Taylor Swift & Ryan Adams: Songs half empty or songs half full?

@glasshalfempty (see what I did with the headline 🙂 ) courageously included the Taylor Swift song Style on his RR 10th anniversary CD; I say courageously because she’s supposedly  just another lightweight pop sensation. Some, however, hear serious songwriting chops beneath that MTV sheen – among them the ever-melancholy Ryan Adams, an alt-country former bad boy – and it is now becoming hip to like her (saying you always knew bleh, bleh, bleh) … as long as Adams sings them. He has just released a cover of her entire new album, 1989, not because he needs the attention (which he doesn’t), but because he loves the songs.

A good reminder to trust your instincts and like what you like without shame.

Taylor SwiftStyle

Ryan AdamsStyle (Taylor Swift cover)

10 thoughts on “Taylor Swift & Ryan Adams: Songs half empty or songs half full?

  1. 1989 is such a good album. Admittedly, it’s rather frontloaded with the best tunes and then tails off a bit in the second half but still… It’s a nice idea from Ryan but none of his versions that I’ve heard yet have come close to Taylor’s. Bad Blood isn’t bad but this sounds like a shouty, poorly produced mess to me on first listen. But you know, kudos to him for recognising the genius of the source material.

  2. Glad you liked it Tinnie! Me, courageous? Not really – unlike many in this parish, I don’t have an uber cool reputation to protect. I admire and benefit from the amazing knowledge and good taste of the Kool Gang on RR. Although they know their way around popular music, the key criterion for them is that it should NOT be popular. So they expose me to music I would otherwise never hear of, far less hear. But I know I will never be in their gang. So when it comes to my own picks, I stick to what I like and hope for the best. As a musical magpie, I’m happy raiding any genre, any culture. I rarely hear chart music these days, but if I stumble on a pop gem, I’ll pass it on. After all, many of the songs of yesteryear that we all love were mainstream hits. So it stands to reason that occasionally the current charts harbour great songs. Lana del Rey’s ‘Video Games’. Birdy’s ‘Wings’. About one every six months, maybe.

    I’m not sure I see Style as truly great, but it’s a very polished bit of pop: infectious, has a bit of complexity, and I also enjoy the rich wall of sound production. It all came about thanks to Abahachi. He put us on to Ruth and Martin’s Album Club. And 1989 was one of their reviews earlier this year. Martin had this to say about hipster disdain for chart pop. “When I was a teenager, I wore the badges and the band t-shirts. I had the haircuts and the earrings. I was a walking advertisement for myself, for the identity that I had created. “Hello everyone, look at me, this is what I’m into. Aren’t I dead cool”. But I wasn’t cool, I was a bit silly. I look back at all the things I missed out on because of this identity that I wore like a straightjacket.” The review itself was pretty enthusiastic, saying “At its best – Out Of The Woods, Style and (my favourite) How You Get The Girl – it hits the spot like only the best pop can.” On the strength of that I bought it. Then I realised that the review also said “Even the great albums have their fillers, and it has to be said quite a few of 1989’s tracks bring little or nothing to the party”, so I’m with Bishbosh on that one.

    Then I read that the album was all a CIA plot to subversively tell Chinese youth about the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, by flooding China with tee-shirts with the logo “T.S. 1989”!!

    I’m not so taken with the Ryan Adams cover, and indeed it’s almost a rule that covers of songs you like rarely satisfy. But I’ll give it another listen, and thanks for the post.

    • Who the heck launched the CIA conspiracy theory GHE? Sounds like a Trumpism.

      Glad to see some debate on this. I just it without comment as it is going on and Spillers might be interested. I enjoy listening to people talk about the music that moves/unmoves them because it gives me things to listen for in other stuff I listen to as well. So yw, but it’s all about ME 🙂

  3. I like Taylor Swift … I also have the Lana del Rey and Birdy tracks mentioned above … not so keen on Ryan Adams but guess I could “shake it off” as a good effort!

      • I remember being impressed by Lana del Reys ‘Video Games’, too. But she’s since slid into annoying Florence ‘singing loud means it’s OK not to be always in tune’ Welch territory, imho. On a cursory listen, that also seems to be where Birdy is nesting…..

  4. This is the second in your ‘Troll Chris’ series, isn’t it tinny? 😉

    I was going to let this pass but then I saw that bish used the word genius……

    But, yes, TS’s version is very good pop, and the lyric has a subtext which, if not quite genius, is indicative of an analytical brain and a keen ear for the evocative phrase. This delivers a different perspective and elevates it from being yet another boy-meets-girl song. How the credit divides up between the four named songwriters, I don’t know, but there is definitely credit to share out.

    On the basis of the one track, I have no idea why Ryan Adams has covered it other than in the hope of sales-by-association. He fudges the protagonist’s gender, undermining the lyrical point entirely, and gives it a rock backing that just makes it all sound dumber.

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