Style (Taylor Swift song)

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"Style"
Cover artwork of "Style" depicting mirrored images of Taylor Swift and a song's lyric in the footer
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album 1989
ReleasedFebruary 9, 2015 (2015-02-09)
Studio
Genre
Length3:51
LabelBig Machine
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Max Martin
  • Shellback
  • Ali Payami
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Blank Space"
(2014)
"Style"
(2015)
"Bad Blood"
(2015)
Music video
"Style" on YouTube

"Style" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and the third single from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). Swift wrote the song with the producers Max Martin, Shellback, and Ali Payami. An incorporation of pop, funk, disco, and electronic styles, "Style" is built on an electric guitar riff, pulsing synthesizers, and dense vocal reverb. The lyrics are about a couple who could not escape from an unhealthy relationship because they are never "out of style". Big Machine in partnership with Republic Records released the song to US radio on February 9, 2015.

In the United States, "Style" peaked at number six and was 1989's third consecutive top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The single reached the top 25 and received multi-platinum certifications in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Early reviews were generally positive and praised the production but a few of them deemed the lyrics unsophisticated. Retrospective opinions have regarded "Style" as one of Swift's best songs.

Kyle Newman directed the song's music video, which premiered on February 13, 2015. It features Swift and Dominic Sherwood as a couple who reminisce about their relationship through illusions and flashbacks using broken mirror pieces. Swift included "Style" on the set lists for three of her world tours: the 1989 World Tour (2015), the Reputation Stadium Tour (2018), and the Eras Tour (2023–2024). Following a 2019 dispute regarding the ownership of Swift's back catalog, she re-recorded the song as "Style (Taylor's Version)" for her re-recorded album 1989 (Taylor's Version) (2023).

Background and production[edit]

Taylor Swift had identified as a country musician until her fourth studio album, Red, which was released on October 22, 2012.[1] Red incorporates eclectic pop and rock styles beyond the country stylings of Swift's past albums, which led to critics questioning her country-music identity.[2][3] Swift began writing songs for her fifth studio album in mid-2013 while touring on the Red Tour.[4] Inspired by 1980s synth-pop, she named the album 1989 after her birth year to signify an artistic reinvention: she described it as her first "official pop album".[5][6] On 1989, Swift and the Swedish producer Max Martin served as executive producers.[7] For the standard edition, Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback produced seven out of 13 songs; one such song is "Style.[8]

The producer Ali Payami and the guitarist Niklas Ljungfelt composed the instrumental of "Style", a guitar-driven track inspired by Daft Punk and what Ljungfelt described as "funky electronic music".[7] Payami played the track to Martin, which Swift overheard and led to her becoming fond of the track.[7] She and Martin wrote new lyrics to the instrumental,[7] and Shellback and Payami co-wrote the track. Martin, Shellback, and Payami produced "Style", which was recorded by Michael Illbert and Sam Holland, assisted by Cory Bice, at MXM Studios in Stockholm and Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles. The song was mixed by Serban Ghenea and John Hanes at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, and it was mastered by Tom Coyne at Sterling Sound in New York City.[8] "Style" was one of the last songs produced for 1989.[9]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Style" features prominent electronic stylings.[10] It incorporates pulsing synthesizers, a throbbing bassline, and dense vocal reverb.[11][12] The track exhibits eclectic influences: it is built on a recurring electric guitar riff that aligns with funk,[11] R&B,[13] and 1980s rock,[14] and its upbeat groove evokes dance and 1970s disco.[15][16] The refrain's first half consists of major chords of D and G that create a radiant atmosphere; the second half switches to a B minor chord that creates a rather sorrow one.[17]

Critics mostly categorize "Style" as synth-pop[18][19][20] and "funk-pop".[21][22] Other reviews deem it pop rock,[23] Italo disco,[24] and synthwave.[25] Ed Masley in The Arizona Republic and the musicologist James E. Perone regard it as a hybrid of disco and new wave.[11][26] For many critics, "Style" not only resembles music of the 1980s that inspired 1989 but also features a modern-leaning production. They liken the sound to the works of 1980s musicians such as Chaka Khan,[14] Nile Rodgers,[27] Don Henley, and Madonna,[28] as well as modern acts such as Daft Punk,[29] Electric Youth, and Blood Orange.[30] Masley writes that the track "would have sounded right at home on MTV a few years earlier than 1989",[11] and Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone deems it "extremely 1986-sounding".[18] Perone sums up that although "Style" strongly evokes 1980s music, it does not reference any particular influence.[26]

