A majority of Taylor Swift’s "1989" album was clearly inspired by her ex-man, Harry Styles. So, here is a case study of eleven songs on this album, including proof and analysis of lyrics and context relating these songs to Mr. Styles himself:
The title is "Style." So...Styles? Not very subtle, Taylor. It’s great that this song is so obvious because the rest of the analysis will draw from this song’s lyrics and themes.
"You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye."
He looks like James Dean; this isn’t difficult to put together. Below is Dean, upper, and Styles, lower.
"'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style."
While this doesn’t seem super important in this song, the theme comes back in almost every other song: the theme of keeping the relationship alive, going back to the relationship. In other words: timelessness and back and forth--never going out of style.
"You've got that long hair slick back, white t-shirt."
Classic Styles look--his long curly hair and his white t-shirt. At this point, this isn’t really an analysis--it's just simple observation. Below is a photo of the long hair and white t-shirt that Styles famously sports.
"Take me home
Just take me home
Yeah just take me home, oh"
This one takes a little more analysis. "Take Me Home" is the name of the One Direction album that was released right around the same time when Taylor and Harry’s relationship started to become public. November 2012, specifically.
"Midnight, you come and pick me up, no headlights
Long drive, could end in burning flames or paradise
Fade into view, oh,
It's been a while since I have even heard from you."
Again, this set of lyrics has important themes and events that will develop throughout her Styles-inspired album. Driving--especially dangerously. The themes of night, recklessness, and driving will be seen throughout most of this album, all eluding back to this obvious tribute to her ex-beau.
2. "Wildest Dreams"
"He said, "Let's get out of this town
Drive out of the city
Away from the crowds."
Here it is, the theme of driving, of getting away. This brings us back to the Style poem, where the two are described as always driving and leaving.
"He's so tall and handsome as hell."
Harry is over six feet tall, so yeah, he’s tall. Handsome as hell? Hell yes, he is.
"He's so bad but he does it so well."
This is another theme--him being neglectful, rude, unfaithful, “bad,” but her loving it. Loving the bad and always reconnecting. You’ll see.
"It was months and months of back-and-forth
There was nothing left for me to do."
Here it is, folks: the theme of returning. Their relationship wasn’t always tight and consistent, with lots of backlashes and hiding, not officially making their first public appearance until December 2012, even with suspicions raising a whole month earlier.
"When the butterflies turned to dust, they covered my whole room."
Styles has a huge butterfly tattoo on his torso--no doubt an allusion to the massive ink. Below is a picture of this said tattoo.
"Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it."
Ten months sober...of their relationship. The album was releasednine to ten months after their official split in January 2013.
"Ten months older, I won’t give in
Now that I’m clean, I’m never gonna risk it."
Again, that ten-month writing period reflecting back on their short-lived relationship. Here, Taylor brings in the on-and-off again theme, saying she’s done going back. Below is a very simple timeline of their relationship.
"Didn’t you flash your green eyes at me?
And we pretended it could last forever
But there were strangers watching."First, Harry has green eyes--probably the biggest and most beautiful on the planet. A time limit was on the relationship--the danger, the sneaking around, the fall--they knew it was only a matter of time--see "Blank Space" for more of this theme. Below is a picture of his big, green eyes.
"And whispers turned to talking
And talking turned to screams."Again, they were hiding and being secretive, and the more the public found out, the less valid and stable the relationship became.
"Didn't you calm my fears with a Cheshire cat smile."What a random allusion, you must be thinking. No, actually, this was very carefully crafted, as Harry grew up in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, England. Below is a photo of me there.
5. "This Love"
"Clear blue water, high tides came and brought you in
And I could go on and on, on and on
And I will
Skies grew darker, currents swept you out again."
The theme of coming and going is seen here, giving this song a string of ships and water metaphors, all tied to an event that took place during their relationship. Here is a photo below from Styles's Instagram page. He is pictured on a boat during the time he was dating Swift. Comments speculate that Swift took the photo.
"In silent screams and wildest dreams."
Silent screams--hiding, sneaking around. Wildest dreams, well, see the song "Wildest Dreams." This song is calling upon her earlier song in the album, also about Styles, bringing those themes and points made into this song as well.
"Been losing grip, sinking ships
This love left a permanent mark
Your smile, my ghost, I fell to my knees."
First, Styles was accompanied by Swift when he got his ship tattoo, therefore calling for all the ship and water references. This event also explains the permanent mark. Smiles and ghosts--meaning past selves--are present not only in other songs about Styles, but also in Harry’s own rebuttal to these songs in “Two Ghosts.” Below to the left is Harry, Taylor, and the tattoo artist that did the ship ink on Styles' arm. Below to the right is a photo of the tattoo.
All in all, this song is definitely referring directly to their breakup, which happened while they were spending a vacation in the Caribbean, a tropical area where oceans and boats/ships are a crucial part of the vacation. Below is a photo of the pair on this vacation before their split.
6. "I Wish You Would"
"It's 2 A.M. in your car
Windows down, I pass my street
The memories start."
Alert! The theme of driving in the dark, alluding to the secrecy and recklessness of the relationship.
"You say it's in the past
And drive straight ahead
You think I'm gonna hate you now."
Here, Swift brings back two themes: back and forth, and a pleasant “badness.” Oh, also more driving.
"It's 2 A.M. in my room
Headlights pass the window pane
I think of you."
The allusions of night and driving are reflected here; these things remind Swift of their relationship.
