Taylor Swift is known for writing deeply personal songs, many of which are about her experiences in past relationships. In particular, her songs referencing her brief fling with British singer Harry Styles have garnered a lot of attention. This might come down to the fact that their relationship was closely followed by the media—or maybe it has something to do with the fact that he has written about her as well.
Before we check out her songs that have been confirmed or rumored to be about Styles, here’s a quick recap of their relationship:
The Relationship — A Timeline
Swift and Styles had a whirlwind relationship that ran just a few months, reportedly from the last few months of 2012 to January 2013. Nevertheless, the relationship clearly had a strong impact on both of them. Both artists have released several songs either confirmed or rumored to be about their time together.
The two reportedly met in the latter half of 2012. Rumors flew about their possible relationship in the fall when Swift was seen wearing a paper airplane necklace (which had long become a trademark of Styles’). They were photographed walking together in the Central Park Zoo in December 2012.
Just a month later, the couple split up while on a vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Swift was photographed sitting sadly on a park bench—a photo that was turned into a meme. She reportedly flew home alone while Styles stayed on the islands.
Sharp-eyed fans couldn’t help but notice that Style, which was released in 2014, shared a name with her ex. But that was far from the only indication that the song was about their brief fling. The track references a man with slicked-back, long hair and a white T-shirt. At the time of their relationship, Styles was known for preferring to dress in a similar fashion.
It is also worth mentioning that Style is about a secret relationship. Though Swift and Styles weren’t dating in secret, they were in a highly publicized relationship that sometimes necessitated dodging paparazzi to get some privacy. And of course, the lyrics also mention a couple who keeps breaking up and finding themselves back together again, which was reportedly what happened to Swift and Styles while they were dating.
2. Out of The Woods
Out Of The Woods was Swift’s way of memorializing her anxiety during her relationship with Styles. During an interview in 2015, she discussed how panic-inducing it was to try to pursue a relationship under the watchful eye of the paparazzi. Not only was there anxiety about making things work but there was also the feeling that the whole world was watching their every move.
Fans also noticed that this track came directly after Style on Swift’s album 1989, suggesting that there was a storyline connecting the two songs. Just like Style, Out Of The Woods is about a tumultuous relationship with lots of ups and downs. Both music videos also feature Swift wearing Styles’ famous paper airplane necklace.
During his early career with One Direction, Styles was known for wearing a necklace of a paper airplane. When Swift was seen wearing the same necklace in 2012, it sparked media rumors about a possible relationship between the singers.
The lyrics of Out Of The Woods include mention of the necklace and paper airplanes:
“Ooh, your necklace hanging from my neck
The night we couldn’t quite forget
When we decided, we decided
To move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance
Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying.”
But the song’s most obvious reference to Styles comes in the bridge:
“Remember when you hit the brakes too soon?
Twenty stitches in the hospital room
When you started crying, baby, I did too.”
In December 2012, they were involved in a snowmobile accident in Colorado. She wasn’t seriously injured, but Styles cut his chin badly and needed 20 stitches. The lyrics draw a parallel between the accident and the abrupt end of the relationship, which came like brakes being hit.
3. All You Had to do Was Stay
All You Had To Do Was Stay is one of the songs that people most widely agree seems to be based on Styles. The track, released on Swift’s 2014 album 1989, has never been confirmed to be about their relationship. But fans have drawn parallels to their breakup, which occurred in January 2013.
The couple was on vacation in the British Virgin Islands when they split, with Swift flying home alone while Styles remained in the islands. A photo of her sitting sadly alone on a photo prompted rumors that he had abandoned her on the boat (and led to a surge of “Sad Taylor” memes). Many people connected the breakup and All You Had To Do Was Stay.
Fans also noticed that Swift was wearing the same blue dress that she had worn in the British Virgin Islands in the Out Of The Woods music video, which is widely considered to be about Styles.
4. I Know Places
I Know Places caught fans’ attention for several reasons. The song bears strong similarities to Style, with its emphasis on a secret relationship that is trying to avoid attention. Swift and Styles were subject to a flurry of media attention, often having to dodge paparazzi trying to take pictures.
This track is about a couple trying to pursue a relationship while being constantly watched. The lyrics use familiar imagery of midnight meetings, cameras, and foxes being pursued by hunters. Ultimately, their placement in the spotlight is the downfall of their relationship.
