Heavy Meta: The Business Of Covering Ryan Adams In The Style Of Taylor Swift

I write about the modern music business as an independent artist  

Ryan Adams released an album covering Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ in 2015 (Credit: GQ Video)


Nice to meet you, where you been?
I could show you incredible things.

I was lost in the pathways of Brooklyn’s McGolrick Park, listening to rocker Ryan Adams reimagine Taylor Swift’s breakout pop album, 1989. Cranking up my headphones, I was hypnotized by the vibration of acoustic guitar strings and the “shaking off” of Ryan’s vocal delivery. I was dizzied by Taylor’s words of lost, anticipated, and hard-earned love. More than anything, I was inspired by the possibilities of reframing and redefining the boundaries of art.

That’s when a light bulb flashed: someone should flip this concept on its head. So over the next six months, my wife Jess and I covered every song from Ryan Adams’ Love Is Hell in the style of Taylor Swift. The result is Babetown’s 1989 is HELL.

But here’s the thing: I had initially dismissed Taylor Swift before hearing a single note.

I viewed Top 40 music as the antithesis of authenticity – its slick production favored over music composition, looks over sound, style over substance. I saw Taylor, not as an artist, but as the center of a very effective marketing campaign – she earned $170 million over the last year, more than any other musician.

It took Ryan Adams and this exercise in the meta for me to take pop seriously.

Let me explain. I’m a songwriter, looking over the shoulders of giants like Nobel-laureate Bob Dylan, and adhering to a rock ’n’ roll philosophy that values authenticity above all else. I seek to discover melody, craft vulnerable personal narratives, “woodshed” natural instruments and sing with honesty and passion.

It’s purposefully defying the times by using analog communication in a digital age. And to me, Ryan Adams encapsulates this classicist approach.

I love Ryan because he’s exuberant: he loves bands and guitars, myths and sounds, and he wants to be all of them at once. But what I most admire is his endless curiosity to learn and incorporate new styles – whether it’s classic country, spacey jam bands or heavy metal. He’s taught me to approach the unfamiliar with sensitivity and an open mind.

So while I was skeptical of contemporary pop, I was open to Ryan’s interpretation of it. He makes for a trustworthy tour guide in the musical jungle.

But before getting started, Jess and I made the executive decision to set our budget for this project at $0. That may sound drastic, but I was burned before. As a solo artist, I spent somewhere in the realm of $20,000 creating the album One Way. The costs included hiring studio musicians, a producer, mixer, mastering engineer and publicist, along with studio time, CD manufacturing and distribution. Returning income like CD sales, streaming, merch and ticket sales didn’t come close to making up the difference. There was simply no justification for spending large amounts of money on a product that people weren’t buying.

So how do you spend nothing on an album? Do everything yourself. Jess bought me an Apple Pro training book on Logic Pro X, and I was off and running as a digital producer. Soon I was creating sounds and recording every instrument with the click of a mouse, all in my own time and in the comfort of our Brooklyn apartment. I was no longer paying others to channel my creativity.

Our first step was to pair each song from Ryan’s album with a specific 1989 track. With its concise and aching story, the album Love is Hell gave us a lot of room for reinterpretation. Right away I could hear unexpected similarities between the two artists – vivid atmospheric detail, insistent melodies, the desperation and drama of the characters. And at the least, a shared love for re-creating the emotions of a John Hughes movie.

We turned the concept on its head, and covered Ryan Adams track-for-track in the style of Taylor Swift.

Then, like students painting the masterpieces in art museums, we reconstructed 1989 layer by layer. I twisted knobs and tracked digital instruments until the kick, bass and synths sounded precisely like Taylor’s original – but using Ryan’s lyrics and melodies. Bear in mind that, at this point making One Way, I had already spent $7,000 on a producer, $4,000 on recording studios, and $5,000 on studio musicians. Pretty ridiculous, right?

