When Ryan Adams announced he was recording an album of Taylor Swift covers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought that maybe he’d put together a half-hearted effort, and maybe treat the project as a joke. But what Adams delivered on Monday was a collection of recordings as earnest as anything Swift herself has produced.
Adams’ interpretations of Swift’s work don’t improve on the original. But by removing the gloss and sheen of radio-friendly pop and stripping each song back to its skeleton, Adams presents each piece of music in a different light; highlighting the lilting melodies and earnest lyrics. Suddenly “Welcome to New York” sounds like it was written by Springsteen, and “Bad Blood” is a ballad.
Despite changing a word here and there (“James Dean daydream” becomes “Daydream Nation” – a nod to Sonic Youth – in “Style”), Adams is faithful in his covers, letting Swift’s storytelling lyrics and natural penchant for songwriting shine through. One can only hope that this opens up Swift’s music to a new audience; and that those who have been too stubborn to accept her talent may finally concede to the fact that even with so much more still to come, Taylor Swift has earned her place in music history, and looking back, will be remembered on par with the legends and giants of the industry. The fact that it takes a “reputable” (and male) indie artist to encourage people to do so is a devastating statement about how the music world still depicts young women.