In Taylor Swift's song "Style", there's a part that I can't make sense of.

See here, where the lyrics go "We never go out of style, we never go out of style."

In those words, the rhythm of the vocals temporarily goes against the rhythm of the bass, with a dotted eighth note rhythm superimposed over the 4/4 bass.

What would this be classified as?

2 Answers 2


There are a few ways to describe what is happening here. The most general is syncopation, which is emphasizing the rhythmically weak beats of a measure. It sounds to me like Taylor Swift is singing a 3+3+2 pattern, with the last note sustained over the barline. This type of rhythmic pattern is ubiquitous in popular music. This essay calls it "The World’s Most Famous Rhythm Structure" and goes into some of its origins. There appear to be different names to classify this rhythmic unit depending on which "world" musical tradition (e.g. African, Latin American, North Indian) one adheres to. I know of no definitive term for it with respect to the Western classical tradition, however. That said, I prefer how the author refers to it: as simply "332." To me this label provides the least amount ambiguity when discussing rhythm.

Edit: Removed my discussion of a flawed wikipedia article and replaced it with a different reference.

  • 2
    The wikipedia article is incorrect - it even contradicts its own definition of additive rhythm. Additive rhythms are found most famously in Messiaen's talas - notably in his Quartet for the End of Time. Apr 18, 2015 at 20:15
  • Rhythm is different from metre. Additive rhythm is different from additive metre. The pop song shows additive rhythm which is overlaid on four-square metre and goes against it, causing syncopation, but the passages in Messiaen jjmusicnotes referred to have additive rhythm which is overlaid on additive metre and accords with it, so there is no syncopation.
    – Rosie F
    Jun 4, 2016 at 7:40

Never mind, I think I figured it out.

I listened to it again, this time at full volume with headphones on so I could hear the beats better. I found that although the second word in "out of style" certainly came before the second beat, the next word "style" also comes before the third beat by the same amount.

This makes me think that it's a regular 4/4 rhythm in the bass with the same on the top, except that they're offset by a sixteenth note each time. In other words, the words "out of style" are a dotted eighth note, quarter note, then a quarter note.

Which I guess the best way to label it as is a syncopation, as N1hk said, albeit not a 332 one.

  • 1
    I found that setting the YouTube video's speed to 0.5 helps make clear the rhythm she's singing in. The "out" falls on the first sixteenth, "of" on the fourth, and "style" on the sixth and seventh (the 's' of the word on the sixth, and 'tyle' on the seventh). The 'tyle' of "style" is the accented part of the word, however. Thus, when one notates the accented parts of the phrase "out of style," a dotted 8th + dotted 8th + 8th (tied to another 8th across the bar) emerges. These accents articulate the 3+3+2 rhythm.
    – N1hk
    Apr 19, 2015 at 4:06
  • I agree, I heard this song yesterday and thought of this question and it was clear to me that she's singing a 3-3-2 pattern.
    – Avish
    Apr 20, 2015 at 7:30

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