Ryan Adams Says Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” Gave Him Chills, So Let’s Take A …

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Taylor Swift is like Shakespeare’: Ryan Adams defends his dark tribute to 1989.

Speaking to The Guardian recently, he said that recording Swift’s songs instead of his own was like “being in Ghostbusters or something, and then all of a sudden I have to go do Shakespeare”. She’s two Florida dates away from wrapping the North American leg of her worldwide “1989” tour (then it’s off to Asia and Australia to cap the year) so it was expected that her sold-out-for-months Georgia Dome concert Saturday night would roll smoothly.(Welcome to 10 Days of Taylor, our epic countdown to the epic finale of the most epic pop tour of all time: Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour, stopping Halloween Night at Raymond James Stadium.And while artists like Katy Perry, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Rihanna are true forces to be reckoned with, there is only one person who can compete with Adele when it comes to pop supremacy – Taylor Swift.

Steven Tyler—icon of rock, hair, and American Idol—was one of the many celebrities that reigning queen of pop Taylor Swift invited as a guest onto her 1989 World Tour.When it came out in September, perpetually weepy singer-songwriter Ryan Adams’s cover album of Taylor Swift’s candy-coloured, slickly produced —last year’s biggest-selling record—became a battleground for an enduring cultural argument: Is popular music inherently schlock? Adams also described hearing ‘White Horse’ from Swift’s 2008 album ‘Fearless’ for the first time: “The first time I heard it I got chills head to toe. It did, with the requisite stadium-show accouterments – the trap doors, the layers of dry ice, the lasers, the rotating, rising catwalk – prompting wide-eyed gapes from the large segment of very young fans in the crowd of 56,000. He graced the James-Dean-daydream, larger-than-life stage during Swift’s Nashville show in September, sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” with the pop star—and clearly caught the T.Swift bug.

It’s impressive enough that Swift has turned herself into a multi-demographic artist, one who can relate to fellow twentysomethings, pique the musical interest of tweens and make her two-hour spectacle hardly something to endure for middle-aged chaperones. Adams’ version, released Sept. 21, is so cohesive that it manages to fit right in with his discography, showing off the best qualities of both artists. She is an incredible entity—it’s unreal what that woman is. … She’s like a beautiful guitar that’s got beautiful strings, and when they’re strummed they sing these notes, but if you lean it up against the amp it starts feeding back. But I kept the idea.” 1989, the resulting song-by-song homage to Swift’s record (maybe “global cultural event” is a better way to refer to something that’s sold more than 8.6 million copies) is the prolific singer-songwriter’s 15th studio album in as many years and already one of his most talked about. But unlike the other acts who breathe rarified stadium air – One Direction, The Rolling Stones, U2, Bon Jovi – Swift doesn’t have the luxury of bandmates to share the workload.

Pop music/culture critic Jay Cridlin and staff writer Alexa Volland share a cubicle and a few strong opinions about both Swift and Adams, so they decided to break down both versions of 1989 track by track to see who came out ahead. With , Seabrook—inspired by his son—fetes pop’s intoxicating thrill and sheds light on the cabal of mostly anonymous wunderkinds behind the curtain, pulling the strings of our emerald and wizardly stars. I just thought about how this is hitting me like a tidal wave, it’s so romantic and so beautiful, and yet so sad and so disillusioned – it’s all the stuff I love about the Smiths.” Adams and Swift got together to talk ‘1989’ recently, with Swift saying to a delighted Adams “what you did with my album was like actors changing emphasis”.

