There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as putting your feelings into words as you try to process them. And if there’s any artist who knows how to succinctly capture the gamut of emotions with addictive hooks and vivid imagery, it’s Taylor Swift. The 12-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has penned many gut-wrenching, soul-piercing songs that perfectly sum up the complex feelings of love, which her passionate fans often relate to all too well. And one of her past subjects just so happens to be fellow superstar and ex-boyfriend Harry Styles.
Swift and Styles reportedly briefly dated from December 2012 to January 2013, and though the whirlwind romance between the two singers didn’t last long, it’s believed to have helped inspire multiple great songs from both Swift and the former One Direction bandmate. And no — not all of Swift’s songs about Styles are from a decade ago. When she released her 2022 album “Midnights,” she said her songs are inspired from moments throughout her life, opening the door for any of them to be about any relationship — including her fling with Styles. And some of the songs about the English pop star have made her Eras Tour set list.
While the two have never explicitly mentioned each other in their songs, fans have long speculated about certain lyrics that supposedly point at one another. Swift also left fans a trail of clues via her “1989” album’s lyric booklet; lowercase words spell out a phrase for each song, and the phrases jointly tell a story. Keep reading to find a roundup of all the songs from Swift’s vast discography that are widely believed to be about Styles.
01 Is Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that / And when I fell hard, you took a step back / Without me, without me”
The secret message behind the song: “When you saw me dancing.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: Though a majority of listeners believe that “I Knew You Were Trouble” from Swift’s 2012 album “Red” is about either John Mayer, Swift’s ex who she infamously dated at age 19, or Jake Gyllenhaal, who supposedly inspired most of Swift’s fourth studio album, an interview following the 2013 BRIT Awards sparked rumors that Styles might be the person the pointed lyrics of the heartbreak anthem are directed at.
When talking about her stunning performance at the awards show with The Sunday Times in 2013, Swift stopped short of admitting that the song may well have been about Styles. “You’re balancing the analytical side of your brain, which is telling you where to go and how to go there, with the other side of your brain, which is saying, ‘Feel everything you’re singing and show it on your face. Feel everything exactly as you felt it when you wrote the song’,” Swift said. “Well, it’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching.” Styles was in attendance at the event, leading fans to wonder if he could be the problematic ex-beau in “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Styles also seemed to reference the song in One Direction’s 2015 track “Perfect,” which he’s listed as a co-writer song. The song includes the lyric: “When I first saw you from across the room / I could tell that you were curious.”
02 Is Taylor Swift’s “Style” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Midnight / You come and pick me up, no headlights,” “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye,” “You got that long hair, slicked back, white T-shirt”
The secret message behind the song: “Her heart belonged to someone who couldn’t stay.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: The hit “1989” single, “Style,” details a roller-coaster relationship, where the two people keep running around in circles, never really able to cut the ties for good. The chorus describes the male as a dreamy persona reminiscent of James Dean, and the long hair and slicked-back look she describes strikingly resembles Styles’s appearance at the time. The opening lines of the first verse also point to the secrecy of the relationship, which further hints Styles inspired this song. The two were the center of a highly publicized romance while they were and were often the subject of speculation by the tabloids. The song cleverly references One Direction projects, such as their song, “You & I,” and their second studio album, “Take Me Home.” Not to mention, the track’s title is as much a giveaway as its lyrics.
“‘Style’ is a song that I wrote about kind of observing fashion trends and cultural trends and seeing how there are certain things that are constant,” Swift said in her Big Machine Radio commentary while explaining the inception of the song, likening classic staples such as a little black dress or red lips to feelings that inspired the lyrics. “I started thinking about that in terms of feelings. There are certain feelings like that. There are certain people that float in and out of your life, sort of, like a trend that keeps coming back in style and never fully fades away.”
03 Is Taylor Swift’s “Out Of The Woods” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Ooh, your necklace hanging from my neck,” “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? / Twenty stitches in the hospital room / When you started crying, baby, I did too”
The secret message behind the song: “They loved each other recklessly.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: “Out Of The Woods” chronicles the ups and downs of a relationship that often leaves you feeling apprehensive about the time when it all finally comes crashing down. Chronologically placed right after “Style” on the “1989” tracklist, the secret message behind “Out Of The Woods” ties the subject, heavily speculated to be Styles, together to the rest of the album. The bridge of the track takes a metaphorical route where Swift sings about how the relationship suddenly came to a screeching halt, which might be a nod to their real-life snowmobile accident in September 2014, further suggesting Styles influenced the song. Furthermore, the exact replica of the paper airplane necklace that Styles was spotted wearing on multiple occasions in 2012 also appears in the music video for “Out Of The Woods.”