The theme of the pressure of a high-profile relationship is consistent in Swift’s songs about Styles, including Style and Out Of The Woods. In subsequent relationships, she has made an effort to stay as private as possible. Her 2020 song Peace makes mention of wanting an ordinary life out of the media’s eye.
Clean was the final song of 1989, an album that was heavy with references to Styles. The track is about going through a difficult breakup and realizing that there is healing on the other side.
In a 2015 interview, she said that the song was inspired by being in London for two weeks and suddenly realizing she had been in the same city as an ex-boyfriend that whole time. “When it did hit me, it was like, ‘Oh, I hope he’s doing well,’” she said. “And nothing else. The first thought that came to my mind was, ‘I’m finally clean.’”
Fans immediately guessed that the song referred to Styles, who lives in London. Similarities between the music videos for Clean and Out Of The Woods further drove the theory that the track was a nod to their relationship.
6. I Wish You Would
I Wish You Would is a reflection on an old relationship. Although there has been growth since the relationship fell apart, the lyrics also reflect still harboring feelings for the ex and wishing that they could get back together again.
There are a few reasons why fans connected this song to Styles. First, the lyrics include the lines:
“We’re a crooked love
In a straight line down
Makes you wanna run and hide
Then it makes you turn right back around,”
Swift used the phrase “crooked love” in an interview where she mentioned her relationship with Styles. She said that the song is about two people whose love for one another is never quite in sync. She also drew parallels between I Wish You Would and Style, a song that’s more widely known to be about Styles.
7. Wildest Dreams
When Swift dropped her ultra-popular track Wildest Dreams in 2015, many fans speculated that it could be about Styles. Others thought this was a leap of logic, considering that the song made no explicit mention of him, and the music video depicted a fictitious story set in the 1940s.
The theory largely seems to come down to a few factors. First is the timing—Wildest Dreams was released in 2015, just a year after Swift released her heavily Styles-centered album, 1989. It is entirely possible that she was still writing songs about him two years after their relationship ended.
The rest seems to boil down to a single couplet:
“He’s so tall and handsome as hell
He’s so bad, but he does it so well.”
During their relationship, Styles certainly had a reputation as a bad boy—and he was widely depicted as such in terms of his relationship with Swift. Ultimately, there’s no telling who Wildest Dreams is truly about.
8. I Knew You Were Trouble
Many fans have speculated that Swift’s ultra-popular I Knew You Were Trouble was written about Styles. However, the timeline might not quite match up. This song was officially released in late November 2012, shortly after Swift’s relationship with Styles began. Of course, the track was composed and recorded much earlier. Styles and Swift first met in mid-2012 and began dating in the fall, which means that it is much more likely to be about a previous boyfriend.
However, that doesn’t mean that the song wasn’t affected by Styles. Many people pointed out that the theme of the song was an innocent woman being swept up by a “bad boy.” Swift’s appearance in the music video, which significantly differed from her past image of soft curls and country dresses, corresponded. The new image was widely associated with Styles.
9. Welcome to New York
Welcome To New York was the opening song on Swift’s 2014 album 1989, which seems to be heavily Styles-themed. Some fans have said that its use as the first track on the album serves as a setting of the stage. The couple was first seen in public in New York and spent much of their relationship in the city.
Meanwhile, Styles also has a song entitled Ever Since New York. While it has never been confirmed to be about Swift, fans can’t help but notice the parallel.
Maroon was released in 2022, almost a full decade after Swift and Styles ended their relationship. So, why do fans hypothesize that there might be a link?
First off, Swift has made mention of years-old relationships in other songs, so it wouldn’t be out of the question here. It caught fans’ attention because of several similar lines to Styles’ 2015 song Olivia, released when he was still a member of One Direction.
Maroon includes the line, “The burgundy on my T-shirt when you splashed your wine into me.” Meanwhile, Olivia also makes mention of spilling red wine on a shirt.
Question…? is another 2022 song, meaning that it would be quite a throwback reference to Swift’s relationship with Styles. However, there is a detailed reason that some fans think that it might be related.
The track bears strong resemblances to Out Of The Woods, which is widely accepted to be about Styles. There are many repeated lyrics, including the lingering phrase “I remember.” The chorus in both songs is a repetition of wondering where the relationship will go.
Though it’s unlikely that Swift will ever confirm any theories about the track, some people think the resemblance between the two songs is too much to be coincidental.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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