Drag Race’s 13th season just put on one hell of an “unverified” Rusical, but—with all due respect to the U.S. queens—we’re still clapping for the Bing Bang Bong from across the pond. In a franchise full of campy musical tributes and runway-ready bops, the second edition of Drag Race UK has delivered its catchiest song yet in the form of the brilliantly nonsensical “UK Hun?,” which has become the crown jewel of a ridiculously fun season—and an unlikely chart-climber, currently sitting at #27 on the U.K. Singles Chart. As it spreads like wildfire across the radio and social media, inspiring TikToks and countless memes, “UK Hun?” is both a testament to Drag Race’s newly broadened appeal and the power of a good old-fashioned earworm.
After an unprecedented seven-month break in production due to COVID, the queens of Drag Race UK’s second season returned to the Werk Room and were divvied up into two teams of four to compete in the RuRuvision Song Contest, an ode to the European Broadcasting Union’s annual musical spectacle, Eurovision. The contest has long been an emblem of camp and queerness, making it the perfect model for a Drag Race challenge. The two teams, The United Kingdolls (composed of A’Whora, Bimini Bon Boulash, Lawrence Chaney, and Tayce) and Bananadrama (Ellie Diamond, Joe Black, Sister Sister, Tia Kofi), were each given the track “UK Hun?” and tasked with writing their own verses, as well as choreographing a lip-synced performance. Both groups gave it their all, but in the end, United Kingdolls claimed the win, and it’s their version of the track that’s lodged itself in the brains of Drag Race fans around the world.
The A.V. Club still doesn’t know what the song means, but we do have a better idea of where it came from after talking to its songwriting duo, Leland and Freddy Scott. Both are celebrated musicians in their own right (Leland has also written for artists like Selena Gomez and Troye Sivan), and have been Drag Race’s go-to musical gurus since season nine—they even wrote “Break Up (Bye Bye),” for Drag Race UK’s first season, which made breakout stars of The Frock Destroyers. Just a few hours after learning that “UK Hun?” had charted in the U.K., we spoke with Leland and Scott about the track’s surprising success and learned about their process to bring “the best, the catchiest—the greatest thing possible” to Drag Race. The pair also expounded on the differences between American and British humor, and shared their hopes that “UK Hun?” might be destined for the “gay Olympics,” the real Eurovision Song Contest.
The A.V. Club: First of all, congratulations on the success of “UK Hun?”—it’s everywhere. I just saw it meme’d by Kraft Macaroni & Cheese’s Twitter account. You don’t get much bigger than that. What has its enthusiastic reception meant to the both of you?
Leland: Working for Drag Race in itself is already a job that I did not know existed—or would exist—when I started songwriting. So to have this dream job already, anything that comes from it is a bonus. And [“UK Hun?”] feels ridiculous, but it also feels purposeful because we know that it’s bringing people a lot of joy right now, and it just feels awesome. It truly encapsulates everything that I love to do, and to see an entire country—and people beyond it—respond to it this way is very fucking cool.
Freddy Scott: Yeah, it’s a really wild experience. To spend some time with an honest to goodness friend—I admire [Leland’s] talent and genius and writing so much. So to be able to sit there and mess around with ideas and have a good time, but then have that turn into something that is culturally significant like this—I mean, to the point where Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is talking to us is just wild! But on a serious note, it’s great just to see the response of people saying things like, “It’s brought me serotonin,” or, “It’s made me happy for the first time in six months,” or whatever. And working on the show is one of the greatest privileges of my career—what we do together is incredible for me. But to see the reaction of people really finding something new, finding some light in it, some levity in their lives via something so ridiculous is the best.
AVC: It is ridiculous, but it’s also joyful and hilarious and campy and so very queer. It’s what we love about Drag Race crystallized in a song.
Leland: I loved both groups. I’m a huge fan of Joe Black—I threw out all my H&M this morning [Laughs.]—so I really, really loved Joe’s verse. But I loved Bimini’s verse because of how powerful and profound it is. That she’s saying what she’s saying in this pop song, and that it’s getting mainstream radio play is so exciting. And to see Apple Music now supporting the song by adding it to playlists, that’s just awesome.