“This song is about the fragility and kind of breakable nature of some relationships,” Swift explained the song’s lyrics in her Big Machine Radio commentary. “This was a relationship where it was, kind of, living day-to-day, wondering where it was going, if it was going to go anywhere, if it was gonna end the next day. It was a relationship where you kind of never feel like you’re standing on solid ground. And that kind of a feeling brings on excitement but also extreme anxiety and, kind of a frantic feeling of wondering endless questions.” She added that the sound of “Out Of The Woods” (see: the repetitive questioning in the chorus) perfectly mirrors the anxious feelings that sparked the lyrics. “It stresses that even if a relationship is breakable and fragile and full of anxiety, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile, exciting, beautiful, and all the things that we look for,” Swift concluded.
04 Is Taylor Swift’s “All You Had To Do Was Stay” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Here you are now, calling me up / But I don’t know what to say / I’ve been picking up the pieces / Of the mess you made”
The secret message behind the song: “They paid the price.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: The upbeat track paints a heartbreaking picture of a crumbling love that fell through due to one person’s indecisiveness. Fans have long pointed out that track No. 5 on Swift’s albums tends to be the most emotionally raw — and this track No. 5 touches on the subject’s tendency to return to her asking for forgiveness when they were the one to sever ties in the first place. Many listeners have speculated that “All You Had To Do Was Stay” might’ve had its origins in the British Virgin Islands trip the pair took in January 2013. The two artists reportedly called it quits while on vacation, with Swift returning home alone.
Swift explained the peculiar chorus vocals during a 2015 GQ interview with Ryan Adams, “I had a dream that my ex showed up at my door, knocked on the door, and I opened it up, and I was about ready to launch into, like, the perfect thing to say, and instead, all that would come out of my mouth was that high-pitched chorus of people singing ‘stay!’”
05 Is Taylor Swift’s “I Wish You Would” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “We’re a crooked love in a straight line down / Makes you want to run and hide / But it makes you turn right back around”
The secret message behind the song: “He drove past her street each night.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: In “I Wish You Would,” Swift wistfully looks back on her past relationship without any bitter feelings regarding its outcome. Here she wishes the other person would say what you want them to say — to get back together — because she knows she too wants another chance at this love deep down. For this song, Swift created a John Hughes cinematic narrative where both people are pining for one another, but keep missing each other, not letting the other in. “It talks about a relationship. It says it’s a ‘crooked love in a straight line down / makes you wanna run and hide, but it makes you turn right back around.’ So it just kind of is like that dramatic love that’s never really quite where it needs to be and that tension that creates,” Swift said in her Big Machine radio commentary about the song.
When speaking about “Style” on “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” in 2014, Swift also related the song to “I Wish You Would,” stating that the two songs share a bond that’s not quite “synced up.”
06 Is Taylor Swift’s “How You Get The Girl” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together / I would wait forever and ever,” “Remind her how it used to be, be, yeah-yeah / With pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks, cheeks”
The secret message behind the song: “Then one day he came back.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: In a 2014 interview with Audacy, Swift shared that she wrote “How You Get the Girl” as an instruction manual to help guide the guys who want to get back together with an ex they haven’t spoken to in over six months — leading fans to believe that Swift’s tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship with Styles might have lent itself to the creation of this track. The secret one-liner, along with the subtle lyrical shift at the end, “And that’s how it works / That’s how you got the girl,” signifies that she may have taken him back at one point after a significant amount of time.
07 Is Taylor Swift’s “This Love (Taylor’s Version)” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “This love is good, this love is bad / This love is alive back from the dead, oh-oh, oh / These hands had to let it go free, and / This love came back to me, oh-oh, oh,” “Your kiss, my cheek / I watched you leave / Your smile, my ghost / I fell to my knees / When you’re young, you just run / But you come back to what you need”
The secret message behind the song: “Timing is a funny thing.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: In 2022, Swift released the remastered version of this track, titled “This Love (Taylor’s Version),” as part of her efforts to reclaim her earlier work amid an ongoing fight for ownership of her masters. The track, solely written by Swift, ponders on a love that was great when it lasted and the haunting aftermath of letting this person go because they’re not quite on the same page despite deeply caring about one another.
