If “1989” Became the Soundtrack of a Modern Day Disney Fairytale

1. Welcome To New York

Imagine Cinderella getting ready to go to the ball, complete with stockings, clean white stilettos, a little black dress, red lips and of course, a face glowing with excitement as she looks forward to the shimmering, stylish night ahead. The song opens with this exact sense of anticipation, slowly building up to the chorus, in which all the doors fly open and the whole city seems to be right in front of you. Cinderella walks the street with utter confidence, dancing along as city welcomes her and tells her that it’s been waiting for her. Far away from her old village where her evil stepmother and stepsisters live, the song provides her with the gateway that she has been waiting for her whole life.

2. Blank Space

Belle is a wealthy socialite and philanthropist. She makes an appearance at a charity ball one night, and as she walks into the building everyone turns their heads and stares her from head to toe. The tabloids have warned both men and women alike to steer clear of her: the crazy obsessive woman that is consumed with lust, jealousy and uncontrollable wrath towards anyone who breaks her heart. Her recent scandals have included allegedly framing her ex-boyfriend and his present girlfriend for a giant bank heist, and despite knowing nothing about it, she takes in stride and watches everyone as they start to write labels on her in their minds. No one talks to her during the entire event, until someone named Beast carefully approaches her and asks her for a dance. Admiring his courage and sincerity, Belle graciously accepts, taking slow and steady steps as the music goes on to play, “So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames…

3. Style

Somewhere in the middle of the city, Jasmine is anxiously waiting in the balcony of her three-storey mansion for a long overdue phone call. It’s midnight, and when she sees a car pulling up in her driveway, her body lights up inside. “I should just tell you to leave but I, know exactly where it leads, but I, watch it go round and round each time.” She rushes downstairs and as she opens the car door, Aladdin is gesturing to the passenger’s seat. She hops in and bribes the guards to make sure that her parents don’t find out. He takes her wherever the road goes, and they can barely take their eyes off each other throughout the night. The song reflects the classic tale of the wild, rugged James Dean-esque boy falling for the pristine daughter of a multi-millionaire who rules the fashion industry. Her parents insist that Aladdin has the looks of a grungy street singer, but Jasmine knows that that’s just his style and that nothing in the world could compare with it.

4. Out of the Woods

An ode to Snow White, sung by her seven siblings. They have spent their entire lives in a shabby apartment in the most dangerous and run down neighbourhood in the city. As their legal guardian, Snow White has been working her entire life to make things right for her family. The song, although coated with a sort of tragic feeling to it, ultimately turns into a triumphant chant that commemorates survival, change and above all, freedom. Snow White is championed as a hero among her siblings as she fights to bring them out of the woods and into a better life. “Looking at it now, last December. We were built to fall apart, and fall back together…

5. All You Had To Do Was Stay

Imagine Ariel meeting her prince charming, Eric, in a yacht party in the middle of summer. It was the briefest of romances that ended in a tragic accident. A storm started brewing just as the sun was slowly sinking into the murky, oil-stained ocean. They had no place for each other in their lives, as Eric was supposed to sail north on a larger boat the next day. For Ariel, home was where the tropical breeze and the clear blue waters were. She wanted to bring Eric home so he could get a glimpse of where she came from, but he declined and promptly sailed off the next day. “It could’ve been so easy,” Ariel thinks to herself, while running her fingers on the torn remains of his sailor outfit, extracted from the wreckage of his boat. The song plays like a storm in a bottle, creating fiery moments of pain in its impossible-to-forget-chorus, but never fully turning into chaos.

6. Shake It Off

Remember the Princess and the Frog? Remember New Orleans? Remember Tiana? She’s in her restaurant right now, serving guests while simultaneously dancing to this song and just enjoying every second of her life. She knows that she’s made her father, her friends and her family proud of her and owes her success to no one but herself. The song embodies Tiana’s way of life in a way that is applicable to anyone. Tiana remembers the time when she had to work double-shifts every day of the week, and even then she found something to dance about. She knows that her life is defined by her and only her, and she chooses every single day to define it with positivity, and no one can take that away from her.