There are the powerful producers, who deploy drum machines and computer programs to create a soundscape packed with gleaming hooks primed to turn listeners into addicts; there are the “topline” writers who craft the melody the pop star sings, which clicks just-so to fire a hit of adrenalin to the brain; and there are the lyric writers, who help pop stars—frequently depicted in this book as well-meaning vessels who succeed the more they obey the producer—craft their messages. It’s all stoked by the tyranny of what legendary music man Clive Davis calls “a continuity of hits”: To be a pop star, you need a lineage of big songs; hence, the churn. The pair talked over their creative processes and influences in the interview, along with a few leftfield subjects like Swift’s love of Siri, as an aside to a GQ Magazine cover shoot. So from the moment the 25-year-old wunderkind strutted down the catwalk for the glossy opening stutter of “Welcome to New York” to her final directive to “Shake it Off,” Swift was primed to engage. It’s an industry of craft and cunning, of hopes and dreams, populated with people such as Denniz Pop, the doomed Swedish producer whose spacey guru vibe and brilliant instinct about pop hits—“sometimes you have to let art win,” he liked to say—let loose a clutch of fame-averse Nordic European producers who still quietly create most of our bestselling songs, from Max Martin to the duo Stargate.

I WILL PASS OUT.” Despite her blessing, the album has prompted plenty of controversy, mostly at the idea that, by taking Swift’s songs to what he describes as a “dark, different place”, Adams, the human jukebox of heartbreak, has somehow revealed Swift’s genius. There’s Lee Soo-man, Korean pop’s kingmaker, who transformed the chart-hit assembly line into a factory farm, and Ester Dean, the masterful topline writer who can conjure massive smashes from nonsense words on her iPhone and has influenced hip hop’s biggest stars, though she can’t break through as a star herself. When Adams appears in the lobby of New York’s Crosby Street Hotel, his glasses are so hopelessly steamed up beneath a mop of shower-damp hair that he swipes them off and hands them to his tour manager. A beat-perfect dance troupe accompanied Swift – not a dancer, as she’d openly tell you, but a graceful mover nonetheless – on several songs and helped fill the space around her on a gritty rock version of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” then pranced with lighted umbrellas during the melodic rush of “How You Get the Girl,” one of many gems on the “1989” album. Looking somewhere between bewildered boy and volatile imp, he speaks in long bursts, with the urgency of someone who considers himself frequently misunderstood.

Swift’s left thumb, injured with a kitchen knife last week, was still bundled in gauze (and inked with her favorite number, 13), but it didn’t prevent her from strapping on an acoustic guitar for the throwback diary entry “Fifteen” – on which her voice soared – or from playing keyboards as the hydraulic catwalk spun her around the Dome floor during a pop remix of “Love Story,” another vestige of her country days. Swift’s version was the album’s most derided track, but Adams’ manages to take the repetitive, Empire State of Mind wannabe and turn it into a pretty decent rock song.

Midway through the concert, Swift shared the Tao of Taylor and addressed her young fans with an important message: Don’t listen to the haters on the Internet. And just because it’s manufactured doesn’t mean it’s artless, either; otherwise, we’d have to dismiss the industrial factory of Motown, the output from the Brill Building and, as one profiled producer noted, the works from the studios of the Renaissance’s masters. The pep talk was used as the preface to “Clean,” the closing track on “1989” written with British folk-electronica artist Imogen Heap, but it signified something far greater – Swift’s admirable relationship with her fans.

It’s no coincidence The Song Machine winds down with an exploration of Spotify, the streaming service offering a new model for a crumbling music industry. She’s no diva, and she understands that since her core followers spend their lives online, they expect her to live in their all-share world, too – which she does to great extent. After all, that argument over 1989 and its artistic merits is perhaps not as important as what the record says about the business: Taylor Swift’s original may have been 2014’s best-seller, but her first-week sales were roughly half of what they were when N’Sync topped the charts in 2000. He ditches the spoken words and the bridge, and replaces “We’re young and reckless” to a more Adams-sounding “We’re g–d— reckless.” ADVANTAGE: Swift Jay: Style is my most-played song on Swift’s 1989, four perfectly produced minutes of pumping, pulsing desire. We keep coming back to see you because you make us feel like your home is our home for the night…you have endless options for what you could be doing on a Saturday night and you decided, you’re gonna hang out with me,” it sounds more authentic than typical “insert city name here” stage patter.

