Happy release of Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department! For anyone in the center of the Taylor Swift-Zelda fandom Venn diagram, this editorial is for you. Swift is arguably the world’s most popular superstar, donning the cover of Time magazine as Person of the Year. Her long list of musical accolades has solidified her legacy, including her recent triumph of being the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammy’s four times. Her record-breaking Eras Tour is the highest-grossing musical escapade in history, grossing a minimum of $1 billion worldwide.

All of this buzz is why we’re here today, to draw parallels between her stylistically unique albums and the equally individualistic entries in the Zelda series. We will look at lyrics, album aesthetics, and Taylor Swift’s personal stories related to each of her albums, and pair a Zelda game to each of her famous eras based on game narratives and atmospheres. We will unpack this monstrous task album by album.

Regardless of your Taylor Swift opinions, this is intended to be a fun, silly thought experiment into the different personalities of the Zelda games and varied portrayals of the hero Link. We know Taylor Swift is a divisive topic, so please respect everyone’s opinions and music tastes — this is all in good fun (and to share out-of-context lyrics)!


Taylor Swift and The Legend of Zelda

Is it too obvious to put the OG Legend of Zelda in this category? Taylor Swift didn’t have to write several albums before changing the music industry forever — it all happened with her self-titled debut Taylor Swift. She wrote the entire album at the age of 14, reinvigorating the country genre for women and setting new precedents for online music marketing. This album was the springboard to countless other innovations in the music industry, like advocating for music ownership.

The original Legend of Zelda also made a groundbreaking impact on gaming just with its entry title. It served as one of the original foundations for how to create an open-world action adventure. The format’s versatility inspired numerous game mechanic innovations, like non-linear gameplay, and countless games, like Tunic, Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy XV, and even Grand Theft Auto III.

Since this iconic country-pop album, Swift has explored different genres and formats. Link would do the same, from the RPG style of The Adventure of Link to the open-world sandbox of Tears of the Kingdom.


Fearless and The Wind Waker

We have to give this one to The Wind Waker. (Thanks fellow writer Jared Eubanks for making this suggestion!) There is a child-like wonder and pride sprinkled throughout Fearless which Link exhibits in this game. Taylor Swift sings about this in “The Best Day,” as she remembers how her family supported her in her youth in the “age of princesses and pirate ships” (which feels appropriate here). These lyrics also come to mind when considering Link’s journey across the Great Sea, growing stronger and discovering hidden treasures:

“So we’ve been outnumbered / Raided and now cornered / It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair / We’re getting stronger now / Find things they never found / They might be bigger but we’re faster and never scared …” — “Change”

There is also a constant theme of adolescence in Fearless. With Link challenging himself off his home island to save his family, Fearless seems like a fitting tribute. Our hero charges into the Forsaken Fortress — in a barrel, no less — all for his sister.  He does one of the most courageous-looking finishing blows in the series after fearlessly running at Ganondorf. Link undergoes most of his mission without the emotional security of the Triforce.

This Hero is nothing short of brave. I mean, this face is nothing but fearless.


Speak Now and A Link to the Past

Speak Now is a challenging album to place, but I think I’m going to give it to A Link to the Past. This game was when fans really began to see the Zelda format come to life, and this is an album often associated with Taylor Swift’s individuality and growth, as it was completely self-written.

Swift started to breach into new genres apart from country pop (like melodic/hard rock, power pop, and bluegrass), write about darker and sadder themes, and challenge people’s expectations by sprinkling Easter Eggs and hidden messages in lyrics. Zelda has always been known for its secrets and darkness, so this parallel feels fitting.

