“Like any great love 
it keeps you guessing
Like any real love
it’s ever changing
Like any true love
it drives you crazy
But you know you wouldn’t change

Anything anything anything.”
~Welcome to New  York 
Taylor Swift as performed by Ryan Adams, 1989 

I probably don’t need to say any more adoring things about Ryan Adams on this blog but he covered the entirety of Taylor Swift’s “1989” and it is amazing. Amazing! I cannot stop listening to it.

The authentic profound messages of these songs come across a lot stronger without the glitz and shine of a pop record – Ryan Adams also has better delivery than Swift does, partly because he’s been doing it as long as she’s been alive. Hear how he takes the hooks and stretches them out across bars instead of repeating them, and how he gracefully falsettos at the crest of them. I’m noticing different lyrics and meanings behind them; the flirtation of “Blank Space” is replaced with a sad hope, and the in-your-face attitude of “Shake it Off” is replaced with an ode to overcoming anxiety. Not that those traits weren’t found in the original recordings, if you searched heard enough, but here they are that much clearer.

Turning “Out of the Woods” into a waltzy ballad was an obvious – and brilliant – choice. It sounds so much like a Ryan Adams song, like something out of the Heartbreaker era, with gentle guitars and a slow kick backbeat and rich, string-filled outro. It might be the best musical section of the record. I think it’s the one I’m the most surprised by, and my immediate favorite. That and “Shake it Off,” with its woodblock rhythm and breezy keys. He removes a lot of the words and pre-chorus structures, and it makes the meaning that much stronger – same with “Blank Space,” a song I regularly sing and dance to but loved without its punchlines.

Some tracks he doesn’t change too much but just adopts – like the piano-set “This Love,” and “Clean,” which is sped up slightly and decorated with guitars instead of automated bells and xylophone. A song that, in Taylor’s word, is a little flippant like “All You Had To Do Was Stay” suddenly becomes a forlorn kiss-off, with a slightly syncopated melody and a warmth that wasn’t there before. It reminds me of the quiet restraint he started exhibiting about 10 years ago in his solo work, the kind that his self-titled last year celebrated.

“When you’re young, you run,
When you’re young, you run,
When you’re young, you run,
But you come back to what you need.” 
~This Love,
Taylor Swift as performed by Ryan Adams, 1989

I anticipate this record all summer long, being a huge fan of both artists and really into their latest work. Now that it’s here I can’t wait to revisit “1989,” a record that was all kinds of fun and romantic and dreamy and uplifting in the winter of 2014. Who didn’t love this record? To hear in this way, filtered through the mind and fingers of an artist I love as much as Ryan Adams, is a gift. His motivations for doing it are as pure they could be – and his praise of Swift is, too.

In a broader sense, a crossover record like this promises to marry the fan bases of two at-a-glance disparate artists and show, quite easily, how much they have in common. Too often I hear people write off Taylor Swift as a product of a machine, not knowing how much she can write and build and convey. And despite his epic catalog there’s still a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Ryan Adams at all, or who might not realize how sound and strong and touching he can be. I love that this happened.  I love that I can hear it and share it and enjoy it.  I love that something so “mainstream” is so fulfilling, restoring my faith in the tastes of the masses at large and the idea that music, in all its form, can truly unite.

“I never miss a beat
I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see,
That’s what they don’t see.

I’m dancing on my own
I make the moves up as I go
And that’s what they don’t know,
That’s what they don’t know

‘Cause the players gonna play, 
And the haters gonna hate,
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, 
Baby, I’m just gonna shake.
~Shake it Off 
Taylor Swift as performed by Ryan Adams, 1989