Giving The Gays What They Want: The Genius Of Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’

The British pop chameleon has released the first taste of her upcoming third album and, quite frankly, everyone is obsessed. Not only a trickly synth-pop delight, it’s also the Male Gaze flipping, aesthetically pleasing, voyeuristic trip that the gays have been calling out for.

To be fair to Charli XCX, when you name a song Boys, there are only so many ways you can interpret the title in a music video. Luckily for us, Charli took us on a very literal exploration of all the wonders the male species has to offer.

The song in hand deals with Charli blowing off her friends and responsibilities to dream about boys (we’ve all been there, babe) and it seems that, for the self-directed clip, XCX just sent one mass-text to all the males in her contact book that just said ‘will you be in my new music video and make love to the camera whilst doing so?’

Whilst, of course, we relish each and every opportunity to stare google-eyed at most of our fav music boys (pop or otherwise) the most notable achievement of the Boys video is the way it displays a gender-flipped male gaze to the delight of gays and girls everywhere.

For those of you who skipped GCSE Media Studies, Laura Mulvey’s studies into the male gaze positions the camera itself as male, whose ‘gaze’ (i.e. the film, tv show, music video you are watching) inherently sexualises the females it sees – for both voyeuristic and fetishistic pleasure. So, basically, whenever you see a female character on-screen, Mulvey argues that the camera is just another extension of the patriarchal sexualisation and objectification of women, only this time used to pleasure members of the viewing audience.

So imagine this, then, but flipped so it’s the boys that are being sexualised by the camera but in a more playful and self-aware state and with a very aesthetically pleasing pink-hue theme going on as well.

The boys that are chosen for the video are an eclectic bunch; from rock stars, to pop stars, actors, PC Music members, producers and, sadly, even YouTubers. But there’s an even more satisfying knowledge that Joe Jonas, Brendon Urie, Cameron Dallas and several others are all idolised the world over by teenage fan girls (and, of course, boys) and seeing them displayed in a self-referential, sexualised context is yet another legitimisation of fan-girl culture, alongside the bridging of what is often seen as an overtly male and heterosexual grasp in the hip-hop and grime scenes with the appearances of figures such as Stormzy, Joey Bada$$ and Wiz Khalifa, who are surely aware that the most immediate audience for this video will be gay men. And just to end this argument once and for all, Theo from Hurts take the mantle of the most attractive boy featured in this video and when he appeared I physically screamed.

The song isn’t too shabby either. This step up from the slight misfire that was After The Afterparty edges us ever closer to the combined sonic genesis of PC and synth-pop music that Charli’s been promising ever since she announced her third album last year. It’s been a while since XCX has achieved a notable commercial success (back in the halcyon days of Boom Clap where she seemed likely to rightly become the biggest new pop star in the world) and the video for Boys has already gone sort-of viral. Could this really be her moment..?

Boys isn’t the lead single to Charli’s as-of-yet-untitled (and unannounced) third studio album but she did inform Annie Mac that it will be released next year (!) and will hopefully include the song of our generation, No Angel, from her wondrous live sets.

Until then, let’s just think about boys.

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