Charli XCX is back with a bubblegum pop earworm, and a video you won’t be able to stop watching… What’s that? Sorry, I was thinking about ‘Boys’.
In a refreshing reversal of almost every music video ever, ‘Boys’ turns the camera’s gaze onto its male stars and never strays, following them as they participate in all kinds of activities, from reading books to brushing their teeth.
It’s a little like what Shania Twain did twenty years ago with ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman,’ recreating Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’ and replacing his glamazonian backing musicians with a line-up of male models; a lighthearted way of showing what it’s like to be a woman in the entertainment industry.
“They’re basically doing all the sexy things that girls usually do in videos,” Charli says of her male cast in an interview with Annie Mac. “I started thinking about all the guys that I’ve worked with or met [throughout all] my years in the industry… I just want to flip the male gaze on its head and have you guys do the sexy stuff.”
First of all, it’s impressive that Charli was even able to book all of the guys in the video; grime king Stormzy and movie star Riz Ahmed must have pretty busy schedules, never mind the massively popular singers, rappers and YouTubers present. Secondly, they’re clearly having a great time and don’t have a problem with switching the status quo and being the eye candy in a female artist’s project.
And thirdly, the video’s diversity is nice to see; in the song, Charli finds herself daydreaming about men of all shapes, sizes, styles and backgrounds. There are muscles on show, sure, but also skinny guys, guys with tummies, guys in make-up. And everything is washed in millennial pink. There’s no one way to be a man, the video says. All different kinds of masculinity are valid, and crush-worthy, and to be celebrated.
So whether it’s Joe Jonas chowing down on pancakes, Cameron Dallas waving a chainsaw, Tom Daley in the shower, Insta-comedian ‘The Fat Jew’ frolicking in a paddling pool, Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dollar $ign making it rain, Jay Park reclining in a pink flamingo, emo poster boy Brendon Urie on a bed of roses, Khalid cuddling puppies, or Riz Ahmed with a giant teddy bear looking like he’s stepped right off the cover of TigerBeat, chances are there’ll be something in the ‘Boys’ video for you to identify with, or dream about.
Chipping away at the patriarchy by flipping the male gaze and providing a gentler alternative to toxic masculinity. Whoever said pop music can’t do important work?