Tracks of the Decade: “To Be Young” by Ryan Adams

ryanadams2“To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”
by Ryan Adams
from HEARTBREAKER (2000)

Nobody was as omnipresent as Ryan Adams this decade. Recording ten full-length LP’s, releasing numerous other tracks on EP’s and compilations, and appearing in association with artists from Counting Crows to Elton John, Adams began the decade with his own FREEWHEELIN’ and ended it roughly around his own NEW MORNING. I won’t go so far as to say that he peaked extremely early, but I will say that I don’t think he ever topped the remarkable beauty of the lead-off track from his debut, HEARTBREAKER. I remember thinking “To Be Young” made a huge case for Adams as Dylan’s second coming, managing to channel Robertson’s lead riffs over the devil-may-care shuffling rhythms of BLONDE ON BLONDE. While the lyrics are nothing special, Adams scores big by letting the simple language of lovelorn youth do the talking. “When you’re young/You get sad/Then you get high…” Adams sings, riding the lyrics on the lush melody like an old surf legend. Incredulity ensues on the bridge – “Oh the days the rain would fall your way” – as Adams ushers the song to new heights and seems right on the edge of emotional flame out. Simply brilliant, all around. While Adams unleashed a lot of great material on the public this decade, “To Be Young” set expectations so high that I don’t think he could’ve ever topped it. Who cares about the whole Dylan-thing anyway? Adams gave us a song for the ages here.

2 Responses to Tracks of the Decade: “To Be Young” by Ryan Adams

  1. Sandy says:

    Heartbreaker is the single most overrated album I know. Cold Roses, JCN, and Love is Hell are all better albums.

    • John says:

      Hi, thanks for posting. I agree, I don’t even own a copy of HEARTBREAKER (though “In My Time of Need” is great), and COLD ROSES and EASY TIGER are far superior in my opinion. Still, “To Be Young” is something special.

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