Link is always sleeping until monsters show up, but Zelda always knows he is the light against the darkness. He also exhibits the tough edges of “Haunted.” The game opens with Link facing pelting rain, his uncle’s death, and traversing the most complex world the series saw at that point. He had to endure everything he knew that was once bathed in hope and light poisoned by Ganon’s darkness:

“You and I walk a fragile line / I have known it all this time / But I never thought I’d live to see it break / It’s getting dark and it’s all too quiet …” – “Haunted”

Link’s soft soul radiates in-game as he enters the brutal Dark World. His bunny form proves the pureness of his heart, and I see this in the song “Innocent:”

“Wasn’t it beautiful runnin’ wild ‘til you fell asleep / Before the monsters caught up to you? / It’s alright, just wait and see / Your string of lights is still bright to me …” — “Innocent”


Red and Link’s Awakening

Link’s Awakening felt like a good game to put for an album that’s happy, free, confused, and lonely — in the best way. Link awakens the Wind Fish and dissolves Koholint Island from history — arguably one of the most lonely endings in the series. However, the dream doesn’t fade until Link smiles, witnessing the lovely people he met on his adventure. 

Link’s friendship with Marin, the playful children in Mabe Village, and the community of Animal Village show how tight-knit and flourishing this world was. Even though they were just a fading dream, there is inarguable joy and heartbreak in Link’s Awakening that matches the vibes of Red perfectlyThe game is about the legacy of memory, no matter how much pain it holds. This is what Swift attempts to document in Red‘s lyrics:

“Delicate beginning rush / The feeling you can know so much / Without knowing anything at all / And now that I can put this down / If I had known what I’d known now / I never would’ve played so nonchalant …” — “Come Back…Be Here”

If this doesn’t explain my feelings about the end of the game, nothing will. Plus, if you think of some of these love songs from the POV of Marin and her dream of becoming a traveling, singing seagull, it hurts a little (or a lot).

“I’m reaching for you, terrified / ‘Cause you could be the one that I love / I could be the one that you dream of / A message in a bottle is all I can do / Standing here, hoping it gets to you …” — “Message in a Bottle”


1989 and Four Swords Adventures

Unfortunately, no Zelda game came out in 1989, making this more of a vibes-based determination than a literal one. I’m going with Four Swords Adventures, which seems random, but let me explain. Though Four Swords was the first introduction to multiplayer Zelda, Four Swords Adventures was the idea more appropriately fleshed out. 1989 was a celebration of love but also friendship. What was a better time to bond with your Zelda-loving friends than with Four Swords Adventures?

The game is the perfect culmination of teamwork and frustration, which reflects Taylor Swift’s experience with this album’s creation. This is most apparent lyrics-wise here:

“Did you have to hit me / Where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe / And rub it in so deep / Salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me …” — “Bad Blood”

Who wouldn’t want to sing the tongue-in-cheek vibes of this song when one of your friends repeatedly sets you ablaze with the Fire Rod? Shake it off, and make the moves up as you go. And, let’s admit it — we were all laughing right at our friends’ struggles.

During this era, Swift was really digging deep into working with her new most-trusted co-producers, ushering a new era of camaraderie for her music creation. It was all about deepening bonds with her musical confidantes and her close circle of friends. Yet, she experienced frustrations and relentless media criticism, as noted in 1989 (Taylor’s Version)‘s preface. But, she was just trying to have fun with her pals. Isn’t that what we were all trying to achieve in our playthroughs of Four Swords Adventures?


reputation and Twilight Princess

I think reputation was the most difficult album to place. I thought of two games for this one for different reasons. First, I thought of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. What game has a reputation quite like the beloved original sequel? But in all seriousness, I think I would give this one to Twilight Princess. Aesthetically, they match.

