Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s 1989, that is. There seem to be some people saying that it shouldn’t be, but there’s just one small problem with that:
With where he has positioned himself, Ryan Adams has automatically set certain expectations and is going to be judged by a certain standard by a lot of people, i.e., that no matter what he releases (hipster bullshit or not) it’s going to be a big deal and it will perceived as genius by those people solely because of where he has positioned himself on the musical spectrum. It may not be entirely fair — to an extent it’s unmitigated bullshit — but it is what it is, and the standard has to be kept up somehow.
To put it a different way — what if this had been done by Jason Isbell? Or Aaron Watson, or the Turnpike Troubadours? Would anyone be singing its praises then? Would we be saying to not take it so seriously? Or would we be saying, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT? YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS, GUY!”
If it is the latter — and don’t bullshit, we all know it damned well is — then why should we give Ryan Adams any leeway?
None of this is to say that such cannot be done. I’m not against one artist covering an album by another artist per se. But this isn’t Merle Haggard making an entire album of Bob Wills songs, or Dream Theater covering Metallica’s Master of Puppets. This whole thing strikes me as Ryan Adams being what seems to be his insufferable artiste hipster self, and undermining an entire musical movement — the very movement that he helped create — in the process. I know Ryan Adams doesn’t give a shit about that movement, but there are a lot of people who do, and I can sympathize with them feeling stabbed in the back because of this — not to mention because of Adams’ saying, repeatedly, that he does not like country music.
And then there’s stuff like this:
Only a few hours after Adams’ release, Father John Misty’s Joshua Tillman released his own cover—of Adams’s 1989 cover….Maybe Tillman realized that his attempt at trolling ended up elevating the game of 1989 covers to a whole new, impossibly meta, level: a cover of a cover in the style of classic band, where can it even go from there?
Straight to hell, that’s where. Indie music “artists” covering big pop albums everywhere you look, and their hipster fans chuckling at teh irony of it all. And I’m not the first to point this out, but who’s to say that Ryan Adams isn’t gonna come out down the road and call this project another thing he did just because he appreciated the irony of it? You know, just like he did with his country stuff?
I swear, there’s just so much wrongness here, it’s like it’s fractally wrong. And shit like this doesn’t help matters:
Why Doesn’t Pitchfork Review Artists Like Taylor Swift (Unless They’re Covered by Ryan Adams)?
…And this is where, I fear, gender may play a role. Of the most popular genres, the ones they’re most likely to ignore—pop and mainstream country—are also the genres where you’re likely to see as many women in the audience as men.
TL/DR: Slate sees no problem with Pitchfork reviewing Ryan Adams’ cover of this, just a problem with the Taylor Swift original not being reviewed, because of course SEXISM.
Look. I don’t mean to say that gender discrimination is not a thing anymore or even that it isn’t important, but if there’s a problem with the music itself, then maybe the music should be the main focus as opposed to the artists’ genitalia. Maybe that’s too much to ask from Slate, considering the fact that Slate is a slightly-less-deranged version of Salon, but it’s still something to strive for if we’re going to get anywhere with saving country music, or with retaining any shred of integrity with music in general.
My favorite take on it, though, was back in the comments at SCM:
That’s the problem with him. He’s a hipster and hipsters only take themselves seriously. Nothing else and no one else. I just don’t trust him. He makes country albums and then turns around and says he “fucking hates country music.” And notice how that happens after the underground country world started to gain more followers. Hipsters are always doing shit like that. Find either the least popular thing or the most popular thing and run with it.. Ironically of course. Fuck that arrogant mop headed son of a bitch. Even if he did do this album for fun, how could he in good conscience record something that’s gonna bring in revenue for people responsible for the decline of real talent in the industry?
Well, isn’t THAT the $64,000 question? Sure, people could say not to take it seriously, but maybe they should be telling that to the people in the music press who are taking it seriously and treating it like the indie equivalent of Ropin’ the Wind.