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Taylor Swift and Ryan Adams

Taryn Ziegler

Ryan Adams plays Shaky Knees Festival, Atlanta, GA on May 10, 2015.

Dividing and Conquering the Musical Landscape through 1989 Cover

Frankly, it seems a little strange to me that an artist as widely known and revered as singer-song writer musician Ryan Adams would ever determine to take on an artist as widely known and revered as singer-song writer musician Taylor Swift. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of either. However, after giving each version of the 1989 album a whirl, the genius behind both Swift’s and Adams’ work becomes clear. There is a great deal of critique swirling around online discussions of both currently, but regardless: both Adams and Swift have performed a brilliant move of incidental or intentional teamwork in bolstering both of their own names with the same album performed twice.

Swift’s original 1989 is drenched in pop culture, bright beats, and Swift’s signature devastating emotional landscapes with a more mature twist of the expected anti-boyfriend country twang. The album has been widely acknowledged as an excellent piece of artistic and musical work, launching Swift into a different direction musically and feeding her successful following of fans. Adams’ take features his own rasping and melodramatic style, simplifying some of the more complicated musical backdrops and bringing Swift’s already-acclaimed work into a new genre dominated by voices like his own. But the question still remains regarding the appropriation of 1989– why him, and why her?


We’ll try to keep our noses out of fanatical speculation about Adams’ decision-making with 1989 regarding his announced divorce from Mandy Moore after six years of marriage earlier this year in January (although this tasty tidbit could potentially inform much about why one man would take on one woman’s well-known style of singing about heartbreaking relationships). Adams is best known for his acclaimed solo career and as a former member of Whiskeytown, an alternative country band with which he recorded three studio albums. Adams is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, painter, and producer, receiving these titles by having not only produced but having been a part of a plethora of released albums as well as publishing his own written work.

Recently his work has included the self-titled album Ryan Adams in 2014 and his project the PAX AM Single Series, in which he releases new singles every month. August of this year saw his announcement of his plans to rework Swift’s album 1989, and the promised cover was released on the 21st of this month. As a relatively insignificant side-note, Adams suffers from Ménière’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear which can affect hearing and balance with side-effects including vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss.


Taylor Swift is a fellow American singer-songwriter who has been operating a single vocalist career since she was 14. The release of her self-titled debut album in 2006 rocketed her to country music star status, and since then she has fearlessly (pun intended) been producing work that has adults and tweenagers entranced alike. She, too, began her career as a country starlet, but has slowly seen pop washing like an irresistible tide over her twang, until, as with her 1989 album, it is difficult to believe she ever began her work as a country star.

So what gives? The only seeming correlation between the two is a tendency towards melodrama and deep emotional funks, often due to relationship crises, as well as their previous country-style leanings. Whether you love Swift’s version of 1989 or Adams’ cover, or neither, the fact remains that the album has been given a resurrection as far as fame and popularity goes. Hundreds, if not thousands, of fans are rushing to YouTube and Spotify right now to get a taste of Adams’ scratchier and darker version of Swift’s original pop melodies, and then rushing back to re-visit Swift’s first take. It’s a brilliant marketing gesture for both, and Swift’s positive re-postings of fan Tweets for Ryan Adams’ work only solidifies their mutual pleasure with the current state of things.

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