Twilight Princess is dark and dramatic. Taylor Swift’s press photos for reputation showed her in all black outfits, which was a stark juxtaposition to the powder blues of the 1989 era. Swift wrote this album in near isolation, rising from the ashes after dealing with a wave of internet hate. This narrative reminds me of Midna. She lost her throne — whereas Swift lost her proverbial throne of fame — but Midna still came out on top. Midna would do anything to revise the history Zant muddled, which I see in these lyrics:

“I don’t like your kingdom keys / They once belonged to me / You ask me for a place to sleep / Locked me out and threw a feast … Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time / I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined …” — “Look What You Made Me Do”

For those who don’t know, reputation is, at its core, a love album. Even though there isn’t much affection between Link and Zelda in this game, Link dedicates himself to the people he cares for, like for Midna after her encounter with Zant and Ilia amid her amnesia:

“But I stay / When you’re lost, and I’m scared, and you’re turning away …” — “New Year’s Day”

Link will always stay by their sides, even when they are lost, ashamed, or in trouble. Later in the song, Swift repeats “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you, and I will hold on to you,” which I imagine Link would echo to Ilia. Also, don’t ask me to explain my logic (because I can’t), but “Getaway Car” reminds me so much of Midna, too.


Lover and Skyward Sword

Lover is bubbly and it’s bright. Despite what Taylor Swift did with her stages of grief playlists, people still hold this album as an intricate exploration of romance. So, how could I not give it to Skyward Sword? For Zelink¹ shippers (this is how the Zelda fandom refers to the relationship or potential relationship of characters Zelda and Link), this is an obvious choice. (I also considered Spirit Tracks, just because the partnership between Link and Zelda is so strong and tangible. But, I’m going to focus on Skyward Sword here.) The watercolor pastels of the game beautifully match the album, in my opinion. The album’s title track “Lover” could also be an overarching theme for Link and Zelda’s care for one another, as the song desperately refrains “Can I go where you go? / Can we always be this close?”

However, I think these lyrics from “Death by a Thousand Cuts” relate to the constant chase and waiting Link has to do to try and get Zelda back. They also had hard farewells in this game:

“Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts / Flashbacks waking me up … I look through the windows of this love / Even though we boarded them up / Chandelier’s still flickering here / Cause I can’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not …” — “Death by a Thousand Cuts”

But, I also just like the image of sassy Link telling Fi “you need to calm down, you’re being too loud.” To me, that’s just funny.


folklore and Breath of the Wild

The massive landscapes and natural aura surrounding Breath of the Wild feels perfect for folklore, aesthetically and lyrically. Zelda games have always been heavy on environmental storytelling, but this game arguably does it the best and most intimately.

The King demanded so much of Zelda that she spiritually lost a loving father figure when his priorities shifted to saving the world instead of demonstrating empathy. Her adamant dedication to her research was met with mostly resistance and disappointment, as everyone said she should devote her resources to training. Nobody saw Zelda slowly break after bearing the weight of the world’s expectations, except for Link. So many of folklore’s lyrics radiate Zelda’s insecurities in attempting to unlock her power, especially surrounded by naturally gifted heroes like Link and the Champions:

“I just wanted you to know / That this is me trying / They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential …” — “this is me trying”

“And I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why / I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try …” — “mirrorball”

“Our coming-of-age has come and gone / Suddenly the summer, it’s clear / I never had the courage of my convictions / As long as danger is near …” — “peace”

Though lyrics from “epiphany” give strong Majora’s Mask vibes (thanks fellow writer John Lortie for making this observation):

“Only 20 minutes to sleep / But you dream of some epiphany / Just one single glimpse of relief / To make some sense of what you’ve seen …” — “epiphany”


evermore and Ocarina of Time

Here is the game everyone has been waiting for — this is where I would place Ocarina of Time if for no other reason than for these lyrics from the evermore album:

“Honey, when I’m above the trees / I see this for what it is / But now I’m right down in it / All the years I’ve given … There’ll be happiness after me / But there was happiness because of me / Both of these things I believe / There is happiness in our history … You haven’t met the new me, yet …” — “happiness”

Link gives so much of his life away as the Hero of Time. Whether or not you believe in the infamous timeline split, Link would likely reflect deeply on his lost years or future. There is a lingering sense of grief and acceptance in evermore, which fits as Link traverses a kingdom he has to basically meet for the first time. After the time skip, Hyrule is a “faith-forgotten land” (from the song “ivy”) that probably lost hope in the Goddesses and the Hero as Ganondorf reigned.

