Ryan Adams' '1989' & 10 Indie Artists Who Should Record Pop Cover Albums

Kelly Clarkson and Bon Iver 2015
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Kelly Clarkson and Bon Iver.

What would Bon Iver’s take on a Kelly Clarkson album sound like? How about Animal Collective’s Madonna tribute? Here are 10 cover album we need to hear.

Ryan Adams’ full-length cover of Taylor Swift’s mega-selling 1989 album has offered fans of the blockbuster LP a completely contrasting version of the songs they’ve come to love. The recording exercise has also paid dividends for Adams, a longtime alt-rock icon who has seen a groundswell of media coverage and inflated sales expectations for his T-Swift tribute.

Ryan Adams Talks 'Vibey' Unreleased Demos Cut With Taylor Swift & His '1989' Cover Album

Adams’ 1989 album definitely has us thinking about other indie-leaning artists who should take a break from their regular oeuvre and sink their teeth into full-length salutes to memorable pop projects. Which Pitchfork-approved artists need to put their spin on an existing pop album — and which pop album should they focus on? Naturally, we came up with 10 suggestions.

Here are our picks for the next Ryan Adams 1989 — as in, the pop albums that need to be re-imagined by indie music’s best and brightest:

Indie Artist: Bon Iver
Pop Album To Cover: Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway

Like Bon Iver’s fireside folk balladry, Kelly Clarkson’s biggest and best album has a tender heart beating within its fist-raising breakup hits. Enjoy Ryan Adams stripping down “Bad Blood”? Justin Vernon deconstructing “Since U Been Gone” with extra wispiness would sound way better.

Indie Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
Pop Album To Cover: Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Like Gaga’s 2011 opus, the Gaslight Anthem has spent its entire career with the phrase “Bruce Springsteen influence” pinned to it, for better or worse. Their rollicking rock sound would puncture songs like “The Edge of Glory” and “Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)” with just enough grit without sacrificing any of the Jersey-bred bombast.

Indie Artist: Sun Kil Moon
Pop Album To Cover: Britney Spears, Blackout

Sun Kil Moon mastermind Mark Kozelek makes brilliant music while also saying and doing highly questionable things outside of his records. That sounds a whole lot like Britney Spears circa 2007, and the perfect excuse to request a confessional folk version of “Piece of Me.”

Taylor Swift (And Her Cat!) Are Counting Down to Ryan Adams' '1989' Cover Album

Indie Artist: Arcade Fire
Pop Album To Cover: Beyonce, Beyonce

Beyonce is a snapshot of marital bliss refracted through one of popular music’s most commanding personalities; Arcade Fire leaders Win Butler and Régine Chassagne have long been drunk in love, and have been making music on an impossibly grandiose scale for decades. We’ve already heard Arcade Fire cover songs like Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly” and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” in concert, so let’s hear their “XO” and “Partition,” please.

Indie Artist: tUnE-yArDs
Pop Album To Cover: Justin Timberlake, Futuresex/LoveSounds

In the same way that JT’s sophomore solo album pastes R&B, electronica and hip-hop to its sexually charged, bulletproof pop core, Merrill Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs project has long integrated world music and indie-rock into its giant hooks. Imagine replacing the sleek production of “Sexyback” with the percussion pile-up of “Gangsta”; you’re at the very least intrigued, right?

Indie Artist: Perfume Genius
Pop Album To Cover: Fergie, The Dutchess

We want to hear Mike Hadreas’ “Queen”-esque power stance on “Fergalicious” and hauntingly fragile take on “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in the same project. Nay — we need to hear it.

Indie Artist: Grizzly Bear
Pop Album To Cover: Katy Perry, Teenage Dream

Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste is decidedly not a part of Taylor Swift’s squad, so why not cement the #TeamKaty stance by tackling Perry’s most hits-packed album to date? The veteran indie group could bring the harmonic soar of “Two Weeks” to “Firework,” and the sprawled-out glide of “Knife” to “The One That Got Away.”

Indie Artist: Animal Collective
Pop Album To Cover: Madonna, Ray of Light

The bulk of AC’s best songs (“My Girls,” “Fireworks,” “Who Could Win a Rabbit”) possess off-kilter dance elements, and hearing the quartet mess with on one of the most iconic dance albums of the 90’s would be downright breathtaking. “Nothing Really Matters” with some wild vocal chants? Let’s do it.

Indie Artist: James Blake
Pop Album To Cover: Adele, 21

If one were to criticize Adele’s blockbuster sophomore album, the argument would surely begin with the fact that its 11 soul songs are deeply traditional, with very little forward-thinking production techniques. Enter James Blake, a natural experimentalist who is still capable of crafting affecting R&B tracks like his “Limit To Your Love” cover. Blake’s entrancing voice might not be able to reach the heights of “Rolling in the Deep,” but his take on the song would no doubt be progressive.

Indie Artist: Deafheaven
Pop Album To Cover: Justin Bieber, My World 2.0

I mean… imagine hearing “Baby” in this unrelenting black metal style:

Who wouldn’t want to hear that?! I’d pay good money for the Deafheaven version of “Eenie Meenie,” personally.


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