FS: Bimini’s verse from start to finish is energy—it reminds me of The Prodigy. And then the lyric, “Gender bender / Cis-stem offender” is just so good. To have that in such a silly song, with that message—putting that out into the mainstream is amazing. I think it’s one of the best double entendres in modern pop today. I’m not even kidding.
AVC: You’ve both been working with Drag Race for a while now—when did this collaboration start?
Leland: I was brought on by a friend who was doing [this job] prior. After working on the show for, like, 10 years, he stepped away and moved on, and then graciously handed me the reins when it came to some of the music challenges.
And Freddy and I had met through that friend anyway. So I gave Freddy a call one day and said, “Hey, I need to make “Kardashians: The Rusical”—and this was my first Rusical alone, my first without having the guidance of that mentor there. So Freddy came on board, and we had the best time. And that Rusical was significant for me because, not long before, I had catered Kim Kardashian’s wedding—like, you can see me on the E! special. [Laughs.] But to go from that to writing the Kardashian Rusical, and then voicing Kourtney Kardashian in that Rusical—that was pretty much it for me. And I know that [the Kardashians] have seen it and loved it, which is the best compliment.
FS: You’re not going to find a lot of songwriters that take their craft so seriously to go that method. [Laughs.] He catered a wedding to research for a musical he didn’t know he was writing yet! But, yeah, our history goes back to that. I remember he hit me up to ask me to do the Rusical, and I was like, “Absolutely.” At the time, I didn’t know how far it would go. But we had such a good time putting it together, and because it did so well, I guess they kept asking us back. So we’re doing something right!
AVC: On that note, you two also wrote “Break Up (Bye Bye)” for Drag Race UK’s inaugural season, and that became a sensation all its own. Did you feel pressure to top that this time around?
Leland: I didn’t because Drag Race has become a full-time job, which truly is insane and amazing. So it doesn’t allow us to really think about what’s already come out, what’s already happened. Also, I get confused, thinking things have aired already that we’re still sitting on. So it’s really hard to keep track! But I didn’t feel any pressure because we did this in two days, and then it was on to the next. I was already excited thinking about everything that had come from The Frock Destroyers—we got to make an album during quarantine, there’s tours in our future, hopefully Eurovision’s in our future. So that possibility was always there [this time around], too. But that made it even cooler to see The United Kingdolls just absolutely kill it, even though there really aren’t any singers in the group.
FS: I don’t think there was consideration over like, “How do we top ‘Break Up (Bye Bye)’?” We just knew we were so proud of it and wanted to keep that level of quality. What also helped is that the challenge is completely different: This wasn’t another girl group song. This one was so comedy-oriented, left-field, and just meant to be an earworm—Eurovision! It was like, “Let’s use the same sensibility, but in a different direction.”
Leland: But now we feel pressure for next season. [Laughs.]
FS: If we put out a flop, that’s career-ending. [Laughs.] We’re done. We’re going to go work for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese then.
AVC: So what was your workflow for “UK Hun?”? When did the Drag Race UK team come to you? Did the seven-month break the show took because of COVID throw a wrench in things?
Leland: We were given the brief maybe a year ago, and it was on our list of things to do, and then we were told, “Actually, we don’t need it yet, and we don’t know when we’ll need it.” So we kind of took a break and then, thankfully, as things opened up, I think we ended up actually writing it—would you say around March?
FS: It was last summer. We got the brief early, then we wrote the first version later, which was the chorus and the melodies.
Leland: Right, we put that together, and then I’ll do mumbling verses, just to give some examples for everyone to hear, like, “What would it sound like if the verses are sung, as opposed to rapped?” So we give some inspiration when it comes to phrasing and melodic choices, but really the queens—once we send it off and the competition begins, we don’t really touch it again until we get their recordings. Then, Freddy makes it sound good—you know, adjusts the audio mix so you can hear every queen’s verse clearly. And then we send it back, and it’s on them to kill the performance.
FS: And they crushed it. This one was extra fun because we kind of had to shelve it for a minute, and then when we came back to finish the song, we were like, “Oh, this is, like, really catchy, this thing that we made six months ago.”
