Artist – Taylor Swift
Song – “Style”
Written by – Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback, Ali Payami
Key – D Major
Genre – Dance Pop
Release Date – February 9th 2015
BPM – 95
“Style” is one of the singles from Taylor Swift’s album entitled “1989”, the track began as an instrument created by Ali Payami and became a collaboration with lyrics being composed by Swift and Max Martin. The song is unquestionably a synth based dance pop, it has a very major feel in the chorus’s, however feels darker in the verses with the use of the B minor as the first chord in the progression, the relative minor of D major. This gives a bit of contrast to the lineage of the song, the vibe goes a little back and forth, this is not a negative detail however.
Lyrical Content: Swift describes the lyrical meaning of the song in a radio interview in 2014, saying, “It’s basically one of those relationships that’s always a bit off … The two people are trying to forget each other. So, it’s like, “Alright, I heard you went off with her,” and well, I’ve done that, too My previous albums have also been sort of like, “I was right, you were wrong, you did this, it made me feel like this”—a righteous sense of right and wrong in a relationship. What happens when you grow up is you realize the rules in a relationship are very blurred and that it gets very complicated very quickly, and there’s not a case of who was right or who was wrong.” A common subject of song for Taylor, it’s likely to be related to a previous relationship of hers that ended poorly.
Dynamics: The drums follow the same pattern throughout majority of the song, with the kick on beats 1 and 3, and the snare on 2 and 4. The hi hat comes in the chorus’s playing the off beats, adding a bit of groove to the beat. They’re very consistent and basic sounding, the kick and snare sound heavily processed, given this and the nature of the song, I would suggest they have been programmed as opposed to recorded live. They have no noticeable changed in dynamics throughout. The kick and snare have great deal of punch, as most pop music tends to, this would suggest there is a slowed attack from compression, fattening up both the kick and snare.
Spectral: There is a great deal of low end in the kick, particularly in the super lows around 50 Hz, the high end of around 3 to 4K is where most of the attack from snap and attack of the kick is coming from. The snare has a has a fairly deep and fat tone, a very strong presence in the 200 Hz region, the harsher high end of the snare is very strong between 5 and 6K, this makes the snare sound very crisp.
Spatial: The kick and snare are very up front in the mix and sitting in the centre. This work for the song as it driven by the beat. There is a hefty amount of reverb on the snare, creating a decay sound of chamber or cavern, a very large space with a decay time of at least 2 seconds. The hi hat in the chorus’s seems to be sitting in the centre, but farther back in the mix as it is not a driving element of the song.
Dynamics: The bass synth is the main element holding the chord progression, it continues the whole time except for during pre choruses, when most of the parts drop out. The bass sounds like it is side chained to both the kick and snare, this is helping the drums cut through and the bass still pushes its way in between hits, so it feel more prominent with having turned it up. So this gives the bass a slower attack time. There is a bit of depth to this synth that would suggest it has more than the average sine wave, there could potentially be something of a saw wave with a hefty roll off of the high end.
Spectral: The bass is very strong between 70 to 100Hz, in this range is where most of the notes for D major will fit for the bass. The bass tapers off towards 1K and doesn’t reach much higher. The bass around 100 to 300 Hz is adding a lot of warmth and muddiness, a character of the low mid range.
Spatial: The bass is very up front with the kick and snare, it’s fairly dominant in the centre of the mix, yet has a little bit of width too as it’s such a prominent element in the song.
Chorus Synth layer
Dynamics: This synth layer begins in the first half of the chorus by mimicking the dynamics of the bass synth, however at a higher octave and remains on the B major tonic. This makes the overall synth sound a bit bigger and more full on. In the second half of the chorus it adds another similar layer, but with a different line, which could be considered as a “lead”, however it doesn’t have the same strength in a mix that a lead usually would. The chorus synth is follow the bass synths side chained feel, this creates this very tight and consistent feel, it’s a very simple approach to a song, however it fits the genre and gives off a solid groove. It sounds like a layering saw type waves that are tuned fairly high.
Spectral: The drums and bass synth have more than taken care of the low end, the next chorus synth is covering the much less acquired high end of the spectrum. The synth has a lot of it’s level in the 1 to 3K, at this area there is a lot of harshness and brittleness, which usually helps these synths cut through in the mix very effectively.
