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Ryan Adams compares Taylor Swift to Shakespeare

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 27/10/2015 Joe Satran
Taylor Swift © AAP Image Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is a genius. We can all agree on that. Right? She was born in 1989, almost 10 years before Napster started a chain reaction that resulted in the implosion of the music industry, and yet she's already managed to build an entertainment conglomerate that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. 

But is she a genius in the same way that Shakespeare is a genius?

Ryan Adams thinks so. In an interview with The Guardian, the rock musician compared making his recent song-for-song cover album of Swift's "1989" to performing Shakespeare as an actor.


Going from making his own music to making his version of "1989," he said, was like "being in 'Ghostbusters' or something, and then all of a sudden I have to go do Shakespeare." 

His interviewer suggested that this might be hyperbole, but Adams wasn't having it. 

"Well, look, those songs are popular for a reason," Adams said. "She’s a popular artist for a reason."

It is a fact that Shakespeare -- even though we think of him as lofty, literary and difficult -- was very popular in his day. You might even say that his plays were the Elizabethan equivalent of Taylor Swift's concerts.

Plus, the literary critic most invested in the concept of genius, Harold Bloom, believes that literary genius is always the result of an artist's struggle against the anxiety of influence -- especially the influence of great writers like Shakespeare. Swift displayed her own form of that anxiety with her hit single, "Love Story," which was a kind of strong misreading of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," with a happy ending.  

We do have to admit that the whole "Ghostbusters" element of Adams' statement throws us for a loop. Maybe that's a sign of his own anxiety of influence vis-a-vis Swift? In any case, as far as comparisons go, Shakespeare is even better than a summer's day. 

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