A detailed breakdown of Charli XCX's fiercely feminist ‘Boys’ video

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Moya Crockett
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If you didn’t spend the weekend watching and re-watching the video for Boys, Charli XCX’s latest single, we’d like to know how you were occupying your time. Musically, the song is a chic, shimmering slice of languid pop, made to be played as you get ready for a big night out. But while the track is spectacular, it’s the video that’s got everybody talking.

Directed by XCX and Sarah McColgan, Boys is a mischievous, millennial pink-toned ode to fancying the less fair sex. Swathes of celebrity men appear, just doing stuff. Stormzy tucks into a bowl of cereal; Mark Ronson does his hair; Diplo plays with puppies.

XCX has accounted for every conceivable taste in her casting, and so as long as you’re into men, you’ll be able to find something that appeals here. There are guys with dreadlocks, pretty boys with big blue eyes, goofy guitarists and bespectacled hipsters. There are men with bulging muscles, lanky limbs and a little bit of pudge. It’s diverse, it’s joyous and it’s very, very hot.

There’s a lighthearted but pointed feminist message to Boys, too, in the way it cheerfully centres the female gaze. Women are often heavily sexualised in music videos by male artists, in a way that doesn’t always seem like much fun. (It’s difficult to watch DJ Khaled’s recent video for I’m the One, for example, without thinking that the scores of anonymous bikini-clad babes look a little bored – and chilly.)

Boys flips that trope on its head by inviting us to bask in the gorgeousness of its subjects, without ever denying them their personalities or dignity. From Tinie Tempah to Riz Ahmed, the men in Charli XCX’s video look like genuinely nice guys. They look like they’re having a laugh. It’s a treat to watch, but it also looks like it was a blast to make. It’s hard to think of a male-directed music video that gives a wide cast of women the same treatment, and it offers us a new blueprint for what we should demand from pop stars in future.

But just who are the boys in Boys? Let’s take a look.

1) Joe Jonas

Who is he? A one-time Jonas Brother and Disney kid, who’s now the lead singer of DNCE (they did that Cake by the Ocean song in 2015). He’s also the boyfriend of Stylist cover star Sophie Turner.

2) The Fat Jew

Who is he? Provocative internet jokester, meme godfather and wine entrepreneur, born Josh Ostrovsky. Has over 10 million followers on Instagram and Twitter, although he has been accused of stealing other comedians’ jokes without properly crediting them.

3) Max Hershenow

Who is he? One half of New York electro-pop duo Ms Mr, alongside vocalist Lizzy Plapinger. Check out their song Hurricane.

4) Charlie Puth

Who is he? Wonky-browed pop wunderkind, who shot to fame when he featured on the Wiz Khalifa track See You Again (a tribute to the late Paul Walker). His latest song, Attention, is really rather good.

5) Oli Sykes

Who is he? Lead singer in English post-hardcore band Bring Me The Horizon, graphic novelist and founder of Drop Dead clothing.

6) Cameron Dallas

Who is he? A 22-year-old American vlogger who found fame on YouTube and Vine. Currently starring in a reality show on Netflix, Chasing Cameron, and is an ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana.

7) Sage the Gemini

Who is he? Californian rapper, best known in the US for his single Gas Pedal. In a nice bit of Boys synergy, he has also collaborated with Joe Jonas’ brother, Nick.

8) Chromeo

Who are they? Long-running Canadian electro-funk duo made up of Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel (left) and David “Dave 1” Macklovitch (right), who jokingly describe themselves as “the only successful Arab/Jewish sponsored_longform since the dawn of human culture”. Check out their 2007 single Fancy Footwork – it’s an overlooked party classic.

9) Brendon Urie

Who is he? Lead singer of Panic at the Disco!, and the ultimate teenage crush of every former emo girl.

10) Caspar Lee

Who is he? A 23-year-old vlogger and actor, who was born in London but raised in South Africa. You might not have heard of him, but there are lots of teenage girls who have – Lee has over 7m followers on YouTube.

11) Joey Badass

Who is he? Brooklyn-born rapper and actor, and a founding member of hip-hop collective Pro Era. His second studio album, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, was released in April this year to critical acclaim.

12) G-Eazy

Who is he? Another American rapper and record producer, born Gerald Earl Gillum (which admittedly sounds a bit less cool than G-Eazy). Featured on Britney Spears’ 2016 single Make Me… and is currently working on his third label album.

13) Mark Ronson

Who is he? Come on, you know this one. No? OK, he’s a musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and DJ, who’s worked with Amy Winehouse, Adele, Lily Allen and Bruno Mars. He’s responsible for some of our favourite songs of the 21st century. He’s Mark bloody Ronson.

14) Stormzy

Who is he? You should know this one, too. Croydon-born Stormzy, aka Michael Owuo Jr, first received mainstream attention in 2014, when he won Best Grime Act at the MOBO awards – but he’d been bubbling under on London’s grime scene for years. His 2015 track Shut Up is already a classic, while his first studio album Gang Signs & Prayer debuted at number one on the UK charts in March. 

