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Friends have recently passed me articles on Ryan Adams, the musician that was cancelled due to alleged poor behavior in romantic relationships that also impacted his business partnerships. I’m a fan of his music, but have become more concerned about the wreckage left behind from his career annihilation. This most recent one from LA Mag.  I read a few opinion pieces previously that left me sad for our society as a whole, as they poured on more damnation and judgement on this easy target, unrelenting, even while he was clearly still on the ground struggling to get up years later. Lazy writing that preached to the choir and brought no original thought process, took no chances, and from the male perspective, which was especially disappointing but expected. Only fall-in-line, approved rhetoric. But this article finally, is real journalism.  It lets the reader form their own opinions rather than the writer’s.  Steve Appleford presented unfamiliar puzzle pieces and laid them out next to the incomplete picture, he doesn’t try to drill in some life lesson. It’s also a clearer portrait of the current state of a fellow human that has been through something fairly unique for this age group, by this age group.  The two featured photos by Ian Spanier probably reveal the side of Adams that I think may be the most accurate portrayal.  

Appleford recounts the accusations one by one and in revisiting them with a few never before reported tidbits, they take on a different light. Mandy Moore, the ex-wife that accused him of reneging on collaboration promises was, in fact, introduced to producers, songwriters and engineers, and amazing ones, by the way. What responsibility does a spouse play in career boosting? As Ryan states, the guitar was in that room and it’s up to the person to go pick it up. True words, dat. If your marriage foundation rested on promises of promotion, what does that say of your true relationship? That particular accusation, that he stood in the way of her career, always hit me sideways but wasn’t as apparent grouped into the other allegations of abuse. That reminds me of a similar illusion. Have you ever seen a group of blonde girls together on the beach in bikinis? If just one of them is smokin’ hot, somehow they all look incredible, while standing together. If you pull them apart, only then will you see that just one was pretty. Individually, that statement is just a circumstance in a marriage gone sour. It reflects poorly on both of them. But it sure did make the group seem more legit at the time. Now it’s all dissolving like melting ice in the summer sun.

Another thing that struck me, unlike some of his Instagram posts, that come off too childish, Ryan’s own words gave me new insight into the personality behind all this mess. Like in the interview when Ryan cops to the possibility of saying hurtful words in his marriage:

“If that were to ever to come out of my mouth, I would have hoped that it was followed immediately by a sincere apology,” Adams says now. “I am capable of saying things that I later regret and it sucks to ever have that happen.” He adds that he couldn’t have possibly meant it, since the first time he saw Moore perform at the Roxy in West Hollywood, she closed her set playing a coveted Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar in a difficult tuning. “It was so good,” he says, “everyone’s mind was blown.”

This is a flawed person talking about real world marriage stuff and it reads sincere as does much of his take on his history with Ava, Mandy and Phoebe. He could be a great liar but it’s all plausible.

It was most interesting to hear his female crew members bring new insight to certain aspects, like his struggle with body image not fitting logically with the ‘greeted naked at the door’ charge. That they felt shocked enough by the allegations to try to reach Phoebe for specifics, was telling of their sincerity to get at the truth. Their own integrity was at stake. The fact that they don’t give their names, also highlights how people that try to go against cancel culture are deathly afraid to speak out in support of an accused, lest they lose their own jobs and livelihood. Isn’t that so ironic to you, that fear of speaking the truth as you know it, is the exact thing this movement is supposed to be fighting against? And again, he did aide Bridgers in a good amount of press as well as releasing her 3 song EP, among other things. Her accusations that he demanded phone sex or too much attention, is an odd definition of abuse. A definite sign to, yeah, get the hell out of there, but in a short-term fling, like they had, I would describe only sad and annoying. His statement about musicians coming together throughout history and breaking up does put that hook-up into better perspective. Still, this is the area that I felt had the most weight because it involved his business and contracts. That’s where I think we could make change in the music industry but it becomes too murky when we learn of their history of mutual sex and involvement. Who knows what went down.

The FBI investigation had been nixed since 2019 and even the elusive Ava issued a statement that resolved him. The fact that Adams and Ava have communicated and forgiven each other, has probably helped Ava in any needed healing. It’s a good ending for anyone who genuinely cared about her.

So now, here we are watching this broken man-child, selling his songs and on the brink of losing every last thing he owns. We will see who has the cojones to give this guy a second chance to rebuild a music career. That goes for everyone, all my male friends that secretly wrote me to say they agreed, this was a way over the top reaction and injustice. And the women who know right from wrong, that taking away whole lives in this way, is not a just sentence and nothing we should ever take lightly. I hope the likes of you speak out, somewhere, somehow. This man, proven guilty only of being a bad boyfriend, husband and immature jerk, but not much else could be any one of us. Remorseful enough or not, I agree with him, it IS as though people want to see him dead and that should frighten all of us. Not to mention how dangerous and shameful it is to provoke someone so depressed. I’ve seen such soulless behavior from our youth lately and it saddens me to consider what or who could be next. I totally support Ryan’s efforts to move forward by writing songs and music. Don’t we want people to get better? If the end goal has changed to retaliation and condemnation, then you can count me out. I certainly don’t need contrition from him or anyone. I hope Moore, Bridgers and Ava feel the same but they should be the only ones to want it. Besides, this life muck that comes out of hurtful but consensual relationships is the very fuel for creativity.

As far as I can see the #MeToo Movement gained nothing here, made no strides, perhaps took a step back, and should not feel proud. Women are so strong in understanding complicated concepts, like recognizing weaknesses in good men and knowing the difference between being in danger and being in a bad relationship, one being serious and the other more a teaching moment for both. This situation, for me, will always be a gross misuse of power by the movement, the New York Times, by Mandy Moore and by Phoebe Bridgers.

As a fan, I’ve watched a few of Ryan’s recent You Tube couch performances and felt slightly uncomfortable with the vulnerability on display before the music but then the songs themselves brought me to the reason I stay a fan.  Ryan’s vocal tones can sit in that sweet spot, that low-fi mood, that melancholy air that you can’t pinpoint but when you hear it, you recognize in yourself and in the times when life was somewhere in between glorious and despondent.  Because as much as we all hate getting our hearts broken, you can’t match that level of Being. Other than maybe a bad car accident when have you felt so alive? Artists that touch upon such emotion have been given such a valuable gift. We need to protect that too. It’s not his but it’s not ours to take away either and it scares me that a portion of the population feels entitled to do just that.

photos by Ian Spanier

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