Also, folklore and evermore were some of Swift’s most in-depth forays into character studies in her music. People predominantly associate her with confessional, autobiographical lyrics, but there are many characters in evermore, including the songs “marjorie,” “dorothea,” and Este in “no body, no crime (featuring American band HAIM).” It felt appropriate to assign Ocarina here, as the game had the most prominent character exploration in the series by that point.


Midnights and Majora’s Mask

Taylor Swift said so herself, Midnights was a compilation of “terrors and sweet dreams” and a hope you haven’t made “some fateful life-altering mistake.” Sound familiar? These vibes definitely read Majora’s Mask. Link is not only stuck until he helps Skull Kid, but his terrible fate is fighting against all odds to stop an apocalypse.

Termina is an alternate world, eerily similar yet disconnected to Hyrule in memory and spirit — no Goddesses, traditions, or history. It is a liminal place, much like how the late hours approaching midnight feels. Midnights took risks with dreamy synths and Swift’s experimentation with low vocal ranges. This game took equally significant tonal risks, delving into a chaotic darkness. The game and album connect atmospherically in this way.

Taylor Swift also wrote in the album preface that she hoped “when the clock strikes twelve … we’ll meet ourselves.” The game’s end brings players to a meadow, where Link sees Skull Kid plagued by the loneliness Majora brought him. In the end, everyone met their true selves, longing for peace, friendship, and acceptance. I don’t know how it could get any more on the nose than that. Midnights was an album exploring many of Swift’s darkest days, but its release was a metaphorical “Song of Healing.”


The Tortured Poets Department and Tears of the Kingdom

The Tortured Poets Department is still new to all of us, and with over two hours of music, there’s a lot to unpack. However, my gut is pointing me to Tears of the Kingdom. A lot of this album is about grappling with fame, and Zelda has hit its inarguable peak, just like Taylor Swift has. Tears sold so many copies, won so many awards, and stretched imaginations to their limits with the biggest open world in the series. Many wonder where a series that has ascended so high will go from here.

“Take the glory, give everything / Promise to be dazzling …” — “Clara Bow”

Story-wise, a few songs point to Zelda’s tragic storyline. After the end of Breath of the Wild, hope bloomed again in Hyrule. Yet, tragedy still lurked as Ganondorf’s persistence poisoned their efforts. She made the ultimate sacrifice despite all of that to help Link and restore the Master Sword. She knew she would potentially lose herself forever for a cause she didn’t know would succeed. All she had was faith in Link keeping her flying.

“Our field of dreams, engulfed in fire / Your arson’s match, your somber eyes / And I’ll still see it until I die / You’re the loss of my life …” — “loml”

I imagined the “arson’s match” to be Ganondorf’s wrath and the Gloom’s spread ruining Hyrule’s “field of dreams,” while Link remains forever haunted by Zelda’s “somber eyes;” her personhood, the ultimate loss of his life.

“But I looked to the sky and said / Please / I’ve been on my knees / Change the prophecy … I’m so afraid I sealed my fate …” — “The Prophecy”

The essence of Zelda remained within the Light Dragon, even as the dimmest light. I believe this part of her spent all those years in the sky begging in fear for Link to rewrite history, or the prophecy, as it were.


Link’s Eras

Pop culture doesn’t shy away from video games. Ariana Grande inspired a character in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, so who’s to say Taylor Swift won’t make a cameo in a Nintendo game some day? The world may never know. (Thanks Nick Miller for informing me of this neat fact!)

Obviously, there are more Zelda games than Taylor Swift albums, so some are unfortunately left out here. Where would you place the rest? Would you put the games in eras based on aesthetics, lyrics, or a combination of both? Let us know where you think each game lies in the comments below!

Special thanks to Zelda Dungeon Art Director Heather Beard: Thanks so much for creating the amazing original art here and brainstorming this topic with me!

Featured Image: Heather Beard (Art Director)

Tagged With: No tags were found for this entry.