1989 is the fifteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, released digitally through his own PAX AM record label on September 21, 2015. The album is a track-by-track cover of Taylor Swift's album of the same name. It debuted at number 7 on the US Billboard 200 chart, one position ahead of Swift's 1989, which was in its 48th week on the chart.
Adams first became interested in Taylor Swift's album while coping with the collapse of his marriage to Mandy Moore. On what attracted him about Swift's album, Adams stated "There's just a joy to 1989," describing the album as "its own alternate universe." Adams initially described the album as being in the style of The Smiths. When recording the album, Adams said he found a sound somewhere between Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Smiths' Meat Is Murder.
On the day that Adams announced the project, Swift responded enthusiastically from her Twitter account, saying "Cool I'm not gonna be able to sleep tonight or ever again and I'm going to celebrate today every year as a holiday."
Two weeks later, an official statement was released via Entertainment Weekly, whereupon Swift expressed further excitement and anticipation:
"Ryan Adams is one of the artists who shaped my songwriting. My favorite part of his style of creating music is his ability to bleed aching vulnerability into it, and that’s what he’s done with his cover project of my album 1989. When I first heard that Ryan was going to be covering my entire album, I couldn’t believe it. It’s such an honor that he would want to take my stories and lyrics and give them a new life. He’s gotten some of the best musicians together to record this album and if the clips he’s released are any indication, this is going to be something really special."
One month later, on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show with Adams and a surprise appearance from Swift a day after the album was released, Swift lavished praise and adulation upon Adams' work, and expressed the ways in which his interpretation of the songs differs from her own, stating that "they’re not cover songs" in the commonly expected sense. "They’re reimaginings of my songs, and you can tell that he was in a very different place emotionally when he put his spin on them than I was when I wrote them. There’s this beautiful aching sadness and longing in this album that doesn’t exist in the original." In the same interview, she also admitted that (after having spent time listening to an advance copy of his album) some of Adams' melodies were beginning to pervade her songs during touring performances.
Adams' interpretation of 1989 received mostly positive feedback from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 from selected independent ratings and reviews from mainstream critics, the album received a metascore of 69 out of 100, based on 25 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt praised the album, commenting "If turning the biggest, shiniest pop record of the past year into a survey course in classic rock economy sounds like a novelty, it is. But it's also the best kind--one that brings two divergent artists together in smart, unexpected ways, and somehow manages to reveal the best of both of them." Jim Beviglia of American Songwriter also complimented the album, stating "It is 1989 reimagined, with often startling results." On a similar note, The A.V. Club's Annie Zaleski said of the album in her review: "What his version of 1989 does best is illustrate the strength of the source material. With the radio-ready gloss stripped away, these songs compare to the best moments in Swift’s back catalog." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times, however, called the album, "a love letter from an indie idol to a pop queen," and considered Adams "not built for the songs." In a similarly negative review, Mark Richardson of Pitchfork Media declared, "Adams has transformed (1989) into ... a run-of-the-mill Ryan Adams album."
Credits are adapted from liner notes of 1989.
MusiciansRyan Adams — vocals, guitars, synthesizer, pump organ, piano, trash can
Nate Lotz — drums, percussion
Charlie Stavish — bass guitar, synthesizer, percussion
Nate Walcott — piano, organ, pump organ, synthesizer
Tod Wisenbaker — guitars
Stephen Patt — double bass, pedal steel guitar
The Section Quartet — strings
TechnicalRyan Adams — production
Charlie Stavish — production, engineer, mixing
Gavin Lurssen — mastering
Julia Brokaw — band photos
Andy West Design — design
1989 debuted at number 7 on the US Billboard 200 chart with 56,000 album-equivalent units. Taylor Swift's 1989, in its 48th week on the chart, was in the number 8 position.