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Taylor Swift

You'd be hard pressed to find a person alive who hasn't heard of Taylor Swift. For better or worse, the Nashville-born singer-songwriter who rose to fame throughout the 2000s stands among a small pantheon of 21st century pop culture icons that probably also includes the MCU, Frozen, Bluey, and "Baby Shark."

Taylor's 11-album discography has been the subject of substantial discussion as of late thanks to "The Eras Tour." This stadium-sized outing isn't just the highest grossing tour of all time (reportedly crossing one billion dollars in revenue)... it's a retrospective singalong from a star who's reached incomprehensible heights. Re-living each "Era" of the often-reinvented singer's style, the tour sees Taylor step through each discrete album for a snapshot of her life (and ours) during each age.

Swift's albums range from down-home teen country idol to domineering radio pop; from singer-songwriter laments to stadium-shaking EDM-infused anthems. Which got us to thinking... If each of those albums is a beloved time capsule, then it might be interesting to imagine which Disney theme park best aligns to your favorite Taylor Swift album. Ready to give it a go?

1. Debut

Image: Big Machine

We know, we know. It would be easy to just say, "Hey, first album, first theme park, so Disneyland!" But let's be honest. Taylor Swift's debut album – 2006's Taylor Swift – doesn't have much in common with Disneyland at all. Nicknamed "Debut" by fans, Taylor's first album is pure country swirled with pop and pop rock moments. It's a singer-songwriter sitting in her bedroom and penning entries like "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song." Compared to the Taylor Swift we know today, "Debut" sounds young, simplistic, and naive – even if it's got the makings of something more.

For that reason, we'd say that if "Debut" if your jam, your go-to Disney Park is... well... Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Okay, okay, so Disneyland Paris' infamously-underbuilt second gate has required decades and billions of dollars of reinvestment, and is still, by far, the worst Disney Park on Earth. And frankly, even its reintroduction as "Disney Adventure World" doesn't look likely to raise this park out of its bottom slot. But like "Debut," it's a work in progress; a starting point; a young, impressionable, emotional, and maybe uncentered project.

2. Fearless

Image: Taylor Swift

Released when Taylor was just 19, 2008's "Fearless" shows what can happen when a naturally talented singer-songwriter gains the esteem of "the industry." Hits like "You Belong with Me" and "Love Story" gave Swift crossover appeal and surely signaled the beginning of her ascent from country "teeny bopper" to a figure who brought country instrumentation to pop radio. Fearless was big and bright and bombastic and professional in a way that signaled that Taylor Swift would remain a figure of importance in radio play...

Idealistic and buttoned up and backed by industry professionalism, the vibes here are giving Magic Kingdom. Like "Fearless," Magic Kingdom has an air of being "corporate" and very intentionally "produced." Both are squeaky clean; reliable; filled with forever-iconic classics; and both signal the beginnings of a very big, very unstoppable era being on the horizon... 

3. Speak Now

Image: Taylor Swift

By 2010, the 21-year-old Swift had grown, and so had her experience in the industry. From there emerges "Speak Now" – an album that saw Swift pull back into songwriter mode. (She wrote every song on the album alone with no co-writers.) Deeply emotional (if occasionally shallow and simplistic), "Speak Now" produced just a few sincere radio hits ("Mine" and "Back to December"), but a whole tracklist of fan favorites (including "Mean," "Dear John," and "The Story of Us.") 

For whatever reason, "Speak Now" seems to align with Disney's newest global park – Shanghai Disneyland. Both are sorts of oddballs. Like "Speak Now," Shanghai Disneyland feels like a concept album, packed with bold reinventions (Treasure Cove, Adventure Isle, TRON Lightcycle Power Run) but also has its "samesie" moments (Peter Pan's Flight, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, etc). Shanghai Disneyland and "Speak Now" both represent eras of growth and experimentation with new ways of doing the same old thing. 

4. Red

Image: Taylor Swift

There's no question that 2012's "Red" represented the beginning of a new era for Taylor Swift. Though still largely considered a "country" album, Red dove deep into new genres altogether. "State of Grace" is a U2 style arena power ballad; "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is a radio-commanding chant-along pop anthem; "The Last Time" is an aching, emotional ballad; "I Knew You Were Trouble" infuses an electronic-style breakdown; "All Too Well" is an (eventually, ten minute) acoustic songwriter anthem considered by many to be her best track. Red is wild and chaotic, with gut punches and dance-alongs co-mingling. As Taylor herself puts it in "22" – a song about the age she was at when she wrote it – "We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time; it's miserable and magical."

No park can match the mixed bag and chaos and ongoing transformation like Disney's Hollywood Studios – a park that is, to say the least, happy, free, confused, lonely, miserable, and magical in part. Hollywood Studios has never quite figured out what it wants to be, as evidenced by its very name containing the word "Studio" – a thing it long along stopped pretending to have. It's a mess, filled with contradictions and dead-ends. But it's also got some of the most incredible attractions ever conceived. "Red" is an album of fan favorites, and Hollywood Studios is a park of them, each filled with angst and heartbreak and joy.

5. 1989

Image: Taylor Swift

At the age of 25, Swift dropped the album that pretty much marked the turning point in her career. Named for her birth year, "1989" was often cited as Swift's first certifiable pop record, at last dropping the last vestiges of "country" instrumentation and imagery that had at least snuck into bits of "Red." Intentionally avoiding the singer-songwriter trappings of broken hearts, romance, and woe-is-me relationship lyrics that critics had criticized Swift for her reliance on, 1989 is – to put it one way – an album of bangers. (That's no surprise – some tracks were co-written or produced by the unshakable pop juggernauts of our time, Max Martin and Shellback.) "Shake It Off"; "Blank Space"; "Bad Blood"; "Style"; "Wildest Dreams"; and the jaw-dropping "Out of the Woods"... Seriously, this is an all-timer; an absolutely incredible outing that remains a legendary entry in her expanding discography. 

Here, we'd put Disneyland – a park with a "no skips" collection of rides matching 1989's "no skips" track list. Disneyland is just pure, unbridled quality. It has more rides, more dark rides, and more E-Tickets than any other Disney Park on Earth. It is unbeatable. Hallowed ground. As much a first-of-its-kind as one-of-a-kind. It's young and carefree and happy and thoughtful. It's about freedom and discovery and growing up. Disneyland – like 1989 – is "radio friendly." It doesn't try to insist that it's the most sophisticated. Instead, both revel in their eternal youth and optimism. It's no surprise that fans return to them again and again and again, leaving their troubles at the door.

 
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