Swift was inspired to write "Style" by an unstable relationship which she compared to timeless fashion staples.[9][31] The lyrics are about an on-again, off-again relationship, and the couple in question could not end it because they are never "out of style".[32][33] The opening lines set a scene, "Midnight/ You come and pick me up, no headlights"; for some critics, these lyrics allude to sex, a theme Swift had not openly embraced[21]Jon Caramanica of The New York Times cited them as an example of her relinquishing the youthful innocence of her past songs.[34] The refrain depicts the couple as conventionally attractive: the male lover resembles the 1950s actor James Dean with his "daydream look in [his] eye", and the female narrator flaunts her "red lip classic thing that you like" and "good girl faith and a tight little skirt".[35] For some journalists, the beauty depicted is conservative and embedded with racial undertones.[35][36] In the second pre-chorus, both characters mutually admit to cheating;[28][37] Swift said the part displayed her evolved viewpoints on past relationships by admitting wrongdoings of both sides instead of her "I was right, you were wrong" mindset in previous songs.[9]

I say, "I heard that you've been out and about with some other girl"
He says, "What you've heard is true, but I,
Can't stop thinking about you and I"
I said, "I've been there too a few times"

Release and commercial performance[edit]

A snippet of "Style" premiered in a Target commercial for 1989 on October 22, 2014.[38] Big Machine Records released 1989 on October 27, 2014; "Style" is number three on the standard track listing.[8][39] Big Machine in partnership with Republic Records released the song to US hot adult contemporary radio on February 9,[40] and to US contemporary hit and rhythmic contemporary radio on February 10, 2015;[41][42] it was the third single from 1989.[43] In Italy, Universal Music released "Style" to radio on April 3, 2015.[44]

"Style" debuted at number 60 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated November 15, 2014,[45] and peaked at number six on March 21, 2015;[46] it was 1989's third consecutive top-10 single after the chart toppers "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space".[47] On Billboard's airplay charts, the single peaked atop Pop Songs,[48] Adult Pop Songs,[49] and Adult Contemporary.[50] It was the seventh-best-performing song on US airplay of 2015, earning 3.163 billion audience impressions from 550,000 plays.[51] The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the single triple platinum denoting three million units based on sales and streams.[52] By November 2017, "Style" had sold 2.2 million downloads in the United States.[53]

The single peaked atop the South African chart[54] and in the top 20 on charts in the Czech Republic (11),[55] Poland (13),[56] Slovakia (14),[57] and Hungary (18).[58] It peaked in the top 25 of charts and received platinum or higher certifications in the English-speaking countries. In Canada, it peaked at number six on the Canadian Hot 100 and was certified triple platinum by Music Canada (MC).[59][60] In the United Kingdom, the single peaked at numbers nine and 21 on the Scottish[61] and UK Singles Charts respectively[62] and was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[63] It peaked at number eight in Australia and number 11 in New Zealand[64][65] and was certified eight-times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA)[66] and triple platinum by Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ).[67]

After Swift embarked on her sixth headlining world tour, the Eras Tour, in March 2023, sales and streams of her discography resurged.[68] "Style" peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Global 200 chart dated August 26, 2023.[69] It appeared on new singles charts of Italy (peaking at number 80),[70] Vietnam (number 37),[71] the Philippines (number 15),[72] Portugal (number 14),[73] and Singapore (number two).[74]

Critical reception[edit]

In reviews of 1989, many critics regarded "Style" as an album highlight, including Caramanica,[34] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times,[21] Benjamin Boles of Now,[75] and Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle.[76] The production received praise: Kitty Empire from The Observer called it a "percolating" song that "satisfies on every level",[22] Paul Nolan from Hot Press deemed it a "brilliantly executed" song with an "infectious" and "irresistible" production,[77] and PopMatters's Corey Beasley described the track as "immaculate".[20] In Vulture, Lindsay Zoladz commented that "Style" showcased Swift as an artist who made pop music "bend to her will".[78] The song placed 24th on the 2015 Pazz & Jop poll, an annual mass critics' poll conducted by The Village Voice.[79]

Reception of the lyrics was not as uniformly positive. Caramanica and Robert Leedham of Drowned in Sound opined that "Style" embodied Swift's adult viewpoint on romance; the former said it depicted her as "savage, wry, and pointed",[34] and the latter applauded the song for celebrating "being young and reckless [as] a part of growing up".[80] Pitchfork ranked the song 50th on their list of 2014's best songs; Jordan Sargent opined that the lyrics were not groundbreaking but the production and Swift's "tense and restrained" vocals represented her artistic reinvention.[81] The Independent's Andy Gill said although the song had a "certain piquancy", it also contained "desperately inclusive electropop grooves and corporate rebel clichés".[82] Consequence of Sound's Sasha Geffen said the song had one of the album's catchiest hooks but criticized its lyrics mentioning "conventionally pretty white people" as a cliché that blemished Swift's "girl-next-door likability".[36]