7. I Wish You Would

Merida calls up her mother one night, asking her for forgiveness when she hears about the diagnosis. Tears run down her cheeks as she tries to wipe them away with her sleeves, and the pain of regret is strong enough to cause an ache in her heart. Her mother tells her that regret would do nothing to fix their problems and accepts her apology. Merida wishes that she hadn’t been so reckless when she moved to the city to get as far away from her mother as she could, because all she wants right now is to be home. They both clutch the phone tightly in their hands, telling each other, “I wish you were right here, right now, it’s all good. I wish you well.

8. Bad Blood

Oh, this is a good one. “Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted.” Elsa is a singer who is on the brink of getting her big break in broadway, while her sister Anna spends her days directing small-scale indie productions. Anna urges her to come and perform in one of her musicals, even to the point of forcing Elsa to drop one of her contracts. Elsa obliges out of courtesy, but the musical turns out to be a major flop, and she isn’t willing to forgive her sister for the damage she made to her career. Anna keeps pleading for forgiveness, but Elsa just warns her, “So if you’re coming my way, just don’t.” Her rage flawlessly turns the song into an unstoppable force, as the more contained verses act as ticking countdowns leading up to the eruption of the explosive chorus.

9. Wildest Dreams

Rapunzel knows that her mother’s rules are like the gospel, and that whatever she says, goes. Rapunzel is usually content with following these rules and tries to be the best daughter she can be for her single mother, who is struggling to make ends meet after her company went bankrupt years ago. Until she meets Eugene, a con artist who had originally been sent to extort money from her. “He’s so tall, and handsome as hell. He’s so bad, but he does it so well.” She asks him why he would want to extort money from her when she has none to begin with, until he reveals that her mother has spent thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgery over the years. He asks her to run away with him to another city and even though she wants to, her mother eventually finds out about him and stops her from leaving. In the most ethereal song from the album, with airy vocals and a poignant melody that never falters, all she asks is for him to remember her, “Say you’ll see me again, even if its just in your wildest dreams…

10. How You Get the Girl

When Megara met Hercules at an equestrian event last summer, her life was changed for the better. He was the champion racer, with the build and looks of a knight in shining armour. He was the one who approached her first, but she was surprised when she discovered that much of his masculinity was only there to cover up his boyish personality. Because Hercules wasn’t the man she thought he would be, and if only she could have reserved her judgement of him as an arrogant snob, they might have gotten off to a better start. As a girl who always knew what she wanted, Hercules had appeared to fragile, too indecisive and upright for her. She forgot about him the day after, but was pleasantly caught off guard when he adds her on eHarmony.com and asks her out on a date. It’s a light, feel-good song that portrays love as a sparkling, glimmering affair between two young people. “That’s how it works. That’s how you get the girl.

11. This Love

Imagine Pocahontas as a college student sitting in the middle of a park in New York City. She looks around her and sketches a picture of the trimmed grass, the neatly aligned trees, the pond where ducks are swimming in circles, and the haze coloured sky. She misses the view back at home, where nature wasn’t confined into rows or blocks, and where animals roamed free in her backyard, which was also everyone’s backyard. Every once in a while, her love for her home would come back to her in short bursts of images, flashing in her mind as she constantly reminds herself that this isn’t forever. With its haunting melody, the song carries the listener through a breeze in the wind where love is slowly re-emerging from the grey forests. “This love is good, this love is bad, this love is alive back from the dead. These hands had to let it go free and this love came back to me.

12. I Know Places

Mulan is a female boxer who has been religiously training for an upcoming championship due to start in the next few weeks. Her family has left her a wealth of riches in the form of a huge inheritance, but would only give it to her if she gives up her boxing and moves to China to continue the family business. The song plays in the background of her training facility, with relentless rhythms and ferocious vocals that strike in sync with Mulan every time she throws a hit at her punching bag. She plots for her escape from her family as it goes, “Baby, I know places we won’t be found and they’ll be, chasing their tails trying to track us down…” She has plans of winning the championship, making it big, and getting enough money to be able to support herself and change her identity as a final act to break off all ties with her family.

