Taylor Swift fans were up late last night. The songstress’s horde of loyal listeners stayed up until at least past midnight, eagerly awaiting — and presumably then listening through — songwriter Ryan Adams’ full cover version of her 2014 release 1989, which came out today to the utter delight of their composer.
“Ryan helped shape my songwriting. This is surreal and dreamlike,” Swift said to her almost 64 million followers on Twitter this past Thursday, before adding a countdown to the album’s release.
Adams, a 40 year old musician who got his first break as a member of the seminal alt-country group Whiskeytown in the mid-1990s, has spent the past two decades recording dozens of solo albums to critical acclaim. While Adams primarily aims his unique lense at the alt-country genre, he has dabbled in everything from pop to metal.
He also has a history of covering famous records in full. His rumored cover version of The Strokes Is This It is a unicorn release that has never seen the light of day, despite the band’s drummer, Fabrizio Moretti, reportedly begging for him to share it.
This time around, Adams’ set of covers is seeing the light of day — and a whole lot of it. As of this post, his version of 1989 is charting at number two on iTunes. While the album is also streaming on Apple Music, it is (unsurprisingly, due to Swift’s feud with the service) not available on Spotify at present.
A wholeheartedly more gritty rendition of the country-turned-pop singer’s latest platinum record, fans of Adams will hear covers that are at times Heartbreaker-era somber, at times Cardinology-era heavy. He takes a more rock-and-roll approach to Swift’s pop music, even adding back some of the country elements she left along her road to international pop stardom.
For a do-what-I-want songwriter like Adams, it isn’t surprising that he would put his own pared-down spin on a pop record as a publicity stunt and get away with it. But maybe he had more to prove than that. The album is remarkably tasteful and well-concieved. Were it not an album of covers, it could easily be mistaken for another of his cult classics.
And that’s the most important element of Adams’ 1989 — the message it sends. If Adams’ renditions of these pop songs say anything overwhelming about music, it’s this:
When you take all of the glitter off, it turns out Taylor Swift is one heck of a songwriter.