"Makes you wanna run and hide
Then it makes you turn right back around."
Themes of secrecy and back and forth are brought up again--she’s making this too easy.
7. "You Are In Love"
"One look, dark room."
"Eyes flashing at me" may be that “one look” referred to in Swift's other Styles-inspired song, “Wonderland.” The dark room relating to the literal dark theme in all these songs.
"Time moved too fast
You played it back."
The relationship didn’t last long, only from early speculations in November 2012, to an official split in January 2013.
"Buttons on a coat
The coat is here because their relationship was a winter one, most of their sightings being outside during the chilly weather. Styles is also known for his wit.
"No proof not much
But you saw enough."
Not much proof can be referring to the early speculations of their relationship--e.g., the airplane necklace spotted on Swift. Below are photos of the pair sharing this necklace.
"Small talk, he drives."
Here he is driving, again.
"Coffee at midnight, the light reflects
The chain on your neck."
The chain--Harry’s famous airplane necklace that lasted the duration of this relationship. This was an item that they were both pictured wearing, one of the main causes of speculation of a relationship back in November 2012. Also, it’s late at night, again.
"No proof, one touch
You felt enough."
The lack of proof again, referring to the unofficial start of their public relationship.
"And for once you let go
Of your fears and your ghosts."
The “ghosts” are mentioned here again, relating to letting go of the past, of old selves.
"You can hear it in the silence, silence, you
You can feel it on the way home, way home, you
You can see it with the lights out, lights out."
Silence, darkness, night, driving, home--all themes that Swift brings into all the songs inspired by Styles. They sure did drive a lot.
"Burnt toast, Sunday."
While there isn’t a huge amount of evidence for this, there has been a “study” that found that a majority of Brits like their toast mildly burnt--not black--but a dark brown. So, does Styles fall into this category? Below is an excerpt from this "study."
"You kissed on sidewalks."
New Year’s Eve, kissing on the Times Square sidewalk, maybe? Here's a photo of that event
8. "All You Had to Do Was Stay"
"People like you always want back the love they gave away
And people like me wanna believe you when you say you've changed."
Changing, evolving, looking back on past selves, our "ghosts," maybe?
"The more I think about it now the less I know
All I know is that you drove us off the road."
Driving us off the road. Wow, such recklessness, Styles, such reckless driving, over and over again.
9. "Out of the woods"
"Looking at it now
Last December (last December)."
The relationship was officially confirmed in December 2012, when the two were spotted in Central Park together.
"We were built to fall apart
Then fall back together (back together)."
Here is the recurring theme of old selves, reinvention, and back and forth in terms of the relationship.
"Ooh, your necklace hanging from my neck."
Taylor was photographed wearing Harry’s airplane necklace, the unofficial start to the relationship.
"Baby, like we stood a chance
Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying".
The airplane necklace was a paper airplane necklace. So here, she is clearly talking about Styles.
"Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?"
This is referring to the secrecy and “hiding” aspect of their relationship. Swift uses a common saying of “are we out of the woods” to allude to her and Styles' blossoming relationship and the backlash and issues streaming from it.
"Remember when you hit the brakes too soon?
Twenty stitches in a hospital room."
These lyrics refer to two things: the theme of driving recklessly and an actual accident that occurred during the short-lived relationship--a snowmobile or skiing accident that apparently sent Styles to the emergency room sometime during December 2012. Below is a photo of Harry's injured chin after the accident.
10. "I Know Places"
"I can hear them whisper as we pass by
It's a bad sign, bad sign
Something happens when everybody finds out
See the vulture circling in dark cloud."
There was a lot of backlashes when the two became public, mostly from 1D fans unhappy with the pair.
"And guns, they are the hunters, we are the foxes
And we run
In the dead of night, you act so great."
First, one of their first sightings out as a couple, Taylor sported a sweater with a fox on it...we are the foxes. Further, foxes are sneaky creatures that roam at night, just like the themes in this album. The night is blatantly mentioned again here, too, relating this song to all the other times where the relationship was described as secret, mysterious, and happening in the dark.
11. "Blank Space"
"Magic, madness, heaven, sin."
Opposites put together, madness, craziness, recklessness? All themes present throughout the relationship-inspired songs.
"Grab your passport and my hand
I can make the bad guys good for a weekend."
Bad guys becoming good is a theme we see a lot in these songs, as Styles is constantly described as making mistakes and being “bad,” but Swift loving it. Also, he needs his passport to get to “the States” to visit Swift.
"You're the king, baby, I'm your Queen."
King and Queen...of England?
"So it's gonna be forever
Or it's gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it's over
If the high was worth the pain."
Here, we see the time limit that was always put on the relationship--like a ticking time bomb.
"'Cause we're young and we're reckless
We'll take this way too far."
Again, the reckless factor of the relationship is brought up, describing the couple’s up-and-down again relationship.
"It'll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar."
Would this nasty scar she’s referring to be the one he gained from his accident that sent him to the ER while on a trip with Swift?
"Oh my God, who is she?"
I get drunk on jealousy
But you'll come back each time you leave."
These lyrics call to the accusations made against Styles--claims were made he was seen with another woman. Other songs allude he admitted to hurting Swift. Also, the theme of touch and go is mentioned again, coming back each time he leaves.
All in all, most of the songs included on the "1989" album are more than inspired by Harry Styles. So, what is Harry's response? A song on the One Direction album and then another of his own on his self-titled debut album. Stay tuned for the next case study.