At the 2016 BMI Awards, "Style" was one of the Award-Winning Songs that earned Swift the honor of Songwriter of the Year.[83] It received a nomination for International Work of the Year at the APRA Music Awards of 2016.[84] Critics have retrospectively considered "Style" one of Swift's best songs.[24][85] American Songwriter's Alex Hopper wrote that the single was "arguably the blueprint for pop music in the mid-2010s",[86] and Billboard's Kristen He said that it displayed "Swift's songwriting at its purest".[87] In rankings of Swift's entire catalog, the song was placed among her 20 best songs by Billboard's staff,[32] Clash's staff,[88] The Independent's Roisin O'Connor,[89] Paste's Jane Song,[90] and Vulture's Nate Jones,[91] and her 10 best by Exclaim!'s Alex Hudson and Megan LaPierre,[25] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis,[14] NME's Hannah Mylrea,[33] and Variety's Chris Willman.[13]

Music video[edit]

Screenshot of "Style" music video
The music video of "Style" features silhouettes—seen here is a scene of Swift overlaid on a shot of a similarly shaped cave and her love interest—which critics compared to the opening sequence of True Detective.

Kyle Newman directed the music video for "Style", which was shot in Los Angeles and completed within four days in summer 2014.[92][93] Before its release, Swift posted several teaser images and short clips from the video on her social media accounts.[94] She planned to premiere the video on Good Morning America on the morning of February 13, 2015, but Canadian music channel Much released it at midnight.[95][96] Swift uploaded the video to her Vevo account on the same day.[97] In the video, English actor Dominic Sherwood plays Swift's love interest.[98] Swift contacted him by text message roughly a month before the shooting; the two had known of each other through mutual friends. By the time they worked on the video, Sherwood had finished the film Take Down, which was later renamed Billionaire Ransom (released in 2016).[93][99]

The video does not have a clear narrative but features disparate flashbacks of Swift and her love interest by the seashore, in the woods, and on car rides.[17] They are shown via broken glass pieces and a car's rear-view mirror, through which Swift and her lover see each other.[35][100] Media publications commented that the video for "Style" had a dark, abstract, and sensual atmosphere.[17][97][101][102] Vox's Kelsey McKinney opined that Swift embraced her sexuality using "sensual imagery" of her touching herself, which showcased her maturity as an artist.[17] Emilee Lindner of MTV called the video "mature, tasteful, and ... sexy".[100] Spence Kornhaber from The Atlantic, meanwhile, remarked that Swift expressed her sexuality in a more conservative manner compared to her contemporaries that distinguished her from "the pop obsession with women's bodies".[35]

Several images in the video featuring silhouettes of Swift's head overlaid by other scenes of her lover, the forests, smoking clouds, or thunder storms, were compared to the opening credits of the crime drama series True Detective.[17][103][104] The Wall Street Journal's Michael Driscoll said the atmosphere evoked 1980s pop videos, specifically Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" (1989).[105] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times labelled the visual "a creepy homage" to David Lynch's mystery film Mulholland Drive (2001).[106]

Live performances and other usage[edit]

Taylor Swift performing onstage, dressed in a rhinestone-adorned dress
Swift performing "Style" on the 1989 World Tour

Swift first performed "Style" live as part of the "1989 Secret Session", which took place on the rooftop of the Empire State Building and was broadcast live by Yahoo! and iHeartRadio on October 27, 2014.[107] On December 2, she performed the song along with "Blank Space" at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 in London.[108] "Style" was included on the set list for Swift's headlining 2015 world tour in support of 1989.[109] Swift also included the song on the set list for her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour, where it was part of a medley with "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me".[110]

On April 23, 2019, Swift performed an acoustic version of the song at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts during the Time 100 Gala, where she was honored as one of the "100 most influential people" of the year.[111] Swift again performed the song on the Wango Tango festival on June 1,[112] during the Amazon Prime Day concert on July 10,[113] and at the City of Lover one-day concert in Paris on September 9, 2019.[114] She included "Style" in the regular set list of her sixth headlining tour, the Eras Tour (2023–2024).[115]

Rock singer-songwriter Ryan Adams covered "Style" on his 2015 track-by-track cover album of Swift's 1989.[116] Adams changed the original James Dean-referenced lyric to "You've got that 'Daydream Nation' look in your eye", a tribute to 1980s rock band Sonic Youth.[117] His version incorporated rock-oriented styles, which critics compared to the music by Irish rock band U2 and its lead singer Bono.[118][119][120] Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club deemed it a standout on Adams's 1989, praising the cover as a "yearning, '80s college rock fever dream with snarling punk stabs".[121] Slant Magazine's Jeremy Winograd, by contrast, called the version "a bad U2 song."[118]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the liner notes of 1989.[8]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "Style"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[66] 8× Platinum 560,000
Canada (Music Canada)[60] 3× Platinum 240,000*
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[166] Gold 45,000
Italy (FIMI)[167] Gold 50,000
New Zealand (RMNZ)[67] 3× Platinum 90,000
Norway (IFPI Norway)[168] Gold 30,000
Portugal (AFP)[169] Platinum 20,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[63] 2× Platinum 1,200,000
United States (RIAA)[52] 3× Platinum 3,000,000
Streaming
Greece (IFPI Greece)[150] Gold 1,000,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Style"
Region Date Format Label(s) Ref.
United States February 9, 2015 Hot adult contemporary
[40]
February 10, 2015 Contemporary hit radio [41]
Rhythmic radio [42]
Italy April 3, 2015 Radio airplay
[44]

