Monday, November 9, 2015


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.


  1. I struggle to understand how this passes as a music review, and not merely an ode to your own self-righteousness. Give me a break.

    This line: "Is Ryan Adams so brilliant he can take a lightweight, manufactured pop star and turn their work into high art?" Come on. You can hide behind the "there's nothing wrong with having particular tastes" argument, and you're not wrong, but you're a music columnist and an arts reporter. Step up to the plate, sir, and talk about the music.

    I'd suggest you read this article, but it has a picture of Taylor Swift in it so you might find that it upsets your non-exposure to popular culture. Proceed with caution.

    "The patronising assumption is that the pop listener can’t feel an emotional connection to a song if it doesn’t have guitars on it; that a pop song’s brilliant longing can’t be communicated unless the voice delivering it is grizzled and has been recorded using two tin cans and a bit of string."

  2. Hi, the whole piece was a farce about self-righteousness, but I kinda get the feeling I didn't make that clear enough, or it was just lame. Oh well, I can only spend a limited amount of time on it. And no, it wasn't meant as a review, it was meant as a commentary, I had already my cover by saying I didn't have clue one about Taylor Swift, so it wouldn't have been a very knowledgeable review. Generally, this column focuses on music of other styles anyway, not modern pop. In a way, the review is there. It's "This sounds like every other Ryan Adams album, which proves nothing about Taylor Swift, and everything about Ryan Adams, who has put out 27 albums that all sound the same."

  3. oops.. already blown my cover.... that should read

  4. And this is why we love you Bob. A music reviewer masquerading as a curmudgeon. Everyone has their musical blind spots. You were right about pop going to shit. As you are about many things. As someone who knows more about popular music and rock and roll than well, anybody I will ever know, you don't have anything to apologize for.