In my book, The E-Ticket Life, there’s a chapter entitled “Different Drummer” where I explore the idea of listening to your own soundtrack while in the Disney Parks. Throughout that chapter, I make the case that changing the music you hear in the Parks allows you to experience different emotions and gives you a new way to look at something you know so well. This is also what I’ve always loved about cover songs.
Not just any cover songs, mind you; there is a certain way I like my covers to be approached. That’s why I always get excited when A.V. Club starts up their Undercover series, which seems to promise unique and interesting takes on popular songs. Unfortunately, a lot of the renditions of pop songs that the participating artists churn out don’t embrace the source material and often seems like the band thought they were too cool for such mainstream fluff.
Luckily, one of my favorite artist of all time (and one that I’ve talked about in this blog before), Ryan Adams, recently did what I would love to do if I had the talent: created an album of pop covers that not only respects the original songs but also adds a new level to them. I’m of course talking about his genius version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 which he released a couple of weeks ago. Since my preorder hit my iTunes collection, I’ve been replaying his version of the record over and over — only loving it more with each spin.
Let me back up and say that I also love Taylor Swift. In fact, when I worked at the movie theatre, my routine for opening the projection booth involved drinking tea and listening to Swifty on shuffle. However, I never got around to buying her version of 1989 since I wasn’t impressed with the songs I was hearing. Granted, the same thing happened with Red, but the album itself turned out to be surprisingly more like her older work than the poppy singles would have you believe. But, since Tay had her notorious spat with Spotify meaning that I wouldn’t get to preview the album before purchasing like I had intended, I just gave up on it.
So when Ryan teased his version of the album on Twitter, I was excited that I would finally be able to get a copy. What’s funny is that his 1989 sounds equally like an original Ryan Adams record as well as the version of Taylor Swift’s album I wish she would have made in the first place. He even makes the incredibly trite “Welcome to New York” far less eye-roll-inducing!
While I love Ryan’s versions of songs like “All You Had to Do Was Stay” and “I Wish You Would” that I was unfamiliar with before his version of the album, what I truly admire is his ability to recreate hits like “Bad Blood” and “Blank Space” without any sense of irony. As many reviews have pointed out, Adams highlights the strength of Swift’s songwriting that may get buried under glossy production, thumping bass, and an obsession over which celebrity the lyrics might be referencing. Never once do you hear what might be considered a wink through the microphone.
In “Different Drummer,” I conclude by saying that remixing the emotion of The Happiest Place on Earth is as noble a goal as Disney’s intent to invoke whatever feeling they’d like upon their guests. Similarly, Ryan Adams has stated in interviews that his version of 1989 was conceived while he was using the album to explore his own emotions following his separation from his wife (Tangled‘s Mandy Moore). Once again, Adams’ quest is a worthy one and the result deserves much more credit than the novelty of it implies. So while I can only hope that We Love Disney (which you can currently preview in Disney’s Hollywood Studios) finds a way to add something new and worthwhile to songs we all know so well, I’ll be listening to Ryan Adams’ 1989 — a cover album done right.
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV