Abuse allegations, cancellations and resurrection: Ryan Adams knows how hell burns

The musician, who was accused of harassment and mistreatment, was cancelled. Now, after giving up alcohol and taking up sports, he is back with a successful personal and musical redemption

Ryan Adams in an Instagram photograph.
Ryan Adams in an Instagram photograph.

Only those who have been to hell know what how hard it is to get out. Ryan Adams, one of the most talented American musicians of the 21st century, has long been trying to climb out of the deep hole he fell into after a devastating report published by The New York Times in February 2019 revealed the accusations of abuse of power, mistreatment and sexual misconduct that had been made against him. After years in ostracism, it seems that now, after a harsh atonement, he is beginning to see the light. A well-received solo tour of the United States and Europe, as well as the reunion with The Cardinals, his old band, with whom he will also be performing on many stages, are signs that the musician, who used to be compared to Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, has resurfaced.

In the shadow of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the shock wave of the #MeToo movement, The New York Times gave voice to seven women who painted the profile of a stalking, emotionally unstable, obsessive, manipulative and tyrannical artist. Among them was his ex-wife, the singer and actress Mandy Moore, who accused him of mistreating her and blocking her musical career after they broke up. There was also composer Phoebe Bridgers, his ex-girlfriend, who denounced his sexual misconduct and his constant abuse of power, to the point of terminating her contract as an opening act when she decided to break up with him. Even an underage complainant provided more than 3,000 private messages as proof of phone and video communications of a sexual nature. The article destroyed him. His name went from being synonymous with artistic quality to toxic masculinity.

The plunge into hell was so deep that this prolific composer, who was capable of releasing four albums in one year or writing more than 50 songs after a breakup, literally disappeared. After apologizing for some of his behavior and denying that he had had sexual relations with a minor, he deleted all his public profiles. Meanwhile, his career was taking a nosedive: no records, no concerts, no interviews. Nothing. For the industry, Adams had become a persona non grata. Record labels did not want to release his albums; promoters did not want to book his tours. Only in 2021, after the FBI investigation against him was closed due to lack of evidence, did he reopen his Instagram account.

Today, an Instagram account can be a good way to assess a person’s position. At least, this has been Adams’ case. In the social network where posing is the norm, he showed himself as more fragile and desperate than ever. He went as far as to refer to himself as “damaged goods” and told all about his bankruptcy, how he slept in his sister’s basement and was unable to get a job. He asked for help while trying to show the image of a man who took care of himself and played sports, a cat lover who self-published his records and uploaded videos of other artists’ versions. Someone who tried to answer politely, be it in public or in private, to those who were still interested in his music. He seemed finished, but he was not.

Today, a smiling, polite Adams offers three-hour concerts, something that never happened before the scandal. His arrogance and instability have given way to a more humble and communicative guy, albeit one that is still damaged. He keeps posting new music and covers of Bob Dylan, Oasis or Bruce Springsteen songs. He is hyperactive, as always, although he seems like a different person. One who knows how hell burns.

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