Ryan Adams wasn’t kidding with all of his Instagram teasers about covering Taylor Swift’s 1989 from start to finish. His version of the landmark pop album dropped late Sunday night and true to Adams’ word, is a faithful recreation of Swift’s mega-smash-super-hit. There are acoustic renditions of songs and alt-country versions of songs. Sadly, Adams doesn’t sing the chorus of “Shake It Off” exactly as originally performed (he ditches a few of the trailing “hate, hate, hates”), but he does sing “mad love” in his version of “Bad Blood,” which is a phrase I imagine Adams has used exactly zero times before recording the album.
Ms. Swift herself has been on board with this project from the jump, and with each clip or snippet Adams has released on Instagram, anticipation grew, largely based on his reputation for delivering delightfully delicate, stripped-down covers of artists he admires. Initial reports said Adams was going to record 1989 in the vein of the Smiths, but the finished project falls closer in the line with Adams’ own material, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with. “Shake It Off” in particular stands out, with Adams ditching the majestic pop wonderment of the original for a more roadhouse, wistfully ethereal take. It still drives, but in a much different way than the original.