Adams’ jagged disco-rock version is also pretty great, but he loses points here (and elsewhere on 1989) for tweaking Swift’s lyrics to fit a masculine point of view. It’s possibly an overgenerous analogy. “Well, look, those songs are popular for a reason,” he says. “She’s a popular artist for a reason.” Of all the songs on Adams’s album, it’s Out of the Woods that delivers the sharpest shock. But far more interesting was Swift’s hair-thrashing, black-jumpsuit-wearing version of “Bad Blood” and her rock star moment – alone on the catwalk, framed in red lighting with an electric guitar – that ushered in a Def Leppard-ized version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Swift indicated in a recent interview that she plans to dodge the spotlight for a bit after this tour. Not because the wind-machined, widescreen exaltation of the original implodes into something like a dolorous lullaby but because the lines, “The rest of the world was black and white / But we were in screaming colour” is a reminder of how excellent a lyricist Swift is. She knows that “1989” is a creative peak, and while it’s surely not the last we’ll hear from her, the album and this accompanying live presentation will be etched as a benchmark moment in her young career.

Which is the kind of observation that has led hordes of fans and critics to roll their eyes: why should it take a mopey man with a guitar to highlight how good a pop star’s craft is? Anna Leszkiewicz, writing in the New Statesman, made a compelling case for Adams’s “mansplaining” of Taylor Swift. (The New Yorker praised the cover version having never reviewed the original, remarking that “these songs, rearranged by Adams, might sound to some ears more authentic, raw, or genuine”.) The reaction has, says Adams, “really upset me. Jay: I salute the looped vocals and Lion King-sized finale of Swift’s original, which also happen to feature some of 1989’s most memorable lyrics.

I honestly never thought about gender.” And his pale eyes widen a bit, with alarm or guilelessness. “It sounds very selfish and it is – I thought about Ryan. It was very cathartic for me, because I found myself singing those songs and feeling things from my divorce, [Adams split from the actress Mandy Moore in January this year] feeling things from a current relationship, feeling things from the distant past.” Adams seems to accept that “people will give me a certain amount of shit no matter what I do in my career.

Before we hand this over to Swift, it’s worth pointing out Adele simply chooses to be in the public eye far less than her American counterpart, especially now that Adele is a mom. It’s always going to be that way.” He grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and began his music career fronting the alt-country band Whiskeytown but made his name, however, with a steady stream of solo records. As fame grew, so did Adams’s reputation as a cranky performer and “difficult” personality. “Even at a time of my life when I would do things that were maybe brash and crazy to other people, they really weren’t,” he says. “I was just this sensitive guy writing songs and I liked to party.

I was just a guy in my late 20s playing guitar and raising hell, but there’s not that much craziness to it.” Peak “craziness” came in 2006 when the critic Jim DeRogatis leaked a voicemail Adams left him after the former had written a not so nice review. During an innocuous chat about responses to 1989 he suddenly delivers a rant about “that fuckhead from the New York Times” that goes on for some minutes.

He recounts casually how Swift invited him to collaborate on a song way back when she was working on Red. “She got a hold of me, and she came over, and we just dove into a tune. ADVANTAGE: Adams Jay: Another slice of classic heartbreaking Adams, who smartly trades Swift’s jittery synthesizers for an intimate acoustic guitar and effortlessly melodic chorus. As for Swift, this may be the song that harkens the most to the actual 1980s … but in that regard, it also feels like a lesser version of any song from Carly Rae Jepsen’s superior Emotion. It’s not for me to say.” He compares himself and Swift to astronauts. “Some of us just go up and we work on the satellites, we do some space walks and we go back to Earth.

But this is also the first song on 1989 that could pass for classic Taylor Swift — or, perhaps more accurately, an innocuous remix of classic Taylor Swift.

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