15) Denzel Curry

Who is he? An American rapper and songwriter from Carol City, Florida. An avid fan of astrology, if his Twitter is anything to go by (“Sagittarius I’ve never dated one or had sex with one but they are great people to be friends with… Leos need to stop thinking about themselves”).

16) Aminé

Who is he? Ethiopian-American rapper born Adam Aminé Daniel in Portland, Oregon. The self-directed video for his debut single, Caroline, has racked up over 180m views on YouTube since it was published in June 2016.

17) Ezra Koenig

Who is he? Lead singer of American indie rock band Vampire Weekend, and a reliably dry wit on Twitter.

18) MNEK

Who is he? A 22-year-old singer-songwriter and music producer from London. Has lent his writing and producing talents to some of the world’s biggest and brightest music stars, from Beyoncé, Madonna and Kylie Minogue to Bondax, Duke Dumont and Clean Bandit.

19) Rostam Batmanglij

Who is he? American songwriter, composer, producer and musician. Sang and played guitar and keyboard in Vampire Weekend – alongside Ezra Koenig – until January 2016, and is now working on solo projects. Batmanglij is gay, and has spoken candidly about being out in the indie music world.

20) Dan Smith

Who is he? Lead singer of British indie-pop band Bastille, whose second album, Wild World, hit number one in the UK charts and was certified gold.

21) Flume and AG Cook

Who is he? Flume, aka Harley Edward Streten, is an Australian record producer, musician and DJ. His second album, Skin, won the Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

Cook is the 26-year-old head of British electronic record label PC Music, and has worked with Charli XCX on a number of occasions. The pair recorded an “album in a day” earlier this year, although it’s yet to be seen how many of those tracks will make it onto XCX’s next release.

22) Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla Sign

Who are they? American rappers. Khalifa, born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, broke the UK in 2010 with his undeniably catchy single Black and Yellow. In 2015 he had more international success with See You Again, a collaboration with Charlie Puth. Tyrone Griffin Jr, aka Ty Dolla Sign, is signed to Khalifa’s Taylor Gang Records label.

23) Tinie Tempah

Who is he? YOU KNOW WHO TINIE TEMPAH IS. He’s Patrick Okogwu, a British rapper from London and a very stylish man. And he looks lovely hugging a puppy.

24) Swet Shop Boys

Who are they? Hip-hop group, consisting of (from left to right) British rapper Riz MC, British producer Redhino, and American rapper Heems. If you think Riz MC looks an awful lot like actor Riz Ahmed, that’s because they are one and the same person.

25) Diplo

Who is he? Thomas Wesley Pentz, a 38-year-old American record producer. The co-creator and lead member of electro-dancehall group Major Lazer, he has also worked with artists including M.I.A., Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé.


Who are they? West London-based hip-hop collective consisting of Akelle Charles, Haile and Louis Rei. Their debut single In2 reached number 4 on the UK singles chart in 2015, and the group won best newcomer at the 2016 MOBO awards. Akelle Charles was jailed for four and a half years for violent disorder in late July.

27) Taka Moriuchi

Who is he? Lead singer of Japanese post-hardcore band ONE OK ROCK, who has cited Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington as his major influences.

28) Carl Barât

Who is he? One of the biggest indie heartthrobs of the early 21st century. Barât, now 39, was the co-frontman of The Libertines alongside Pete Doherty and the frontman and lead guitarist of Dirty Pretty Things. He’s currently in a new band, The Jackals, and has two sons – Eli and Ramone – with his fiancée Edie Langley.

29) Barns Courtney

Who is he? English singer-songwriter on the cusp of making it big. After spells sleeping in his girlfriend’s car and working in Currys PC World, Courtney has now seen his songs featured in FIFA 17 and has opened for The Who, Ed Sheeran and Blur. His debut album, Golden Dandelion, is out later this year.

30) Connor Franta

Who is he? A 24-year-old American YouTuber, writer, philanthropist and record label co-founder, who’s been nominated for multiple Teen Choice Awards and looks a bit like a mini Zac Efron.

31) Riz Ahmed

Who is he? Well, he’s a member of the Swet Shop Boys, as we’ve previously seen. Ahmed gets a solo slot in the Boys video for being the ultimate ‘slashie’: the 34-year-old Londoner is an actor/rapper/activist. We love him for his starring turns in Four Lions, GirlsStar Wars: Rogue One and The Night Of – and for his tireless charity work advocating for Syrian refugee children.

32) Shaun Ross

Who is he? A native New Yorker, 26-year-old Ross was the first African-American albino man to become a professional model. He’s appeared in music videos for the likes of Katy Perry and Beyoncé, and has appeared in Italian Vogue.

33) Fai Khadra

Who is he? A Dubai-born, LA-based singer and friend of Kendall Jenner’s. You can check out his music here.

34) Mac DeMarco

Who is he? As his deliciously silly turn in Boys attests, Mac DeMarco isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. The 27-year-old Canadian musician maintains a goofball persona online and onstage, belying his sweet, melodic slacker rock. If you only listen to one of his tracks, make it 2014’s Chamber of Reflection.

