationship as just a part of life, as opposed to Swift’s revenge-driven approach. The upbeat guitar nicely contrasts Swift’s bitter lyrics, creating a song that sounds like the anthem of frenemies who smile pleasantly at each other but secretly dislike each other.

For a cover album, particularly of the pop genre, Adams’ 1989 turned out pretty well. Swift even gave her blessing to the project, as well as a bit of input during Adams’ creative process.