In her song ‘Style’, Swift tries to make sense of a toxic on-again-off-again relationship. This is evident from the lyrics and the main binary she presents in the first verse. The binary is used to set up the internal conflict of the song, “End in burning flames or paradise”. She is appears to be unsure of the outcome, but then at the end of the verse she admits that she knows what is going to happen. Swift has allowed herself to create this over-romanticized version of a toxic relationship based on a twisted view of what looks good to the public.
Evidence of the Toxic Relationship
Her lyrics are filled with different indicators of the toxic nature of this boyfriend. One of the most interesting is that she considers herself to be almost a bystander or maybe even a victim. She says, “I know exactly where it leads/but I/ watch us go round and round each time”, and she never appears to take action to change the outcome of the relationship, even though she knows it is doomed from the start. Another example is from the chorus when she tells the audience, “when we go crashing down/ we come back every time/ ’cause we never go out of style”. Style is something that the public sees and it allows Swift to define herself through her clothing, her music, and even her choice of boyfriend. She is alluding to the fact that she thinks having this boyfriend will keep her stylish, even if they are bad for each other. The last major example of the toxicity of the relationship is when the boy in the song admits to being with other girls and then she also admits to seeing other boys. This would prevent most couples from getting together, but it seems to only increase her desire to stay with him. After that chorus, she repeatedly asks to be taken home, proving that their mutual unfaithfulness does not prevent her from wanting to be with him.
Over-Romanticized Glamorous Relationship
As discussed in class, the entire video aligns Swift with the ideal Americanized relationship. This relationship is all about living fast, dying young, often times, the people most known from relationships similar to the one in the song are dead. In the song she mentions specifically James Dean. He died young, in a car crash, and was only in one movie before he died. He is not the classic bad boy but for Swift’s love story his ‘couldn’t give a crap’ attitude fits what she wants because it feeds her insecurities concerning their relationship and she appears to feed off of the drama. She needs someone in her life that is as self-destructive, if not more so, as she is because she does not want to be simply a pretty, lonely famous girl. She aligns herself with the Jackie Os and Marilyn Monroes of history in her choice of man, her clothes, and her signature red lip. Dean and Monroe were both beautiful, died young, and lead very salacious lives. Swift has used these tragic lives as a metaphor for how she thinks her own toxic relationship will go.
Swift has focused on the dysfunction present in her numerous relationships as a form of art. She uses past lovers and crushes to make music and in turn music allows her a creative outlet to process the pain of the betrayals, breakups, and unrequited loves. This only one of several songs on the 1989 album that shows her finally acknowledging that she is drawn to the high passion, low functionality relationships.