"Style" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). It was written and produced by Max Martin, Shellback, and Ali Payami, with additional writing by Swift, and released to radio stations as the album's third single on February 9, 2015. Musically, "Style" incorporates disco, funk-pop, pop rock and synth-pop. The lyrics are ambiguous; contemporary publications interpreted the song as being about beauty standards and reflections on past romantic relationships.
The song garnered generally positive reviews from critics, many of whom deemed it the album's highlight. A few commentators found the lyrics clichéd and shallow. It earned an APRA Music Award nomination for International Work of the Year and appeared on year-end lists of Pitchfork and The Village Voice. In the US, "Style" peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming 1989's third consecutive Hot 100 top-ten single. It received triple platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which denotes track-equivalent sales of over three million units. "Style" also entered the top ten on charts and received multi-platinum certifications in Australia and Canada.
Inspired by pop music of the 1980s and its experimentation with synthesizers, drum pads, and overlapped vocals, Taylor Swift decided to move away from the signature country styles of her previous releases and incorporate a straightforward pop production for her fifth studio album, 1989. The recording process began in mid-2013 concurrently with the start of Swift's headlining world tour in support of her fourth studio album Red. Swift announced in February 2014 that she was working again with Max Martin and Shellback, with whom she had collaborated on three songs for Red. The two produced seven of the thirteen tracks for the album's standard ion; Martin also served as executive producer with Swift.
"Style" was originally written by producer Ali Payami and guitarist Niklas Ljungfelt for themselves. The two finished the instrumental – a guitar-driven track inspired by what Ljungfelt called "funky electronic music" artists such as Daft Punk. Payami played the instrumental for Martin at the latter's studio; Swift became fond of the track after overhearing it and decided to record it for her album. Swift, Payami, Martin, and Shellback are cred as the song's writers. Production was handled by all the songwriters except Swift. Michael Illbert and Sam Holland recorded the track at MXM Studios in Stockholm and Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with assistance from Cory Bice. The song was mixed by Serban Ghenea and John Hanes at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach and mastered by Tom Coyne at Sterling Sound in New York City. "Style" was one of the last songs finished by the production team for 1989.
"Style" incorporates disco, funk-pop, pop rock and synth-pop genres. The guitar instrumentation was inspired by "funky electronic music" of Daft Punk. The lyrics were inspired by Swift's evolved viewpoints on past relationships and feature a reference to the 1950s actor James Dean.
The song's lyrics are ambiguous. Several critics initially thought the song talked about romance and beauty standards in a flirtatious manner. Wood pointed out the opening lines "Midnight / You come and pick me up, no headlights" as an allusion to having sex, a subject about which Swift had not previously written. The lyrics, "You've got that James Dean daydream look in your eye / And I've got that red lip classic thing that you like" in the refrain refer to the 1950s actor James Dean and, in the words of The Atlantic's Spencer Kornhaber, reflect conventional beauty standards employed by iconic American figures like Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford. Kornhaber remarked that the "classic" beauty in the lyrics are embedded with racial undertones, and Consequence of Sound's Sasha Geffen explicitly said it mostly applies to white people.
Slate's Forrest Wickman noticed that the song seems to be about "timeless fashions" but actually portrays an unhealthy relationship. On an iHeartRadio live concert on October 27, 2014, Swift elaborated on her thinking of "fashion staples that ... we never throw out of our closet" while writing the song. Four days later, during a radio interview with host Ryan Seacrest, she revealed that "Style" was inspired by one of her romantic affairs that was "always a bit off". She then connected "timeless visuals" with a feeling that "never goes out of style" and explained that the song represented 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. Several publications noted this change and felt the song's narrative was Swift's reflections on her heavily publicized relationship with English singer Harry Styles, which had ended in January 2013. The lines that suggest Swift's self-asserted maturity are in the second pre-chorus, where she confesses to her unfaithful lover that she too has cheated.