“It’s about kind of an experience I had where if you truly care about someone and you know they’re not ready to be in a relationship, you will let them go. And it sucks to be the one who has to let something go and cut someone loose when you don’t want to. But I think you have to be selfless in relationships when you know that it’s not the right time,” Swift said in her Big Machine Radio commentary for “This Love.”
She went on to add that this person supposedly came back into her life when the time was right. “And if you make that decision and that person is supposed to be in your life, they’ll come back. And this was the way I felt when that came back around.”
08 Is Taylor Swift’s “I Know Places” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Something happens when everyone finds out / See the vultures circling, dark clouds / Love’s a fragile little flame, it could burn out / It could burn out,” “Lights flash and we’ll run for the fences / Let them say what they want, we won’t hear it”
The secret message behind the song: “And everyone was watching.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: “I Know Places” recounts the perils of dating someone in the spotlight and how it ultimately leads to the couple’s untimely downfall, due mainly to media speculation. It’s no surprise there are theories Swift penned this song about her overly observed, high-profile relationship with Styles. Much like “Style,” the song uses midnight, camera flashlights, and the fox-and-hunters imagery to drive home the lack of privacy the two had while together. Learning from previous experiences with media, Swift made a point to keep her recent relationship with ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn private and out of the spotlight. Her emotional track “Peace” on “Folklore” touches on her craving for a semblance of ordinary life.
09 Is Taylor Swift’s “Clean” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “It was months and months of back and forth (Oh-oh, oh-oh) / You’re still all over me / Like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore”
The secret message behind the song: “She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: “Clean,” the closing track off of “1989,” sums up Swift’s journey of heartbreak and surviving it, having come out on the other side of the pain. When in London, Swift realized that she had been in the same city as her ex for the past two weeks and that thought never even crossed her mind until then. “When it did hit me, it was like, ‘Oh, I hope he’s doing well.’ And nothing else,” Swift said in an interview with Elle in 2015. “The first thought that came to my mind was, ‘I’m finally clean.’”
The mention of London alerted fans to the possibility that the previous partner in question might be Styles. It’s also worth noting that the secret message of “Clean” appears at the end of the “Out Of The Woods” music video, connecting the two songs and, therefore, their alleged mutual inspiration, Styles.
10 Is Taylor Swift’s “Wonderland” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Didn’t they tell us “Don’t rush into things”? / Didn’t you flash your green eyes at me? / Haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds,” “All alone, or so it seemed / But there were strangers watching / And whispers turned to talking / And talking turned to screams, oh”
The secret message behind the song: “It’s all fun and games ’til somebody loses their mind.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: “Wonderland” employs the concept of “Alice in Wonderland” to describe a relationship that, though surreal and picturesque at first, eventually caused them both to feel miserable when the underlying issues that they were blissfully ignoring all along resurfaced. The green-colored eyes of the love interest and the public attention that put a strain on the relationship are both reminiscent of the themes of “I Know Places,” making some fans believe that “Wonderland,” too, is about Swift’s rocky romance with Styles.
11 Is Taylor Swift’s “Maroon” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “The burgundy on my T-shirt when you splashed the wine onto me,” “The rust that grew between telephones.”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: The song “Olivia” by Styles’s former band One Direction contains the line, “Just thinking how I went about it wrong / This isn’t the stain of a red wine, I’m bleeding love,” leading to speculation that Styles may have spilled red wine onto Swift at one point. The “rust that grew between telephones” line could also reference the fact that the pair were in a long-distance relationship. However, given that “Maroon” is another shade of “Red,” the name of Swift’s 2012 album, some believe this track is about her ex Jake Gyllenhaal.
12 Is Taylor Swift’s “Question…?” About Harry Styles? Theory
The telling lyrics: “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room? / And every single one of your friends was making fun of you / But 15 seconds latеr they were clapping, too?”
Why it’s about Harry Styles: Styles and Swift shared a New Year’s Eve kiss in 2013, so this could be a reference to their kiss followed by an explosion of cheers when the ball dropped. Fans also noticed that the song sounds similar to “Out of the Woods,” which is also thought to be about her romance with Styles.