Can you forgive Ryan Adams?

Ryan Adams has released six albums in the past year. Haven’t you noticed? Then you’re probably like most people, at least outside the US. The singer-songwriter recently undertook a sold-out tour there, including performances at Carnegie Hall in New York, and fought his way back into the limelight to some extent.

The albums that came out in 2022 were Chris, Romeo & Juliet (both released in April) and FM (July), plus the leftover collection Devolver (September) and two complete covers, which were like Christmas presents were freely downloadable from Adams’ websites: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks.

As most recently with Adams, not all pieces catch fire, but on every work there are some that touch you with their yearning indulgence (“Romeo & Juliet”), sometimes with pure despair (“Hall Of Shame”) – and a lot of joy he still has a swinging soft rock (“Aching For More”). Normally, these remarkable albums would immediately find at least one distributor in Germany, if not a decent label. But Adams hasn’t been normal for a number of years, and of course it’s his own fault.

In “About Time” he sings: “Carrying a lot around with me these days/ I’m bad with question marks/ Ten tons and piling up/ Feels like an accident/ Like I just walked out of frame/ Can’t find my way back/ Back into the pitch.” How do you get back on the field with so much baggage? As a reminder, Adams made the headlines in 2019 for exchanging sex messages with a 15-year-old girl who posed as an adult and apparently harassing her virtually (he never met her). His ex-wife Mandy Moore and colleague Phoebe Bridgers also reported mental abuse and other wrongdoing.

Ultimately, what Adams did was obviously not justiciable – there were no criminal charges, the FBI closed the investigation. But all friends, it seemed, were gone – only producer Don Was sticks by him. However, Adams hasn’t done himself any favors either by not being able to get at least one meaningful interview about him
to give topic. Instead, he wrote a public letter far too late acknowledging that he shouldn’t expect an apology – and he managed to get sober and stay so for now.

I respect everyone who stops giving Ryan Adams money because he behaved so badly. At the same time, I allow myself to wish to continue hearing his voice. I don’t have to like people to appreciate their songs. I also don’t see it as a betrayal of the women involved – Bridgers and Moore get along just fine without my having to show my solidarity by boycotting Adams. That’s no use to anyone. Perhaps
In such ambivalent cases, we can also allow different attitudes.

And we don’t have to forgive Ryan Adams right away, but we could give him a chance to prove that he’s really trying to be a better man.