Monday, November 9, 2015
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: RYAN ADAMS - 1989
I have a unique perspective about this whole Ryan Adams-Taylor Swift situation. In case you aren't familiar, the edgy roots rocker has covered the entire Swift album, 1989, without irony and straight as can be. It's now his new album.
While I know Swift's name of course, I don't know any of her songs. Seriously. I couldn't name one, hum a note, couldn't pick her out of a police line-up. This is not some unlikely twist of fate, where somehow I have avoided her ubiquitous presence over the years. No, it's down to hard work. I monitor my exposure to popular culture with great precision, something I've perfected.
I never have pop music radio stations on, nor TV channels that still play videos. I don't have friends on Facebook that would post such stuff, and if they accidentally did, I have the sound turned off anyway. I don't go into trendy clothing stores where they would play that kind of music, and avert my eyes in the magazine racks, rushing past Tiger Beat (or whatever it's called these days) to make my way to Curmudgeon Weekly.
It's not just Taylor Swift. I avoid them all. Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Avril Lavigne, Drake, Bieber, it's a long list. I saw a Kanye West performance by accident a few months ago, it was ridiculous. I've picked a lifestyle, I'm proud of it, it's right for me. Don't judge me.
And for the record, I started doing this back in the '90's, when pop music, my former love, went all to shit. I warned you all about Milli Vanilli and Debbie Gibson and Britney Spears, and I was right.
Look, for all I know, Swift could be a lot better than the rest of the pop stars of today, and I get the sense she is, at least marginally. I've heard some rumblings in the reviewers world, the same people who give Carly Rae Jetson props (Elroy's sister, I assume). And in the hands of a master craftsman such as Mr Adams, her work certainly sounds like the kind of stuff I'd enjoy. It sounds exactly like a Ryan Adams album in fact.
So what does this mean? Am I totally wrong about Taylor Swift and should rush out and get all her albums and discover a brilliant poet and performer? Is Ryan Adams so brilliant he can take a lightweight, manufactured pop star and turn their work into high art? Is there good in every piece of music, just waiting for the right person to come along and polish it, revealing the gem?
Nah. Here's what it means. It means I like Ryan Adams. I liked him when he did that Heartbreaker album, and I'm probably always going to like him now. I don't like current pop music, because I'm too old for it, have a closed mind, whatever. I don't like much post-bop jazz either. Seldom do I listen to classical. I'm not perfect. We like what we like, ain't nothing wrong with that. I don't know what Adams was trying to prove with this album, but it's cool, you like him, you'll like it. We all get to like or dislike whatever we want. It's good to be open-minded, but there's nothing wrong with having particular tastes too. Sometimes it is only rock and roll.