Pin It
Marilyn Manson Rose McGowan

Unpacking every reference in Charli XCX and Troye Sivan’s ‘1999’ video

We heart nostalgia

It’s very possible that Troye Sivan and Charli XCX can barely remember 1999 given that at the time they were four and seven years old respectively. Nevertheless, they’re convinced that travelling back to the iconic year would solve their modern problems.

The song reminisces on cultural artefacts such as Nike Air Max (which to be honest we still wear), Eminem (who unfortunately just released an album), and late stars like Michael Jackson. In keeping with this appreciation of the past, the visuals for the track are littered with references that are bound to make you feel nostalgic as the two pay homage to the era.

For those who are not eagle-eyed, or are perhaps too young to remember, here’s every reference we’ve picked up on in the video.


We start with a present day Charli XCX getting into a Lyft, wearing strategically placed Beats by Dre headphones and typing on her iPhone – both Apple products – before we’re transported back to the last year of the 90s. Our first reference is Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, as Charli emulates the tech genius with a short wig. She’s also clutching one of those iconic colourful Mac desktop computers with the rounded back, which we would definitely still use if they still sold them, and the page is open to a chatroom as we hear a dial-up tone, because remember when to get online you had to endure intense noise pollution and you couldn’t use your landline at the same time?


The pop auteur then mimics the likeness of Left Eye, another dead icon, in the TLC video for “Waterfall”, complete with the under eye patch and baggy trousers.


This is the first scene where we see Troye Sivan, and he’s clinging to Charli in a warm embrace as they portray a couple in love. More specifically, they’re Jack and Rose from Titanic in the famous “My Heart Will Go On” scene. If you haven’t seen the film prepare for a major spoiler – the boat sinks.


“Say You’ll Be There” is one of the most revered and most pure pop videos of all time. It’s not all relics of the past though as there’s a very modern twist on this scene. Deepfakes first made their mark on public consciousness when the technology was used to insert celebrity faces seamlessly into pornography, but in “1999” the technology inserted the artists faces into the dance numbers. So Charli embodies Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty, and Ginger all at the same time. She’s literally giving us everything.


Another Deepfaked ensemble. Ryan Staake, who directed the “1999” video, told The Verge he used AI technology to cut corners for the video as they had very limited time to shoot for each of the artists to dress up and emulate every band member and move in the elaborate scenes. This one is “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.

“When you start to think about the complexity of getting them in and out of wardrobe and makeup for each of those characters, it would take five times longer,” Staake said. “So in a way, it was a pragmatic solution. But then, we also started playing off the bizarreness and aesthetics of it. It’s one of those things where part of the excitement is just trying to see if it works. Like, can we use this weird fake celeb porn tool in a legit music video?”


Channelling the New Radicals, Charli poses in some pretty old-looking sneakers that hark back to a style I’d rather forget. Let’s not bring back these platformed, chunky laced, monochrome trainers… wait, maybe we already have? Has anything actually changed, or are we just stuck in a loop?


Cruelly this video reminds us of a time when Eminem was actually good, with Troye Sivan perfectly mimicking the video for “The Real Slim Shady”.


We catch a glimpse of an old model of the Nokia mobile phone. For teens who missed this era of technology, this was a phone that was not very smart, didn’t have any data (or emojis), but it had a game on it called Snake so we didn’t die of boredom.


Before Kevin Spacey was cancelled for being a creep, he played a creep in the hauntingly brilliant American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes. In this scene, Charli recreates his now-famous dream, which has been referenced in pop culture countless times, where his daughter’s best friend is lying on a bed of roses as petals fall on her naked body as she beckons him.


The young pair channel an iconic red carpet look from Marilyn Manson and Rose McGowan, who were a couple back then. Rather confusingly, this look is actually from the VMAs in 1998, but it’s possible people were still thinking about it 1999. Who knows. McGowan has recently described this outfit as a “silent protest” against Harvey Weinstein. “That was my first public appearance after being sexually assaulted. I was like, ‘Is this what you want?’” she told Dr Oz.


They’re even transplanted into one of the best video games ever made, The Sims, as the two dance in a kitchen that is on fire.


How could you call yourself a bad bitch if you didn’t ever own a Baby G watch?


For some reason I remember this baby, but I wish I didn’t. Before viral videos were the more refined artform we know today (see here), this weird little 3D rendered cartoon baby dancing in a nappy set the world alight. I don’t know why. It even guest starred in an episode of Ally McBeal, and if you don’t remember that show, then yes, you’re just as much of a baby as this weird gif.


Serving looks from the film is actually very on trend for 2018.


Back when his hair looked like a pack of Super Noodles.


Troye channels the iconic scene in the “found-footage” horror where that girl cries into the camera and there’s lots of snot in her nose.


The video weaves the song’s lyrics into old commercials with a number of graphic nods, for example this riff on an old ad for Hanes, an American comfy clothing brand.

From lots of Googling we have concluded this drink is Surge but the scene looks like an old ad for Sunny Delight before it turned kids orange.

This typography is reminiscent of eBay which still exists and was actually founded in 1995, which still rhymes with 1999 at least.

A play on the iconic logo of the best children’s TV channel in the world, Nickelodeon.

This is supposed to look like Bubble Tape those wheels of bubble gum you'd get in a plastic wheel case.

This logo harks back to TY, the company that owned Beanie Babies.

Before Google Chrome there was Netscape and the logo looked a bit like this.

Watch the full video below.