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Music / Ryan Adams

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Who is David Ryan Adams?

A punk singer, an alt-rocker, a country singer, a Black metalhead?

Born on November 5, 1974, he's a native of Jacksonville, North Carolina, but has lived in New York for quite a while.

In his own words, he started a punk band in Nashville (believe it nor not, there's a big punk scene out there), but started a country band 'cos punk "was too hard to sing."

He spent his first years as anything of significance as a member of the alt-country band Whiskeytown, where he became known in alt-country circuits for straightforward but deep lyrics in the tradition of Gram Parsons and his ilk. After Whiskeytown split up (thanks in no small part to Adams himself), he went solo, releasing the emphatically country Heartbreaker in 2000. A year later, he had the remarkable good fortune of releasing Gold, opening with a track entitled "New York, New York" two weeks after 9/11. (The song was in fact about one of his girlfriends; he has a habit of referring to women in his songs by their city of origin) causing that song's video — which prominently featured the World Trade Center towers and was dedicated to those who lost their lives on that day — to get massive MTV airplay. He produced a few good albums after that, including ''Love is Hell," which included a cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" so good that Noel Gallagher himself felt compelled to use it until his brother Liam forced him to stop.

He then decided to release not one, not two, but three entirely new studio albums in one year (2005). And he did it, picking up a backing band (the Cardinals) and showing up on Letterman in the process, and producing what his alt-country fans consider to be his best album (Jacksonville City Nights), to boot.

After three more albums (one unofficially, the other two officially) with the Cardinals, he broke up the band in 2009, married Mandy Moore, released some Black Metal tracks as "Werewolph," and some generic Hard Rock ones as "Sleazy Handshake." The next year (2010) he announced that he would try yet again to release a large number of entirely new studio albums; one (Orion) is a Science Fiction Heavy Metal Concept Album that drew criticism, confusion, and general anger from the music press; Cardinals III/IV (recorded quite some time earlier) was released in 2010, and we're still awaiting Blackhole. Another solo album, Ashes & Fire, was released in late 2011. While fans are appreciative of the amount of work he's doing, a lot would prefer him to focus and come out with a solid album for once (most of his albums suffer from high levels of Album Filler). He then proceeded to confuse everyone by releasing a cover album, covering, of all things, Taylor Swift's 1989 in his own style.


  • Heartbreaker (2000)
  • Gold (2001)
  • Demolition (2002)
  • Rock N Roll (2003)
  • Love Is Hell (2004)
  • Cold Roses (with The Cardinals) (2005)
  • Jacksonville City Nights (with The Cardinals) (2005)
  • 29 (2005)
  • Easy Tiger (with The Cardinals, but billed as solo) (2007)
  • Follow the Lights (with The Cardinals) (2007)
  • Cardinology (with The Cardinals) (2008)
  • Orion (limited edition album) (2010)
  • Cardinals III/IV (with The Cardinals) (2010)
  • Ashes & Fire (2011)
  • 1989 (2015)
  • Prisoner (2017)

Tropes present in his work:

  • Album Filler: The natural effect of his ridiculously prodigious output. Particularly annoying on Cold Roses, which had the potential to be a really great album otherwise.
  • Berserk Button: He finds nothing humorous when concert-goers request songs by a certain 80's pop singer who happens to share all the letter's in the younger Adams' name. However he seems to have gotten over this in the last couple of years, he now occasionally performs Bryan's "Run To You" at his shows.
    • Infamously, he once refunded a heckler out of his own pocket at a gig in 2002 and refused to play again until he was removed for requesting "Summer of 69", but Ryan pointed out in a later interview that he was more annoyed about the guy drunkenly screaming over an acapella segment of the gig, not the specifics.
  • Cover Version: He managed to cover all of Taylor Swift's hit album "1989". Amusingly, both albums were in the top 10 when Adams' version was released.
    • His song "When the Stars go Blue" has been covered by multiple artists, including Tim McGraw and the Corrs with Bono.
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Oh My Sweet Carolina" is about a nomadic ne'er-do-well who has been all over the place, but misses his home in North Carolina and wonders what compels him to roam.
  • Jerkass: He's gotten better over the years, but he was infamous in his younger days for being an erratic, abusive, angry drunk who alienated friends, bandmates, and audience members alike because of it.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: His manager called him up and put him on the spot to come up with a title for his first solo album; he happened to be in a room where a poster of Mariah Carey wearing a t-shirt that read "heartbreaker" was hanging on the wall, so that became the title.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "When the Stars Go Blue" rhymes "blue" with itself.
  • Studio Chatter: A couple examples appear on Heartbreaker: The Album Intro Track "Argument With David Rawlings Concerning Morrissey" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin (i.e. an in-studio debate about which album an unnamed Morrissey song was on), while "In My Time Of Need" starts with him muttering "All right... Sittin' on my foot is weird".
  • The Cover Changes the Gender : He covered Taylor Swift's 1989 album in its entirety, mostly (but not quite always) changing the lyrics whenever they referred to gender. The most subtle change is in "Wildest Dreams", where, since the lyrics refer to the subject of the song in the second person, he really only has to change one word: "standing in a nice dress" becomes "standing in your nice dress".