Laid out in front of me now were the building blocks of 1989. Day in and day out, I heard the vocabulary of pop – an entirely new set of sounds ranging from drum machines to arpeggiators. I manipulated audio and visualized sound in the form of MIDI regions and equalizers. It reprogrammed my unconscious and inhabited my dreams. So this was electronic music.

In her vocal performance, Jess showed me the vulnerability, playfulness, and athleticism that Swift utilizes. And we threw in “Taylorisms” like cheerleader chants and melodramatic breaths. The more we tracked, the more we understood the unforgiving nature of Top 40 vocal recordings.

As I molded these songs, they began to feel like my own original productions. My babies. I found myself asking: What if I’ve been wrong about pop music all along?

Suddenly, I stepped from the shadows of history to join the rest of my generation. Covering a Ryan Adams album in the style of Taylor Swift may have started as a funny concept, but it very quickly became a master class in modernity. We had wheeled out our guitars and pianos, and plugged in our laptops. We had replaced the aesthetic of rock ’n’ roll with the language of pop.

Then Jess bought me a book called Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio, and I spent two months learning to mix the album myself, studying send-buses, multi-compressors and automation. At that point, I wished we had only done three tracks instead of thirteen. I also wished I studied engineering in school instead of political science. But it gave me great joy to hear those tracks streaming on SoundCloud shortly thereafter.

Now we didn’t end up spending $0. Between the artwork, mastering, and some private lessons in mix engineering, the total cost was slightly less than $1,000. But bear in mind that, at this point making One Way, I had spent an additional $5,000 on mixing, $1,500 on mastering, $700 on artwork and $2,500 on CD manufacturing and digital distribution. It took six months, but in our zero-sum approach, we saved over $20,000.

Do I still believe that 1989 and modern pop music could benefit from the lessons of analog thinking? Absolutely. There’s too much emphasis on arrangements at the expense of composition. But I learned that pop is merely a “style,” colors to use on a canvas. Ryan Adams has always understood this. And hearing that Ryan digs 1989 Is HELL was one of the best moments of my life. Now we’re dying to hear Taylor’s opinion. And to create original music infusing the new pop sensibilities we learned.

Ryan and Taylor were both right all along: they could show me incredible things. And I hope to do the same for you writing about the DIY music scene as I continue to experience it myself.

Nintendo's Fire Emblem series goes mobile in February – 'Choose your legend' character vote opens

Nintendo’s expansion into mobile gaming has taken another step forward with the full reveal of Fire Emblem Heroes, a free-to-play game for iOS and Android that reimagines the strategy RPG series for gaming on a smartphone or tablet. Heroes is set for a worldwide release on 2 February.

Announced at a Nintendo Direct dedicated entirely to the venerable franchise, Heroes adapts the movement grids and turn-based combat of previous Fire Emblem games to fit touchscreen play, with drag-and-drop controls used to move character units across smaller 6 x 8, vertical maps.

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The game is set to feature a broad range of classic characters from its almost 27-year history in its main story mode, with notable favourites unlockable via in-game currency or in-app purchases. In a press release, Nintendo also revealed that it will be possible to compete against other players and promised to support the game with “free and timely updates,” which will “add new characters and content for additional hours of gameplay.”

“As a summoner, players build their army by calling upon Fire Emblem heroes from worlds that span the breadth of the series,” said Nintendo. “Players will wage strategic tactical battles streamlined for on-the-go play and level up a mix of new combatants and legendary heroes. Some familiar hero characters will become allies, while others will become enemy generals and take arms against you.”

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Nintendo also announced a “choose your legend” vote to decide which hero and heroine will receive special outfits to celebrate the game’s release. Voting is currently open on the official Fire Emblem site, with My Nintendo account members receiving 200 Platinum Points for making a selection.

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Three other Fire Emblem games were also featured during the presentation on 18 January (embedded below), including a remake of 1992’s Japan-only Fire Emblem Gaiden - titled Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia - launching on Nintendo 3DS on 19 May, and the announcement of an all-new Fire Emblem game for Nintendo Switch due in 2018.

