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Charli XCX films the BOYS with intention

Sep. 6, 2017
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“I was busy thinking ‘bout boys…”

A bouncy line said in a light, playful tone is the hook to Charli XCX’s latest song, “BOYS”. The video for the song was released late July to match the carefree summer vibe. A typical visual might have included Charli XCX as the main star, acting out daydreaming about boys 24/7, distracted by her own wandering. In a refreshing twist, though, the music video was not focused on Charli XCX at all.

The music video “BOYS” is more like a shoutout to the guys. Every male shown in the video has their own charismatic charm. You’ll find off-guard smiles, silly dances, playfully seductive eyes, vibey two-steps, and a bit of destruction. The video shows the men are appreciated outside the box society has tried to place around male expression. Guys don’t have to act tough and emotionally restricted. Luckily, many of today’s boys and men are much less opposed to displaying vulnerability and emotional affection than the guys of yesteryear.

One of the things I love most about this video is the diversity of the male cast. This group of men range in ethnicity, nationality, and age. Those are huge representational concerns being taken into consideration. On top of this, the men featured in the video come from different circles of entertainment: you have YouTubers, music artists, and actors posing and preening side by side. Where else could you find a project that includes both British diver Tom Daley and Taka of Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK?

Likewise, Charli XCX somehow has managed to gather men ranging in “popularity”: her “boys” include participants as varied as newcomer Khalid and the extremely well-established will.i.am. Fans with diverse interests are sure to find some delightfully unexpected overlaps—I bet a fan out there was excited to see Oli Sykes of rock band Bring Me The Horizon and producer Flume in one mix. As the video progresses, you’ll say “He’s in this too?” at least twice.

The “BOYS” video is a personal milestone for Charli XCX as she took on her first experience as a director. Charli XCX took control of the concept, wardrobe, locations, props, and more with the help of her all-star creative team. While great strides have been made in pursuit of equality behind the camera, female directors are still relatively uncommon. A female director who happens to be a musical artist directing her own video is especially uncommon. In an industry known to be demanding of women even as it belittles them, signs of female empowerment are a relieving and inspirational force.

Directing the video took a lot of spontaneous work. At events like Coachella, Charli XCX would ask the celebs she encountered to shoot footage for the “BOYS” video. The scenes were easy-going and fun, and watching some of the outtakes at the end of the “BOYS” video shows that the good laughs were not only on camera: by all appearances, the video and its production process was a fun treat for viewers and celebs alike. What’s more, the video allowed the featured celebs to showcase a more spontaneous, feminine side of themselves—something most men don’t get to indulge in very often.

As it turns out, that’s pretty much the point of the video. The drive behind the video was to “flip the male gaze on its head,” Charli XCX explained during a recent interview on BBC Breakfast. I can see how: Car wash scenes? Bikinis? Washing dishes? Brightly dyed puppies? Pillow fights? Bubbles? Pink? All these are actions and aesthetics typically seen as girly, feminine, or representative of women’s work. While those marketing tactics have historically been successful, newer generations have demanded a different strategy: one involving authenticity and inclusion. Fortunately, Charli XCX has proven that she is up for the task.

Watch “BOYS” above, and be intoxicated by some of the flyest, dorkiest, funniest, quirkiest, craziest, chillest boys on the scene.