13. Clean

Aurora has been in a coma for a ten months, and despite everyone thinking that her thoughts remain stagnant during the time she was asleep, she actually remembers dreaming on several occasions. She dreams of her childhood sweetheart, Phillip, and of the days where they used to play in the playground together. In fact, she was on the way to see him when the car accident happened. On the day she finally wakes up, she asks for him, only to find out that he has been keeping his distance since the accident. She writes in her diary, “You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress that I can’t wear anymore.” Her words seem empty and weightless upon her awakening, but the song creates an refreshing feeling of revival in its gentle and soft melodies, never straying or losing its delicate touch.

14. Wonderland

Kida had been to a lot of places during her lifetime of biological research, but the new site on the island of Flores was unlike anything she has ever seen before. Her new partner, the archeologist Milo, could barely even contain his excitement upon seeing several temple ruins peeking out of the dense forest. If they were to make the cover of National Geographic next month, they had to do this right. They stayed up all night to structure their data, running high on coffee and the thirst for knowledge, all the while snuggling close to each other in their cold tents. They were the perfect pair. The song is an enchanting trip into the unknown, a perfect blend of magical realism, capturing the sheer awe of discovery and adventure. “We found wonderland, you and I got lost in it…

15. You Are In Love

Imagine Giselle landing in the streets of New York, running wild in search of Prince Edward, who has to find her before the clock strikes midnight to permanently seal their love with a true love’s kiss. Oh wait, that happened already – and it didn’t work. When Giselle finds out that her Prince Edward isn’t really her true love, she confines in Robert, the cynical divorce attorney who has temporarily allowed her to stay in his apartment, and expresses her confusion regarding the entire situation. What if true love doesn’t exist? Giselle is frightened and and runs away, but somewhere in the middle of the darkness, her inner voice speaks to her, “You can hear it in the silence, you can feel it on the way home, you can see it with the lights out – you are in love.” She ends up sitting at a pizzeria at three in the morning, ordering breakfast pancakes and buffalo wings because they taste so much more delicious than the food in Andalasia, until Robert finds her and this time, she knows exactly what her heart is telling her. “You are in love, true love.

16. New Romantics

Imagine New Years eve in the city of New York, with all of the above women gathered together at the biggest party of the year. They’re all dancing to the dazzling and slick melody of the song, as Elsa proudly belts out on stage, “Cause baby I can build a castle, out of all the bricks they threw at me, and every day is like a battle, but every night with us is like a dream.” Snow White is at her new apartment, celebrating with her siblings as they look forward to a brighter year ahead. Merida is on a flight back home to see her mother. Aurora and Mulan are dancing together in the middle of the dance floor, Kida is checking her phone for reviews of her cover story, while Rapunzel and Jasmine are telling each other about the struggles of finding love with overbearing parents. Giselle and Pocahontas are introducing themselves to Belle while asking her about her recent scandals, to which she admits has zero truth to it. Tiana takes a day off from the restaurant to plan out the drinks and food for the party, while Ariel is takes a break from the ocean and brings herself back to solid ground to move on her feet and let her hair loose. Everyone is asking for pictures with Megara as Hercules is rumoured to be in the running for the Olympics next year, and when the clock finally strikes midnight, Elsa passes on the mic to Cinderella for a final song. “Baby we’re the new romantics, come on come along with me. Heartbreak is the national anthem, we sing it proudly. We are too busy dancing, to get knocked off our feet. Baby we’re the new romantics, the best people in life are free…

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Indonesian. 20. English major at the University of Bristol.

2 thoughts on “If “1989” Became the Soundtrack of a Modern Day Disney Fairytale

  1. Awesome post! I would never have thought all these Disney princesses could come alive in this album. Totally an enjoyable and refreshing read.

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