FEATURE: Bartering Lines: The Fall from Grace of Ryan Adams




Bartering Lines


IN THIS PHOTO: Ryan Adams photoed in New York on 17th September 2015/PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hallman/Invision/AP file  

The Fall from Grace of Ryan Adams


I would like to say 2019 will unveil fewer...



cases where male artists are in the news for the wrong reason. The problem only exists with male artists and I am talking about them taking things too far; being accused of sexual misconduct, inappropriateness and bad behaviour. In so many cases the allegations are so serious you have to wonder why they are still allowed to continue making music. There have been high-profile cases of artists being accused – including R. Kelly – and it is always harrowing and upsetting to see. The latest musician who has coming under fire is Ryan Adams. I know his music fairly well and love his albums such as Gold and Heartbreaker. His talent is undeniable and his consistency is strong. His previous record, Prisoner, was released in 2017 but there has been other material brewing – most of his plans in that regard have now been cancelled. Few outside of Adams’ circle would have expected to hear the news that is circulating regarding his actions. To make things clearer, Vox reported the story on Thursday:

Musician Ryan Adams is the latest powerful man to be accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo eraIn a new New York Times report, multiple women — including Adams’s ex-wife, the singer and actress Mandy Moore — say that Adams dangled professional opportunities in front of them and then used those opportunities to manipulate them into sex. In the relationships that ensued, these women say, Adams would become controlling and emotionally abusive. “Music was a point of control for him,” says Moore.


IN THIS PHOTO: Mandy Moore/PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images  

In a Twitter thread, Adams characterized the accusations against him as “upsettingly inaccurate,” saying, “Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false.”

According to the Times article, Adams follows a pattern. He reportedly approaches aspiring young musicians and “love bombs” them, telling them they are brilliant and talented and that he would like to work with them. Usually, the women are at the beginning of their careers, and often they are very young; one woman whom the Times identifies as Ava says she was 14 when Adams first approached her online. “I was really alone,” Ava told the Times, “and he was really friendly and cool”.

I have seen a few reports relating to various male artists and it always gives me an uneasy feeling. I do wonder why they feel they can behave this way and whether this impression remains: the big star with all the power feeling they can act any way they want with a woman because they are famous. I think there is still a small sector (of male artists) who abuse their power and think, just because they are popular and move people with their music, there are no rules in everyday life. We have to ask, with yet another high-profile musician in the spotlight, whether something needs to be done. The repercussions for Adams will be severe. The backlash has already started.

This article responds to reports Adams’ forthcoming album, Big Colors, has been held back following investigation by the FBI into his actions:

The release of Ryan Adams’s new album Big Colors has been shelved following accusations that the singer behaved abusively towards an underage girl.

According to the New York Times, the FBI is now investigating claims that he sent more than 3,000 text messages to the girl over a nine-month period starting in late 2014, when she was 15.

The 44-year-old singer-songwriter from North Carolina had planned to release three albums this year, with Big Colors due on April 19th.

Variety reports that Universal Music Group, which distributes Adams’ releases, has pulled the album from its schedule, and the website for Adams’ own label, Pax-Am, has deleted the pre-order pages for the new album”.

I think the effects and snowball will continue to remove Adams from the market. One wonders, like R. Kelly, whether fans will buy his music or whether he will be allowed to release an album. We have heard a score of albums from Adams and few were interpreting them in any other way bar an innocent sense. Now, amid these allegations, people will scrutinise and wonder whether there was ulterior meaning and intent. Any new record will be poured over and picked apart; people looking to see whether messages of sexual desire are aimed at the women/girls described in testimonies and reports.


