The singer’s public persona was romantic and sensitive, but women are accusing him of manipulative, emotional abuse
Ryan Adams has a new song out today, but if you google his name you won’t find it on the first page of results. Instead, an article published by The New York Times yesterday titled Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price, dominates the news.
In it, seven women and “associates” of Adams have made allegations of emotional abuse against him, detailing stories of “pattern of manipulative behaviour” and using the promise of a career in return for sex, dominates the music news. Adams denies all the claims made against him.
The most prominent and shocking story comes from Ava, who is going by her middle name to protect her identity because at the time of her online sexual relationship with Adams, she was just 15 and 16-years-old. Ava says that her and Adams would video chat on Skype, during which Adams would expose himself, and even though the girl told him she was older than she actually was, some of Adams’ messages suggest he didn’t believe her -“i [sic] would get in trouble if someone knew we talked like this,” he once wrote; “If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley [sic] lol,” read another. He was 39-years-old when he started talking to the minor on Twitter.
Ava had been posting her own music to Twitter, and was understandably elated when Adams reached out. The singer is well-known for his support of upcoming artists, particularly women, often bringing them on stage and signing them to his own music labels. Rising star Phoebe Bridgers is a shining example of how getting in with Adams’ can supposedly launch a career - or at least, that’s the story he would have us believe.
In the The New York Times article, Bridgers explains how after a few sessions in the studio, Adams’ communication became flirty so much so that the pair began a relationship. It ended after a spate of what Bridgers remembers as obsessive and emotionally abusive behaviour, to which Adams responded by dropping her music almost entirely. Eventually, the pair reconciled - Adams released Bridger’s music and invited her out on tour with him, which was seen as a huge honour. “Then, the first day, he asked me to bring him something in his hotel room,” she told The New York Times, “I came upstairs and he was completely nude.”
Other female musicians have similar stories. Courtney Jaye and two other female singers who prefer to stay anonymous claimed Adams was at first keen to boost their careers, then turning flirty and finally, emotionally manipulative. Mandy Moore, who was previously married to Adams, told the paper of how he would consistently compare her fledgling career to his superstardom, “He would always tell me, ‘You’re not a real musician, because you don’t play an instrument.’” Moore says his behaviour throughout their romantic and professional relationship amounted to psychological abuse.
Adams is most famous for his romantic soft-rock, with passionate, intimate lyrics - cool enough to be a fanciable rockstar, but subdued enough to be marriage material. He even released a whole album of Taylor Swift songs. In doing so, Adams offered an alternative to the traditional restraints of masculinity, which is why these allegations sit so uncomfortably. Women who are fans of the singer-songwriter or even simply grew up listening to his music would have no doubt been shocked by yesterday’s alleged revelations – a man like Ryan Adams would never do such a thing, they may think. And that’s the exact sort of thinking we all need to let go of.
Because anyone is capable of abuse, whether it’s financial, emotional, physical, psychological or technological. Abuse of all kinds is pervasive yet insidious, sometimes you don’t even recognise it until someone else points it out, or - as is the case here - until other women tell their stories. Though it is notoriously overdue, the music industry has been painfully slow at initiating a #MeToo movement, but allegations like the ones against Adams are no less important than those against, say, Harvey Weinstein. Adams may not be accused of rape, but his misuse of power does draw parallels to that of the disgraced movie mogul. Sure, he may not look or act like he is capable of such abhorrent behaviour. But maybe he is.
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