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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Ryan Adams newly released cover adds emotion to Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’

Ryan Adams’ new cover of Taylor Swift’s “1989” strips away the upbeat pop, leaving bare bones of raw, emotional lyrics. 

The release comes after six weeks of anticipation that began when Adams posted a photo to Instagram, announcing day one of the project. After dropping snippets of covers influenced by The Smiths, he finally announced Thursday his album would be released Monday. 

With the album out, it’s clear the anticipation wasn’t just undue hype. Adams highlights Swift’s songs with heavy vocals and amplified strings to liven up depressing undertones.

In general, Adams’ music delves deep into the emotions of agony and depression. Previous songs from Adams like “Come Pick Me Up,” “Why Do They Leave?” and “Please Do Not Let Me Go” musically symbolize the anguish of being emotionally drowned with sorrow.

Contrary to Swift’s upbeat sound, Adams reimagines every track off “1989” to match the heartache of the lyrics in a way that matches his musical style. 

In “Bad Blood,” Adams emphasizes the despair in the verses and bridge accentuating the lines, “these kind of wounds they last and they last,” and, “oh, it’s so sad to think about the good times.” 

Adams said his version was the “guaranteed saddest version of ‘Welcome to New York’ ever — or your tears back” in a caption of his preview of “Welcome to New York.” And while it is the saddest version, I wouldn’t say it necessarily warrants tearing up. Although it is less popular on Swift’s album, “All You Had To Do Was Stay” fits that description more.
Lyrically, “All You Had to Do Was Stay” is the closest to Adams’ songwriting and it is apparent through the frustration, disappointment and rejection evoked when listening to the song. 
Every time Adams repeats the lyrics, “all you had to do was stay” they cut deeper, and the inconsistency he adds to the repetition by stressing different parts of the phrase verges on eliciting tears. 

Adams turns the worst song from Swift’s album into my favorite out of his covers. Swift’s overlap of the vocals has a reverberating effect which detracts from the meaning, whereas Adams’ soft instrumentals complement the lyrics — drawing on the unvarnished longing.

Adams’ cover of “This Love” is similar to his earlier song “Sylvia Plath” in sound, but fundamentally different in lyrical content. It highlights a major difference between the songwriting tendencies of Swift and Adams — Swift writes about love coming to her. 

In the cover, instead of taking a literal meaning of the lyrics, “this love came back to me,” Adams sets up a scenario of losing the permanent love of your life, feeling empty inside and longing for them to come back even though they never will. By the end of the track, the idea of your love coming back seems like wishful thinking. 

Listening to his cover of “Wildest Dreams,” the line, “in silent screams, in wildest dreams — I never dreamed of this,” might be the most underrated line of the entire album, especially through the way Adams draws it out in a soft whisper. 

Since Swift’s “1989” release last year, I’ve been reluctant to purchase the album — Adams finally gave me a reason.

By cutting away the pop and substituting for a slower string compilation in the style of The Smiths, Adams reveals the emotion in Swift’s songwriting. 


Olivia Adam is a senior math major and web editor for The Battalion. 

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