Lots of people make albums every year, and most of those albums are full of songs listeners have never heard before. Totally unheard works, obsessed over in studios and coffeeshops and basements, poured out of broken hearts and converted into magical-original-art-blah-blah-words-words-words. Frankly, those albums sound like a lot of work. So for most of yesterday, I spun and re-spun a record full of songs that had been memorized by most of planet Earth last Thanksgiving.
After months of teasing, Ryan Adams’s full-album, song-by-song cover of T-Swizzle’s 1989 came out Monday, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Stop calling her T-Swizzle, man. You’re a damn adult.” Obviously, it’s not the season’s most essential album; America still has a solid eight to ten-year reserve of Ryan Adams songs, and people already seem to know this Taylor Swift character pretty well. Yet here we are, boy versus girl in the World Series of music love, the two of them throwing admiration softballs to each other online and pretty much shoving our faces into weird feelings of genuine mutual appreciation and joy. Swift called in to an Adams radio interview yesterday and said she’s been accidentally singing his woozy, dreamy melodies at her shows. I mean, it’s 2015, what are we supposed to do with this much positive reinforcement? Hating on 1989 is like hating, I don’t know, cake pops or baby pictures or when a stranger offers you an umbrella in a rainstorm. If you say no, the jerk in this scenario is probably you.
Because the Internet likes lists, here are four reasons to listen to this album (Do the kids still say “album?”) today:
1. It’ll take you maybe 45 minutes—let’s all just relax.
2. It’s not really a covers album anyway. It’s more a dreamy, kinda druggy California-version of Swift, heavy on spare arrangements and vocal echo tricks from 1987. “Blank Space” is barely there, “How You Get the Girl” is all haze and synthesizers, and I’m pretty sure Adams turned “Shake It Off” into “I’m on Fire,” which is giving me confusing feelings.
3. “Bad Blood!” Seriously, Adams improves the only song on “1989” that needed it. This rendition is the perfect result of a trip through some Ryan Adams Conversion Machine, all jangle and hurt; he found the country song in the song the country singer made a pop song–which is a lot of math, sorry.
4. 1989 is full of really good songs (though it helps that, unlike most of her audience, I was alive and listening to music in actual 1989). Someone once asked me how many songs on a record you have to like to qualify as “liking an entire album,” and for me, with 1989, it’s like eight. I liked fewer songs on the last Springsteen album by a lot. The number of times I’ve spun 1989 versus Kendrick’s record isn’t even worth graphing. The new, self-aware, mind-reading Apple music app is like, “Are we even keeping this Father John Misty record, or…?”
This last part has damaged much of my last year. Approving of 1989 has lost me the respect of maybe a half-dozen actual non-Internet people I’ve known for years. I don’t mean that metaphorically, like, they briefly drifted away or we enjoyed jokes about our aging music tastes. I mean that their faces fell, their shoulders dropped and they looked at me with pleading eyes waiting for a punchline that never came. And then they vanished, having decided the value of our friendship does not eclipse my being able to hum “Welcome to New York.” My friend Anna conveyed such disappointment at the news that you’d think I just told her I dropped a piano on her house. (“You introduced me to Josh Ritter!” she shouted incredulously in a reasonably loud tapas restaurant. “Who are you?”) Well, you know what they say about haters.
Then again, maybe we’re all overthinking this nonsense. (Wait—people overthinking music on the Internet? Yes, I am here to tell you it has happened.) I’ve never met her or gotten a thank-you for all those boxes of chocolate, but Taylor seems like a human being of high quality, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we seem to keep losing people we thought were that. Adams is having fun, and apparently actual fun, not Kind of Being a Jerk fun or Hoping We’re in on the Joke fun. It’s just people doing something wacky, hitting a nice balance between novelty and quality and Instagramming the bejesus out of it so we can get in on the joke—or not-joke, whichever. In either event, give me the record. Give it. With a cake pop.