Which Version Of "1989" Should You Be Listening To?
SparkNotes version: listen to Ryan Adams’ new cover album when you’re feeling sad and Taylor Swift’s original when you want to rule the world.
1. "Welcome To New York"
Listen to the original when... you're stuck in a small town, dreaming about moving to the big city.
It's not exactly a secret that Taylor's starry-eyed ode to New York didn't resonate with New Yorkers. The song was criticized for being too bright, optimistic and naive when it was released last fall. Which, fair: the song is bright, optimistic, and a little naive — but so are most of the kids fantasizing about moving to New York. If you're one of those dreamers, this three-minute techno-colored pop fantasy is for you.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you've finally moved to the big city.
All Springsteen and submerged sadness, Ryan's version of the song has replaced Taylor's occasionally grating naivety with some actual grit. If you've ever complained about an overpriced rental and then scoffed at the suggestion you should move, this version of "Welcome To New York" is for you.
2. "Blank Space"
Listen to the original when... you feel like taking things way too far.
Somewhere between a boast and a threat, "Blank Space" is best enjoyed as a paean to youthful recklessness. Put it on your pre-game playlist and treat it like a to-do list. Step one: get dressed up like a daydream. Step two: forget that long list of ex-lovers. Step three: make the bad guys good for the weekend.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're trying to figure out if the high is worth the pain.
Where Taylor's version is all irony and venom, Ryan's is delicate and despairing; he sounds genuinely haunted by what that long list of ex-lovers might be saying behind his back. It's the hangover to the original's high, perfect for scorned Starbucks Lovers.
Listen to the original when... you're taking a long drive.
The best place to listen to "Style" is in the car. It doesn't matter whether you're picking up a lover at midnight or some McDonald's at noon, playing this song while you drive will make you feel sexy and powerful. Also: shout-singing pop songs with the window down will never go out of style.
Listen to Ryan Adams's version when... your relationship ends in burning flames.
Feverish and anxiety-ridden, this cover is a reality check. While the original makes toxic relationships sound seductive and exciting, Ryan's version makes them sound exhausting.
4. "Out Of The Woods"
Listen to the original when... you actually start to move on from your ex.
You know that moment when you see a picture of your ex and — to your surprise — don't feel anything? That moment when you realize, "Oh, hey, I think I've finally started to move on"? This song is that feeling on speed.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're not quite in the clear yet.
Unlike Taylor, Ryan is not out of the woods. He's meandering through them, listlessly singing over some strummy guitars. He gets so lost in forest of his doubt that he adds an additional two minutes to the song's runtime. If your ex's Facebook updates still send you spiralling, you'll want opt for this sprawling cover.
5. "All You Had To Do Was Stay"
Listen to the original when... you get a text from your ex but it's just too late.
This song is basically the musical equivalent of getting to tell someone "I told you so." It's good, bratty fun. It's full of the kind of things you wish you could say, sung with the kind of confidence you wish you could say them with.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're picking up the pieces of the mess your ex made.
Look, we're not all made of Swiftian steel. Sometimes we say we're "gone forever" but what we really mean "gone until you call." We're only mortal, after all. If you've ever gone back to an ex you swore you were done with, you'll relate to this bass-driven cover.
6. "Shake It Off"
Listen to the original when... you want to shake, shake, shake.
You should never, ever listen to "Shake It Off" without actually, literally shaking your body. This is not a song that is appropriate to enjoy through headphones while working on something else. The only acceptable way to listen to Taylor's mega-hit is through loudspeakers in a space that allows you to shake off every last one of your problems.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're not ready to shake it off.
Like Taylor, Ryan's got music in his mind telling him that it's going to be alright. But, unlike Taylor, it doesn't sound like he believes it. He slows the song down to a Smiths-like dirge and brings all of its underlying anxieties to the forefront. If you're plagued by all the things people say and everything they don't know, this version of "Shake It Off" is for you.
7. "I Wish You Would"
Listen to the original when... you drive past your ex's house.
Sure, the lyrics are all pleading and regretful but the production is far too buoyant for serious contemplation. It's a speedy, jittery song, best enjoyed in ill-advised, adrenaline-filled situations.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're alone in your room, considering drunk texting your ex.
Yet another angsty cover of a triumphant break-up song! Like most of the songs on Ryan's album, "I Wish You Would" foregrounds the desperation that's buried under a dozen layers of pop gloss on the original. All jangly guitars and sadness, this is the version to reach for at 2 a.m. when the memories start.
8. "Bad Blood"
Listen to the original when... you're working out.
Upset? Need to get out some aggression? Go for a run listening to "Bad Blood." Imagine you're in a training montage surrounded by a #squad of weaponized supermodels. Give yourself a pun-y alter ego and let Taylor's righteous anger fuel you to great athletic heights.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're recovering from a fight.
While the original is so confrontational that it's easy to forget Taylor is supposed to be the victim, no such problem exists for Ryan's cover. He sounds truly wounded, like he's still got a knife in his back.
9. "Wildest Dreams"
Listen to the original when... you're getting out of town, away from the crowds.
Unapologetically romantic even when she's feeling tad fatalistic about the entire idea of romance, Taylor's "Wildest Dreams" is one prolonged, shimmery swoon. She might be able to see the end, but this song is where a relationship begins.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... staring at a sunset.
If the original is a fantasy, Ryan's breezy cover sounds like a memory — a faded, twangy memory.
10. "How You Get The Girl"
Listen to the original when... you're getting ready in the morning.
Sugary sweet and almost impossible to resist, "How You Get The Girl" is every romcom ever condensed into a four-minute pop song. It's goofy, joyful, and absolutely perfect for singing into a hairbrush.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're struggling to win back your ex.
While Taylor's version definitely ends with a reunion, it's almost certain that Ryan's doesn't. The song flips perspective — from the heartbroken girl in the doorway to the pleading boy standing in the rain — and, as a result, transforms from a disco anthem into a ballad of regret and longing.
11. "This Love"
Listen to the original when... you're walking around with headphones.
A big, '80s-inspired power ballad, this song is ideal for pretending your life is the climax of a movie.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're driving in the rain.
A little rough around the edges, Ryan's cover is the indie movie to the original's blockbuster. Listen to it when you want to imagine you're living in a Sundance film.
12. "I Know Places"
Listen to the original when... you're feeling boxed in.
For a song about being chased by the paparazzi, this one is surprisingly relatable! Seriously, though: Taylor's distress is visceral. If you're ever feeling panicky, this song exists to provide reassurance that even brilliant, beautiful pop stars get oppressively anxious from time to time.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're on the run.
Drained of the original's paranoia, Ryan makes the lovers' predicament sound surprisingly romantic. He shifts the focus from the hunters to the hunted and transforms the song into the kind of story Taylor 1.0 would've loved: a pair of star-crossed sweethearts take on a hostile world together, haters be damned.
Listen to the original when... you're in the shower.
Just indulge in this embarrassingly literal activity one time and you won't regret it. First, "Clean" is the rare song that is both incredibly soothing and perfect for singalongs. That alone makes it shower-worthy. Two, emotional hygiene is important! Occasionally reminding yourself of everything you've gained by leaving dysfunction behind is healthy.
Listen to Ryan Adams' version when... you're alone on the beach.
The last song on the album is another sad, breezy ballad. Ideal listening for an evening spent contemplating your intimacy issues (and the genius of Taylor Swift) in the sand.