"Style (Taylor's Version)"[edit]

"Style (Taylor's Version)"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album 1989 (Taylor's Version)
ReleasedOctober 27, 2023 (2023-10-27)
StudioPrime Recording (Nashville)
Length3:51
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Lyric video
"Style (Taylor's Version)" on YouTube

Swift ended her contract with Big Machine and signed with Republic Records in 2018. She began re-recording her first six studio albums in November 2020.[170] The decision followed a public dispute in 2019 between Swift and the talent manager Scooter Braun, who acquired Big Machine including the masters of Swift's albums which the label had released.[171][172] By re-recording the albums, Swift had full ownership of the new masters, which enabled her to control the licensing of her songs for commercial use and therefore substituted the Big Machine–owned masters.[173]

The re-recording of "Style", subtitled "Taylor's Version", was released as part of 1989's re-recording, 1989 (Taylor's Version), on October 27, 2023.[174] Swift produced "Style (Taylor's Version)" with Christopher Rowe, who had produced her previous re-recordings.[175] The track was engineered by Derek Garten at Prime Recording Studio in Nashville, Tennessee; mixed by Ghenea at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and mastered by Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, New Jersey. Rowe recorded Swift's vocals at Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles and Kitty Committee Studio in New York.[176]

Reception[edit]

"Style (Taylor's Version)" received mixed to positive reviews. Adam White from The Independent commented that the re-recording "sounds punishingly compressed [...] as though the mastering is off".[177] Slant Magazine's Jonathan Keefe wrote that the "altered guitar tone" was a "distraction" but the song overall was "perfect pop songcraft".[178] In American Songwriter, Alex Hopper said that the re-recorded "Style" featured Swift's matured vocals, which elevated an already great song.[179] Pitchfork's Shaad D'Souza regarded the track as one of the album's "immaculate highs",[180] and Rolling Stone UK's Mark Sutherland said the re-recording's production remained "astounding".[181]

"Style (Taylor's Version) peaked in the top 10 of charts in the Philippines (number two),[72] Australia (number seven),[182] Canda (number eight),[59] and New Zealand (number eight).[183] In the United States, "Style (Taylor's Version)" debuted at number nine on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated November 11, 2023.[184] This chart achievement extended Swift's record for the most top-10 singles (49) on the Billboard Hot 100 among women.[185] On the Billboard Global 200, it debuted at number five. With other 1989 (Taylor's Version) tracks, it helped Swift become the first artist to occupy the entire top six of the Global 200 chart simultaneously.[186]

Personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the liner notes of 1989 (Taylor's Version).[187]

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals, background vocals, songwriter, producer
  • Max Bernstein – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synth keyboards
  • Matt Billingslea – membranophone programming
  • Bryce Bordone – engineer for mix
  • Dan Burns – additional programming, synth bass programming, synthesizer programming, additional engineering, membranophone programming
  • Derek Garten – additional programming, engineer, editing
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing
  • Amos Heller – bass
  • Max Martin – songwriter
  • Ali Payami – songwriter
  • Christopher Rowe – producer, vocals engineering
  • Shellback – songwriter

Charts[edit]

Chart performance for "Style (Taylor's Version)"
Chart (2023–2024) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[182] 7
Brazil (Brasil Hot 100)[188] 58
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[59] 8
France (SNEP)[189] 135
Global 200 (Billboard)[69] 5
Greece International (IFPI)[190] 14
Ireland (Billboard)[191] 9
Lithuania (AGATA)[192] 74
Malaysia (Billboard)[193] 17
Malaysia International (RIM)[194] 3
MENA (IFPI)[195] 10
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[183] 8
Philippines (Billboard)[72] 2
Poland (Polish Streaming Top 100)[196] 96
Saudi Arabia (IFPI)[197] 19
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[198] 21
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[199] 83
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[200] 54
UAE (IFPI)[201] 5
UK (Billboard)[202] 10
UK Singles Downloads (OCC)[203] 29
UK Singles Sales (OCC)[204] 34
UK Streaming (OCC)[205] 10
US Billboard Hot 100[46] 9
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[206] 30

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Cited literature[edit]

  • Perone, James E. (2017). The Words and Music of Taylor Swift. The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781440852954.

External links[edit]