Ryan Adams covered an entire Taylor Swift album. So was his version really "better"?

Ryan Adams has released a cover of Taylor Swift’s 2014 album 1989.

Adams’s wholesale cover of Swift‘s album is more of an homage to an artist he openly respects than an attempt at betterment.

But in a development that will no doubt irk Swift fans the world over, Adams’ version has been better-received in some circles than the original version.

Adams even made his own 1989 cover art.

So how did the 1989 cover come about?

Adams has admired Swift’s work since he heard her song White Horse, an appreciation that only deepened after they worked together a few years ago on an as-yet unreleased song.

Then, on a tour bus while he was alone for Christmas last year, Ryan Adams — like 14-year-old girls the world over — couldn’t stop listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989.

“I was listening to that record and thinking, ‘I hear more,'” he says. “Not that there was anything missing. I would just think about the sentiments in the songs and the configurations,” he told Rolling Stone.

He bought a four-track cassette recorder and started recording Swift’s songs in his own mournful, alt-country style.

“I thought, ‘Let me record 1989 like it was Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska’.”

The result is really rather lovely.

Post continues after video:

Video via RyanAdamsVEVO

Music elitists have a tendency to dismiss certain genres, such as the unapologetic pop stylings of Taylor Swift.

Tellingly, The New York Times reviewed Ryan Adams’s 1989 — positively. They didn’t bother with Taylor Swift’s original.

“These songs, rearranged by Adams, might sound to some ears more authentic, raw, or genuine – suddenly more his than hers,” wrote the Times reviewer.

It’s as though Ryan Adams mansplained Taylor Swift, and now the serious music world “gets it”.

That’s perhaps an unfair outcome, given that songwriting has always been a badge of honour for Swift, setting her apart from a sea of pop stars whose songs are written by a small pool of songwriters made up of Swedish songwriting duos, Sia, or Pharrell.

But Adams is at pains to explain that his album isn’t an attempt to improve on Swift’s work.


“You sit next to her, and she plays a verse of a song with some lyrics and a chorus, and it’s clear right in that moment: ‘Of course, this is someone who’s playing to 50,000 people in a stadium,'” he told Rolling Stone.

He had added that his version of 1989 is not “a reimagining or a reconstruction. It’s a parallel universe”.

And Swift herself, at least, seems pleased with Ryan’s recording.

“Ryan’s music helped shape my songwriting,” she tweeted about the release. “This is surreal and dreamlike.”

Video via RyanAdamsVEVO

Which 1989 do you prefer?

Here are some other covers for your listening pleasure:

Video via Glen Hansard
Video via Mike Morning
Video via The Cat Empire
Video via DMX
Video via Cat Power