There was also a longer showcase for Fire Emblem Warriors - the second attempt at fusing the hack-and-slash fury of Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors series with Nintendo IP following the positive reception for Wii U and 3DS Legend of Zelda spin-off, Hyrule Warriors. Fire Emblem Warriors launches on Nintendo Switch, alongside a handheld version exclusive to New 3DS owners, in autumn.

Fire Emblem Heroes is the third app to come from the Kyoto publisher’s partnership with DeNA after the weird social networking experiment Miitomo and Super Mario Run. With Mario’s smartphone debut arriving on Android in March following an initial iOS release in December 2016, the only other game confirmed to be in co-development between the two companies is an Animal Crossing title.

The Animal Crossing mobile game is expected to launch later in 2017, with two further games also reportedly in the works from the ongoing Nintendo-DeNA collaboration.

For all the latest video game news follow us on Twitter @IBTGamesUK.

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Okay, but WHAT IF…?  ^_~

I’ve been slowly rewatching Yuri On Ice these last couple of weeks (the English dub this time so I don’t have to read subtitles while drawing).  I’ll watch on a separate window while sketching some of my favorite key moments. 

I stopped at episode 7, as you can see… Should I draw some more from the later episodes?  I’ve gotten kind of addicted to drawing “Yurie” and “Viktoria.”  XD  Also, asymmetrical bobs are the BOMB.

I wonder if YOI would have gotten as popular as it has if the main characters had been female.  I hope so!

EDIT: I took some advice from @anastasia-cherubin and adjusted a few of the motions.  Hopefully it worked all right!  It’s certainly not perfect, but everything’s a learning experience.

Look!!  Rough animation!!

I’d like to clean it up at some point and make it all purty, with a background and junk, but that may have to wait for a bit.  In the meanwhile, have this!

HUGE thanks to everyone in the stream chat who hung out, especially to @heilos and @shadowlillium for their advice on certain parts!

(still best viewed with this song:


Now that President Obama’s term is almost over, we’re taking stock of one of the major terms dogging his legacy– “post-racial”

This conversation is a necessary intervention on the differences among us, what we should do about them, and how we can reimagine a world that doesn’t involve us embracing post-race, but rather a society that is “post-racist.”


Honestly one of the weirdest things about the hs fandom has got to be the sprite edits. We take canon images of characters and alter them for no reason at all, and i have no idea why and have never seen another fandom equivalent thats not just accepted, but expected. Like oh its gamzee but with vriskas hair and kanayas horns and also his horns are hanging off those horns. Again.



After drawing the initial designs for both Centurious and Zarathos, I decided very quickly that I wasn’t at all satisfied with them… so here are some updated designs for them!  With the new looks, I’ve got a bit of new information, so under the cut we go for the breakdowns. :D

(Click here or head under the cut to continue reading.)

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friday night when the sun looked away
i cut stars from soup cans, taped them

to my ceiling. took a picture
& framed it in my irises. threaded winter

into my hair, took a kitchen knife & sliced,
easier than a breath. let it pool

between my toes: silk oceans, the sort
you wouldn’t mind drowning in. wove a pair

of wings from the threads. friday night
i left my carcass shriveled & shivering,

draped across the bathtub, kneeling on tile,
praying to an invisible god. cut myself out

of an airtight castle womb. swallowed yesterday
with a mouthful of tap water & jumped

out the window.

— rapunzel rising, paperharbors // view other reimagined fairytales!

Harry Potter Titles Reimagined

Harry Potter and The Shiny Red Rock of Life
Harry Potter and the Room That No One can Find Cuz it’s a Secret
Harry Potter and the Guy From Wizard Guantanamo Bay
Harry Potter and Cup That Wasn’t Up to Fire Code
Harry Potter and the Firebird People
Harry Potter and the Nickname That Was Better Then Voldemort
Harry Potter and the Three Things of Death
Harry Potter and the Cursed Bros Bein’ Bros