People knock Ryan Adams for so many reasons. "He's moody". "His concerts are inconsistent." "He does too many drugs". "He's pretentious". "His albums now aren't as good as his old ones". "He was better with Whiskeytown". "He Wears his influences on his sleeve". "He's self-aware and his albums are self-indulgent". People can say what they like to say, but I think that some music fans are far too picky with Adams; he is what he is.
Adams has released three albums with Whiskeytown, and a grand total of seven solo releases, each with its own borderline-genius qualities. And Heartbreaker is the amazing album that started all of this.
Adams is commonly quoted as saying that Whiskeytown was a "creative prison" for him; it's easy to tell in the music. Whiskeytown albums, which are all fantastic, have a produced, romantic quality about them. The lyrics, which are great, are not up to par of what Adams is capable of writing, as we've seen from his seven post-Whiskeytown releases. Although I think Whiskeytown is great, I always hear people say they're better than Ryan Adams on his own, and I don't see how something that even Adams himself says was stifling for him can be considered so much greater than Post-releases.
And so here is Heartbreaker, a STELLAR, widely overlooked debut alt-country album. From the first track, To Be Young, it is clear that Adams is capable of something truly amazing. The uptempo songs are fun and fierce, the slower-tempo songs are deep, introspective, and highly romantic but not in a shallow, one-dimensional way. They express something much greater, much more thoughtful, and much more saddening and thought-provoking than many artists who release 'heartbreak' albums.
Adams' aim, unlike many artists, is not to get political, or preach meaningful values. His aim is to make music. And not for the fans, but for himself. He makes songs that he finds interesting or that he finds funny and ironic. And that is what real artistry is all about. And with a gritty, soulful voice with a great range, virtuosity with many instruments (a standout in 'Heartbreaker' is the harmonica), and clever lyrics, Adams is full of talent. And I challenge anyone to deny that.