Best of 2017 (Behind the Scenes): Charli XCX flips the male gaze with 'Boys'
Joe Jonas seductively eating pancakes, Jack Antonoff lifting weights, Charlie Puth washing a car — British hitmaker Charli XCX flipped the script on music-video objectification in July with this star-studded clip (yes, that’s Riz Ahmed!) for one of EW’s favorite songs of 2017. Below, Charli breaks down the idea behind one of the year’s most talked-about music videos. As told to Nolan Feeney.
I was sent the song while I was driving around America doing a radio promo tour. I never really take songs that I don’t write myself, but when I heard it, I thought it was amazing and immediately had the idea for the video. It started with Joe Jonas — I told my tour manager, “Imagine if I had Joe Jonas being sexy in the music video?” Then I started thinking about other people we could have. Most of the guys in the video are people I’ve worked with or am friends with. I also joined a celebrity dating app to meet some people and convince them to be in it — kind of like minor blackmail.
Rather than have me looking cute and singing about boys, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have men be the objects for once. I feel like the only option for women in music videos is to be this highly sexualized thing. Women are often used as props in other people’s videos. They play these characters that are boxed-in — the damsel in distress, the vixen — while men are these powerful, dominant figures. I wanted to use an array of guys from all different parts of the world, from all different genres of music, with all different body types, to play out these stereotypical female roles. There is so much press about female body image; now more than ever, people are talking about all shapes and sizes being accepted, and that’s brilliant. But I don’t see that for men. One of the coolest responses I got about the video was praise for how it’s not celebrating just one body type.
There’s been such a power shift in the industry, with women really owning their sexuality and being more aggressive — like when Rihanna put out the “Bitch Better Have My Money” video — or directing their own videos, from myself to Grimes. I hope that when people see “Boys,” it makes them feel like you don’t have to be one type of woman to be successful. You can be whoever you want to be.
Charli XCX’s new mixtape, Pop 2, is out now.