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"
"Style" received positive reviews from music critics. Kitty Empire from The Observer called it a "percolating" song that "satisfies on every level".PopMatters's Corey Beasley was impressed by Swift's departure from country to new styles that "fit her like a cashmere-lined leather glove" and deemed the song "immaculate".Now's Benjamin Boles selected "Style" as the album's highlight.Houston Chronicle writer Joey Guerra praised the song as "compelling". Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times also named the track the album's standout for its "sensual" atmosphere. Robert Leedham of Drowned in Sound praised the track's theme of celebrating past relationships and embracing positivity instead of Swift's traditional "[playing] the victim."
The New York Times critic Jon Caramanica labelled "Style" the "high mark" of 1989 that embodies Swift's "savage, wry, and pointed" maturity from her previous albums.Billboard's Richard S. He praised "Style" for showcasing "Swift's songwriting at its purest" by evoking "worlds of emotion" despite utilizing a generic song structure.The Independent's Andy Gill described the song's theme as a "piquancy", and its music direction as "desperately inclusive electropop grooves and corporate rebel clichés". Allie Volpe of The Philadelphia Inquirer viewed the song's lyrics as "shallow" but complimented its sound as her "favorite on the album."Consequence of Sound's Sasha Geffen lauded the song's musical styles, but criticized its theme of conventional beauty standards of "white people" as a cliché that blemishes Swift's "girl-next-door likability" on the album.
Pitchfork ranked "Style" at number 50 on their list of 2014's best songs. On behalf of the publication, Jordan Sargent remarked that while the lyrics embraced Swift's "familiar tropes of Western romance" on previous releases, the instrumentation as well as Swift's "tense and restrained" vocals signaled her transformation in music and image. The song placed at number 24 on the 2015 Pazz & Jop poll, an annual mass critics' poll conducted by The Village Voice. At the 2016 BMI Awards, the track was one of the Award-Winning Songs that earned Swift the honor of Songwriter of the Year. "Style" also received a nomination for International Work of the Year at the APRA Music Awards of 2016. In 2020, Hannah Mylrea of NME placed the song among the 10 best songs by Swift, labelling it as "Swift at her best".
"Style" debuted at number 60 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart of November 15, 2014, on the release of its parent album 1989. Following Swift's performance of "Style" at the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the song re-entered the chart at number 75 on the issue date December 27, 2014. After Big Machine CEO Borchetta announced that he was in favor of "Style" being released as a single in December 2014, the track debuted on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 at number 39 on January 12, 2015. The single reached number ten on the Hot 100 chart on February 28, 2015, becoming 1989's third consecutive Hot 100 top ten following the number-one singles "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space". It peaked at number six on the March 21, 2015, chart. The single also achieved success on Billboard component charts, peaking atop the Mainstream Top 40,Adult Top 40, and the Adult Contemporary charts. It has received triple platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which denotes track-equivalent sales of three million units based on sales and streams. As of November 2017, "Style" has sold 2.2 million digital copies in the US.
American filmmaker Kyle Newman directed the music video for "Style", which was shot in Los Angeles and completed within four days in summer 2014. Before its release, Swift posted several teaser images and short clips from the video on her social media accounts. 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. Swift uploaded the video to her Vevo account on the same day. In the video, English actor Dominic Sherwood plays Swift's love interest. 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).
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. At some points, the broken mirror pieces, through which Swift and her lover see each other, symbolize memories of a past relationship that linger on. Media publications noted and praised the video's darker, more abstract and sensual atmosphere compared to the videos for "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space".Vox's Kelsey McKinney opined that Swift embraced her sexuality using "sensual imagery" of her touching herself, which showcased her maturity as an artist. Emilee Lindner of MTV called the video "mature, tasteful, and ... sexy". 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."InStyle writer Hayley Spencer deemed it "Swift's most cinematic video to date."
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 crs of the crime drama series True Detective.The Wall Street Journal's Michael Driscoll, meanwhile, compared the video's atmosphere to that of 1980s pop videos, specifically Chris Isaak's 1989 single "Wicked Game". Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times labelled the visual "a creepy homage" to David Lynch's mystery film Mulholland Drive (2001).
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. On December 2, she performed the song along with "Blank Space" at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 in London. "Style" was included on the set list for Swift's headlining 2015 world tour in support of 1989. 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". 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. On September 9, Swift performed the song at the City of Lover one-off concert in Paris, France.