Spatial: This synth is sitting fairly far back, behind the bass, drums and vocals. However it is spread very wide across the mix, which one might say compensates for the lack of level in the mix. It’s sounds as if there is a reverb on this synth, this was indicated by the general colour of the synth, having the synth so far back in the mix makes it difficult to narrow in on a decay time or reflection noise.
Dynamics: There sounds as if there is something similar to an electric piano with the high end rolled off, playing single chords on the chords changes, only in the chords. This is emphasising the chord changes and adding depth. The keys also sound side chained as they’re ducking to the sound of each kick and snare throughout the chorus.
Spectral: For an electric piano sound, it is very dull, lacking many high frequencies. However it seems to blend almost seamlessly with the bass synth, which works well not to draw any attention from the vocal. It has a lot of low mids around the 200 to 400 range, it sounds very soft and smooth.
Spatial: It is sitting quite far up front in the mix, in front of the bass but only barely. It is such a dull sound that it would have to be turned up a fair bit to have solid effect on the mix. It has a long decay time, as it only plays at the beginning of each chord change, the keys cannot only afford to have long reverb decay, but should in a way, as it help the keys blend smoothly between the changes.
Dynamics: The guitar has a main role in the verse and pre chorus with little bits and pieces in the chorus, it’s adding to the groove of the rhythm with the off beat strumming pattern. It sounds very clean, thin and twangy, this suggests it is likely to be a guitar with single coil pickups, set to the bridge position, potentially a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster. The lack of colour would suggest it was recorded direct as opposed to being played through an amplifier. There is a second layer with a different tone that comes in for the second verse, that tone is much more dull, it seems like same guitar however with a decent cut of high frequencies, the notes still sound thin even for the lack of high end.
Spectral: There is very little low end in the mix from the guitar, which makes sense as there is no need to compete with the bass synth. There is no low end from roughly 300 Hz, the level is strongest around 1 to 2K, which makes the guitar harsh and bity, and there is also and airiness that’s between 7 and 8K. The second layer has little frequencies above 1K, it lives mainly in the mid range which is very resonant and drony.
Spatial: The guitar don’t have a great deal of reverb mixed in, however there is a little spatial colouration. It sounds like a very ambient or large space reverb with no obvious reflections.
Dynamics: The vocal sound is very typical of a big pop song, several layers of vocal melody on top of harmony layers as well, this makes it very thick and wide, however it’s still very clean. This suggests they have put several hours into getting consistent vocal takes and editing them to sync together almost seamlessly. There are a few quiet and intimate parts to the vocal throughout the song, particularly earlier in the verses and in the pre choruses. Her singing is therefore more “dynamic”, however her overall level is very consistent throughout. The vocal melody is always at the front of the mix. Due to the cleanliness of the vocal, I would suggest it was recorded with a large diaphragm condenser microphone, one with a fairly flat and wide frequency response.
Spectral: A lot of the warmth in the vocal is around 300 Hz, give or take 100 Hz, this is where most the of the thickness is, in the low mid range. The cleanliness in the vocal is coming mainly from the presence range at around 5 to 6K, which adds a lot of brightness and clarity to the vocal. Spectrally the vocal is very wide and spread out over the mix, it is very prominent in most frequency bands throughout the song.
Spatial: The vocals are of course at the front of the mix, particularly the melody. However there are multiple layers and harmonies which have been spread out to both sides to create a massive overall sound. There is a lot of spatial effects going on throughout the song on all of the layers. There is a big roomy quarter note delay sound, mostly mixed in during the verses, it has a large amount of feedback which is creating a lot of echo repeats. It’s create a very epic vocal sound in the verses. This is teamed with a large reverb, it has a fairly short to medium reverb time, with a decent blend of wet signal. Both the reverb and the delay together enhance the depth and size of the vocal dramatically.
How To Produce Pop Vocals Like The Pros. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhB6M_8Yv2A
Taylor Swift – Style. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CmadmM5cOk
1989 – Taylor Swift | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic. (2016). AllMusic. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from http://www.allmusic.com/album/1989-mw0002726289