35) Will.I.Am


36) Tommy Cash

Who is he? An Estonian rapper described by Noisey as “a multitalented, fearless and creative young Eastern European lad… a statement and almost an example of rebellion”.

37) Jack Guinness

Who is he? A British model/DJ/actor dubbed “the coolest man in Britain” by GQ. You might have seen him in campaigns for Paul Smith or Barbour – or on Instagram, hanging out with the likes of Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe.

38) Laurie Vincent

Who is he? An artist and the guitarist in English punk band Slaves. He told the The Independent last year that he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby – so we’re guessing that’s who this little cherub is.

39) Jack Antonoff

Who is he? American musician, songwriter, record producer and long-term boyfriend of Lena Dunham. Antonoff is lead guitarist in the indie rock band Fun (you remember that bombastic We Are Young song, don’t you?), and made a name for himself as a songwriter after working with Taylor Swift and Lorde. He also co-headlined a US tour with Charli XCX in 2015.

40) Tristan Evans and James McVey

Who are they? The drummer and lead guitarist, respectively, of British pop rock band The Vamps. Ask your 14-year-old niece.

41) Tom Daley

Who is he? We’re not doing this. Although we will say that he looks very cute here.

42) Frank Carter

Who is he? An English punk musician, formerly of hardcore band Gallows, currently fronting Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. We know he’s a punk, but those candle fingers are freaking us out.

43) The Cobrasnake

Who is he? If you spent any time lurking on hipster blogs in the mid-to-late Noughties, the Cobrasnake’s name might already be familiar. The American photographer – real name Mark Hunter – started his blog, Last Night’s Party, in 2005, where he posted pictures of beautiful people he met at cool parties around the world. He was a cult figure in the American Apparel era of pre-Instagram hipsterdom; you can read more about him here.

44) Fred MacPherson

Who is he? The lead singer of English indie rock band Spector is mates with London fashion darlings Molly Goddard and Alexa Chung, and was on hand to support the latter at her recent clothing launch.

45) Mic Lowry

Who are they? A British vocal harmony boy band from Liverpool, singing pop, R&B and soul. Their cover of Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts is adorable; you can watch it here.

46) THEY.

Who are they? An R&B duo from LA, made up of Dante Jones and Drew Love. They’ve collaborated with Skrillex and Bryson Tiller, and released their debut album Nu Religion: Hyena earlier this year.

47) Theo Hutchcraft

Who is he? A singer-songwriter from Yorkshire, best known as the lead singer of synthpop duo Hurts.

48) Buddy

Who is he? A 23-year-old rapper from Compton, California, whose real name – according to his Wikipedia page, at least – is Simmie Sims, which is amazing. He’s been given the seal of approval by Pharrell Williams, and has worked with Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky.

49) John Gourley

Who is he? The lead singer of American rock band Portugal. The Man.

50) Shokichi

Who is he? A Japanese singer and dancer, best known as a lead member of the 19-strong Japanese boy band Exile.

51) Liam Fray

Who is he? The 32-year-old frontman of Manchester-based indie band The Courteneers.

52) Jay Park

Who is he? A bona fide superstar, although you may never have heard of him. Born in Seattle to South Korean parents, Park first found fame as a member of boyband 2PM (think a South Korean One Direction). He’s now a singer-songwriter, rapper and producer in his own right.

53) Prince and Jacob

Who are they? Photographers, creative directors and founders of Galore magazine, Prince Chenoa and Jacob Dekat. The duo have worked with brands including Guess, Urban Outfitters and Nasty Gal, and say they want to inspire “the voracious, fearless downtown female with a mix of Warhol spirit meets iconic nineties supermodel bombshell”.

54) D.R.A.M.

Who is he? A rapper from Virginia (D.R.A.M. stands for ‘Does Real Ass Music’). His breakout single with fellow rapper Lil Yachty, Broccoli, reached number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2016.

55) Jay Prince

Who is he? A rapper and producer from East London who makes soulful, Nineties-influenced hip-hop. His single Anthem is two minutes and 53 seconds of chilled-out summer bliss.

56) Khalid

Who is he? An American singer-songwriter from Texas. His gorgeous vocals can most recently be heard on Calvin Harris’ new album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.

57) Poet

Who is he? A grime MC and former youth worker from Tottenham, north London. He also fronted a documentary about the rise of grime in Blackpool, which you can watch here.

58) Tom Grennan

Who is he? An acoustic singer-songwriter from Bedford, whose voice you might recognise from Chase & Status’ recent track When It All Goes Wrong. He made the longlist in this year’s BBC Sound of 2017 poll.

59) Vance Joy

Who is he? An Australian singer-songwriter whose soulful, acoustic music sounds a bit like Ben Howard. His latest single, Lay It On Me, is the kind of music you want to listen to while driving down the motorway with the wind in your hair.

60) Kaytranada

Who is he? Well, he’s the last boy in Boys, so well done for making it to the end! He’s a DJ and record producer from Montreal who’s worked with AlunaGeorge and Craig David, making funky hip-hop influenced electronica. His single You’re The One has over 3m views on YouTube. He’s good. That’s all we have to say.

Images: Asylum Records