Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Welcome To New York, New York

Unique artists writing and creating original tunes has always been what makes the whole music industry go 'round. However, there is also something to be said about a brilliantly executed cover. Sometimes my favorite part about attending concerts is if the band or musician that is performing integrates a cover into their set (anyone who does an outstanding cover of "Atlantic City" will have my heart forever).

Musicians covering other people's songs is nothing new. Some of the most famous songs were even originally performed by somebody else.

We all know how to spell "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" because of Aretha, but her signature song was actually released two years earlier by the original writer, Otis Redding. And then there's the song that continues to help make The Bodyguard Soundtrack the best selling movie soundtrack of all time - "I Will Always Love You", as performed by Whitney Houston. Any true American knows that song wasn't originally Whitney's - the ever lasting legacy of one of the world's best love songs is all due to Dolly Parton. I'm pretty sure Dollywood was built just with her portion of the royalties from The Bodyguard Soundtrack. 

In both of these occasions, each singer took an established song and adapted it to fit their own voice and musical sensibility, and in doing so, made the song more famous than the original performer could probably have ever imagined.

One singer this year decided to take the idea of covers to a whole other level. Not only was he taking on one of the best selling albums of both 2014 and 2015, but he adapted the entire album, as opposed to a single song.

Ryan Adams - a cool dude that would seem unlikely to ever be connected to Taylor Swift - created an album that will undeniably be linked to her for the rest of musical history.

It all started seemingly as musical experiment. Those that follow Adams on Twitter, noticed that over the summer he started posting short clips of his versions of various songs from Taylor Swift's, 1989. Was this a joke? Was he mocking the incredible success and complete Swift cultural takeover that was happening in 2015?

All of this could have been true, but the recording sessions lead to full songs being released and then a physical album on that was sent out into the world on September 21st.

As a starting off point, Adams had an entire album of well written, catchy songs, with beautiful melodies. What he did was highlight the magic that was already there and gave it a new vision.

Every song is now branded with his always notable folk and rock inspired edge. Adams slowed down certain songs ("Shake It Off") and added much more rock-n-roll to others ("Style"). On my favorite cover from the album, "I Know Places", he removed all the heavy electro-pop influence that all successful songs seem to want to use these days, and broke it down so that his warm voice wonderfully carries the catchy melody accompanied by a simple guitar line and drums.

To be honest, Adams is one of my favorite singers, so this guy's voice has already leveled me to tears many times over the years ("Come Pick Me Up", "Oh My Sweet Carolina", and "Lucky Now" anyone?). From the beginning I knew that this album was going to be something I would adore instantly.

While I was a fan of Swift's 1989, I wasn't obsessed with every song on the album. For me, Adams' biggest accomplishment was transforming several songs I deemed skip-able into tracks I now love. The addition of strings on his version of "How You Get The Girl" is straight up divine and turned a song I felt "meh" about into one that hit me in all the right emotional places.

Adams' version of 1989 is a real listen from beginning to end and enjoy every moment kind of album.
Is it better than Swift's 1989? I don't think that there is an answer to that, since they are both tremendous in their own way. One thing I know for sure is that this was a real fun experiment to watch unfold from random tweets and it paid off for two talented musicians.  A success both creatively and financially, as on the first week of the release both versions of the album were in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts (Adams debuted at number seven and after 42 weeks, Swift was still riding high at number eight).

Enjoy both of the albums now. I can't help but continue listening to both versions of the songs and make comparisons. The success of all these covers have likely set up T. Swift with enough of a bank roll for her own theme park coming in 2020 - it shall be called "Kittyland". 

Until next time.

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