No Blank Space, Baby: Taylor Swift Is The Soul Of Ryan Adams : The Record Adams' 1989 recognizes a rock lineage born of a woman. He's not legitimizing Swift's work – he's figuring out how her voice can validate and include his.
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No Blank Space, Baby: Taylor Swift Is The Soul Of Ryan Adams

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No Blank Space, Baby: Taylor Swift Is The Soul Of Ryan Adams

No Blank Space, Baby: Taylor Swift Is The Soul Of Ryan Adams

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Cover tunes - an artist puts his stamp on some else's song. It's a pop music perennial. This week one musician took the concept to a whole other level, releasing a track-for-track remake of the entire album that featured this tune.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) I stay out too late. Got nothing in my brain. That's what people say. That's what people say.

MONTAGNE: We're hearing, of course, Taylor Swift. Her album, "1989," was huge last year. And now you can hear this and all those songs again as reimagined by Ryan Adams.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

RYAN ADAMS: (Singing) I stay out too late. Got nothing in my brain. That's what people say. That's what people say.

MONTAGNE: So we rang up NPR Music's Ann Powers to find out what would have possessed him to cover an entire album.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: It started as a kind of private project for him. He had recently separated from his wife, Mandy Moore. And he says he was turning to this album to explore his own emotions. At the same time, he is friends with Taylor Swift. They have actually spent time exploring, working together. And let's be honest, it's not a bad career move to cover, you know, the biggest-selling album of recent years.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's hear a little bit of music. We just heard Taylor Swift singing her own "Shake It Off." Let's hear another track by her, "Bad Blood."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD BLOOD")

SWIFT: (Singing) 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look what you've done 'cause, baby, now we've got bad blood. Hey.

MONTAGNE: Now here's Ryan Adams.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD BLOOD")

ADAMS: (Singing) It's so sad to think about the good times you and I had 'cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know we used to have mad love.

MONTAGNE: This is so different. It's really interesting to hear one song reworked so radically. You know, Ann, have other artists done this kind of thing - I mean, a whole album?

POWERS: In fact, it's happened many times. Booker T. & The M.G.'s, for example, recorded a full-album version of "Abbey Road." And, in a similar move, this Slovenian electronic music group Laibach recorded a version of The Beatles' "Let It Be." So it's something I think artists do to kind of work through their influences, maybe, show that they can make a whole album their own, and also to make a statement. I think Adams particularly is making a statement about what we value in popular music and maybe how we look at pop artists not always in a fair way.

MONTAGNE: But Ann, still, this record - OK, it's getting a lot of hype. But it does seem like a bit of a novelty. Is it a good record as well?

POWERS: I think it is a good record, and here's why. Ryan Adams reworks Taylor Swift's music in this style of kind of indie rock. But he makes sure that these songs have a pop element. And what that is is harkening back to classic rock. And that sound turns out to work perfectly with Taylor Swift's attitude, her lyrics, her whole worldview. Ryan Adams shows us a whole new world of "1989." And that, for me, is worth more than just novelty.

MONTAGNE: NPR Music's Ann Powers, glad to talk to you again. And why don't we go out on one of your favorites?

POWERS: Well, Ryan Adams' version of "Blank Space" really shows how he transforms something we all thought we knew in and out, a huge hit. So thanks, Ryan Adams, for letting us hear it anew.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLANK SPACE")

ADAMS: (Singing) So it's going to be forever, or it's going to go down in flames. You can tell me when it's over if the high was worth the pain.

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