PHOTO CREDIT: Jason LaVeris/Getty  

There is, as I intimated, this idea that male stars with a big following feel they are entitled to act as they please and have this insulation of protection and fame. Laura Snapes, in The Guardian provided her experiences and related a dark truth: the case of Ryan Adams is the tip of a fairly large iceberg:

The concept of male genius insulates against all manner of sin. Bad behaviour can be blamed on his prerequisite troubled past. His trademark sensitivity offers plausible deniability when he is accused of less-than-sensitive behaviour. His complexity underpins his so-called genius. As I wrote for this paper in 2015: “Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of ‘difficult’ artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art.” This was after, in response to an interview request, Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek told a crowd that I was a “bitch” who wanted to have his babies. Note, too, how many female geniuses are dismissed as divas, their art depicted as a symptom of disorder, their responses to mistreatment and calls for respect characterised as proof of an irrational nature”.

There are those who have met Adams and claim that there were suspicions; there were signs that he was abusing his power and acting inappropriately towards women. The New York Times talked about women coming forward relating their experiences; how Adams operated and how he managed to use his lure and status to take advantage of women:

Some now say that Adams’s rock-star patronage masked a darker reality. In interviews, seven women and more than a dozen associates described a pattern of manipulative behavior in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex...


In some cases, they said, he would turn domineering and vengeful, jerking away his offers of support when spurned, and subjecting women to emotional and verbal abuse, and harassment in texts and on social media. The accounts have been corroborated by family members or friends who were present at the time, as well as by correspondence from Adams reviewed by The New York Times.

The music world, in which a culture of late nights and boundary-pushing behavior has been normalized, hasn’t been as roiled by the #MeToo movement as other sectors of media and entertainment. But many in the business say that harassment and inequitable treatment of women is pervasive and that the “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” ethos has shielded men from being held to account.

Other women in music said they, too, were subjected to Adams’s intense flattery and a bait and switch in which professional opportunities would be commingled with sexual come-ons.

The musician Phoebe Bridgers was 20 when Adams invited her to the Pax-Am studio one night in fall 2014. “There was a mythology around him,” she said. “It seemed like he had the power to propel people forward”.

I do hope we do not see other incidences of men in music being called up because of their behaviour towards women. I am shocked by what I am reading about Ryan Adams and there are likely to be more details in the coming days. You do wonder what will become of his recording career.

The once-celebrated songwriter has inspired scores of new artists but you wonder whether Adams will be able to record again and release his material. Nobody can stop him doing that but there has been a definite fall from grace. It is hard to know whether his music should remain on streaming sites or removed. Certainly, the future is clear: the American artist will not enjoy the opportunities and (positive) attention he once did. Many will still stream and buy his records but many will turn away and banish his music. I have heard many of his albums and there is this uneasy aftertaste now. Pitchfork published a piece that highlighted a good point regarding men in music.

Every time another headline pops up about how women are underrepresented on the charts or in music production or missing from festival lineups, we should think about the countless gatekeepers who, instead of helping women, used their positions for sexual gain at the expense of their targets. This casual abuse of power is the norm in music, a grey area unlikely to be dealt with by a male-dominated industry still just wading into #MeToo. But the Ryan Adams account is a necessary reminder that this is what many women deal with, at one point or another, in pursuit their dreams. The more often these difficult stories are told, the less abusers can hide behind feigned ignorance and weak, deflective apologies”.

There are a lot of discussions to be had following the Ryan Adams revelations. I think there needs to be some sort of moderation to ensure we do not continue to see big male artists exposed and accused. Maybe there is this never-ending myth regarding the male artist and this sort of lurid fantasy – that they could get away with anything and do what they please. The artists accused can defend themselves and make excuses but I do not think there is anywhere to hide or any excuse they can make. It is 2019 and we cannot continue to see women/girls controlled and abused by male musicians. What happens next regarding Ryan Adams? I think his music career will continue but he will definitely not be afforded the platforms and radioplay he is used to. I am not sure how many accusations come through but I am pretty sure we have not seen the end of them. Let’s hope Adams’ predicament sends a message to other male artists out there. Maybe we will never see the end of the darker and more sworded side of the industry but let’s hope there will not be another case where an established artist does what Ryan Adams has done (or been accused of). Adams’ career will suffer but the real victims are the women who have been hurt by him. They are the ones whose voices need to be heard to ensure we do not see anything as troubling...



AS this again.