Amy M reviews 1989, as covered in its entirety by Ryan Adams, because she hates herself.
When I first heard that Ryan Adams was covering Taylor’s album, 1989, in its entirety, I didn’t think it was the worst idea I’d ever heard. Now, sitting in bed writing this, listening to Ryan’s covers on Spotify, I’ve come to the realisation that I know nothing and have never known anything and death can’t come quickly enough.
I heard Bad Blood first. There’s a reason they released it before the album as a whole. It’s the best track on there. There are several reasons for this. The original has genuine venom in it, and what isn’t great about a pop song going for the jugular? Plus, it can be truly reinvented: if, at first, it was about Katy Perry, when Ryan sings it, it’s about something else entirely. Plus, it’s super tuneful, moderately upbeat, and showcases what both Taylor and Ryan are capable of. And let’s not mistake this review for a takedown of either. They’re both musical royalty and nothing I can say will alter that.
However, the main motive for covering 1989 is clear once you’ve listened to a couple of tracks. I’ve listened to the entire album more than once, and while I can totally hear the Bruce Springsteen influence that Ryan has been sure to plug into every interview he’s given about the project, it’s not enough to set the covers apart from, say, when Nick Lachey covered Take That’s Patience or Jessica Simpson covered Robbie Williams’ Angels. Except in both those cases, the artists were taking the songs to new territory, having previously been little heard in the States, whereas Ryan’s flogging a very dead horse that is too grim to put into anyone’s bed even for a laugh. Each cover is a tuneless dirge, an excitable Taylor buried in the compost heap and left to rot.
This is capitalism pure and simple. Step 1: Cover an album that’s sold over five million copies worldwide. Step 2: Put said album on Spotify, which no longer has any songs by the original artist because they wouldn’t pay her enough money. Step 3: Reap in cash from the number of plays on said services, and via paid outlets such as iTunes, with a cut of the profits going to the original writer TS. Step 4: Generate instant publicity without even trying because you covered the most successful pop star on the planet. Step 5: Generate extra instant publicity because the pop star is such a big fan of your ‘serious’ work, she loves that you’re covering her songs. Step 6: Do a joint tour or collaboration that brings together everything you both do and take all the money anyone ever earned in the world ever.
And why is Taylor so happy that Ryan is covering 1989? Well, it’s a mark of respect for sure, especially as she’s recently sidestepped into the pop category, but it’s also got to be about money. She’s earning every time this album sells, and hell is it going to sell. The timing is perfect: Taylor’s just finishing up her world tour, and everyone’s hungry for some new music from her. So here comes this cunt with a ‘re-imagining’ of her songs. Well done, slow clap.
Let’s not forget that Team TS is all about the Benjamins these days. Once a great supporter of her fans, her management team now threaten sellers on Etsy who dare to put Taylor lyrics on their merchandise, even if it’s home-made and defs sewn with love. Taylor PR is also always on full alert. I haven’t seen Taylor step outside her house without full make-up on or perfectly coifed hair in about three years. She’s untouchable, and fair play to her, she’s built an empire. But her songs and inspirational speeches and Tumblr networking are about as genuine as a member of the Kardashian/Jenner family’s lips.
Trademarking a bunch of lyrics which could just as easily be things someone said down the pub is also ridiculous, and how Ryan gets away with saying “this sick beat” without a copyright lawsuit on his hands is beyond me. If someone less respectable had tried to cover the album, you can bet for damn sure Taylor’s people would’ve slapped a bitch down.
It’s not just sales and streaming and airplay that are going to put Mandy Moore’s ex back on the map. These cover versions have Grey’s Anatomy written all over them and that breaks my heart. Sure, Ryan’s cover of Wonderwall is arguably better than the original, and deserved being used in every film and TV show last decade, but doing a whole album of covers feels like pandering, like an ache for the tiniest mould-scrape of success. But I know I’m going to be hearing these half-arsed cover versions in all of my favourite TV shows now it’s Fall, and that completely sucks. I used to love discovering new musicians on the likes of Grey’s, but since whichever season it was in which they decided to only use covers of bad 80s and 90s songs, I know that this is the sort of shit-filler they’ll stick on to give everyone the feels. The only feels I’ve got, though, are that Taylor Swift is a super smart capitalist and Ryan Adams is a coat-tail-riding gigantic moth.
Incidentally, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan and/or Taylor gave some of the proceeds from this crap-fest to charity, because that’s just what cunts do. Laters!
Amy Mackelden (a.k.a. July 2061) is a writer based on the Isle of Wight. Her writing has featured in places such as heat magazine, New Statesman online, xoJane and Hello Giggles. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and a New Buds Award from New Writing South in 2015. She’s one of the co-founders of poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog, and has made two spoken word/theatre shows, The 8 Fatal Mistakes of Online Dating (& How To Avoid Them), & Retail, which is set in a closed-down Blockbuster & about a shared love of Woody Allen. Her blog, July 2061, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. She is totally, 100%, are you fucking kidding me, Team Krakow.