AVC: So you somehow didn’t have “Bing bang bong / Sing sang song / Ding dang dong” stuck in your head since writing it?
Leland: I honestly forgot about it. I knew that it was ridiculous, but I didn’t really think about what something like this would do in the TikTok era. It’s just interesting to think about how people would react when they need a pick-me-up, you know? We just didn’t think about what the world would be like when this song came out. And I think that very much contributes to why the song has the response that it does.
AVC: In a piece for Independent, music publicist Jasleen Dhindsa remarked, “US Drag Race would have never have done something as ridiculous as ‘UK Hun?’ because they’re not as satirical.” Given that you’ve written for both, do you agree? Do you approach songs for the shows differently?
Leland: Well, Eurovision was such a clear, guiding light for us, everything that it encompasses. But what I do think contributes to that feeling and that sense of humor—at least in terms of Drag Race—is that the show is just younger over there. There’s not as much for the queens to reference going into the competition, to figure out the game. I think they truly just bring their raw personalities—they’re comedians by instinct, if that makes sense.
FS: There’s also a sensibility that we don’t touch on in our creative process. We want to make the best, the catchiest, the greatest thing possible for the show, for Drag Race. But when we get the verses back from the queens, there’s just an authentic humor that feels specifically British. I mean, we’ll get a lot of guidance on different colloquial terms and things to inject. But, really, thanks to MNEK, too, for guiding [the queens] to this authentic version. They approach comedy in a completely different way. We get this song back from them, and it’s drenched in U.K. humor, so it’s really fun for us to bridge that divide—sure, we’ll inject our humor, too, but then we sit back and watch these queens absolutely turn it the fuck out.
Leland: [Going into the season] they probably had a hunch that there was going to be something in the mold of the girl group challenge. I appreciate them really giving it absolutely everything. And it seems like, yes, they’re surprised and happy with the response to the song, but it also seems like they knew the potential of it, and they rose to the occasion.
And, right, credit to MNEK. When we were talking about having someone English come on and do what we do for the U.S., there was basically no other option in my mind than MNEK. So he killed it once in helping us record “Break Up (Bye Bye)” with the girls, and now “UK Hun?” It’s just great to see him judging [on the show]—he looked amazing. To have them be part of this is great.
AVC: And how much research did you two do into the music of Eurovision over the years? Were you already loyal viewers?
FS: Personally, I went through a deep phase of watching a ton of Eurovision stuff—I think [Leland] knew a lot more than I did in that respect. But it’s funny, it coincided with that Will Ferrell movie that came out last year. I love ridiculous songs, I love ridiculous humor. I have a history of writing a lot of parody stuff. I love things that are infectious even when you don’t understand why, and Eurovision really encapsulates that. From a production and songwriting standpoint, just doing a deep dive on YouTube was the greatest. And now I’m truly obsessed.
Leland: I’ve loved Eurovision ever since I found out what it was, and that was probably four or five years ago. I remember watching it on Logo and thinking like, “I know I’m American, but I would love to be a part of this somehow.” Maybe two years ago, my A&R at Sony texted me and said, “Hey, Duncan Laurence, the current winner of Eurovision, would love to work with you.” And I was like, “This is hilarious. I love Eurovision, I would love to do this.” So I’ve thankfully gotten a crash course in Eurovision from one of the winners themselves, and we’ve written a bunch together and have songs out right now—he’s just amazing.
But I was also very much a fan of Netta, who won before—I love “Toy,” I love the nonsensical lyrics. So it was great pulling from those references. My dream is to write a song that competes there and go experience the gayness of everything that comes with it. It feels like the gay Olympics, you know? [Laughs.] So I do hope to experience that. It was so fun pretending that we were writing for that competition—it was the perfect combination of so many things that I love to do.
AVC: There are people calling for petitions to get “UK Hun” into Eurovision, as well as The Frock Destroyers.
FS: It’d be so great if that happens—obviously it would be a dream come true. And I think we can skirt the bylaws because I was born in Stockholm. [Laughs.] But, truly, we already get our cake in working on the show, and everything we get to do—the silly things and the serious things. So being able to do that, having that opportunity, should it come, would just be like someone handing you extra icing for your piece of cake. It’s not necessary, it’d be nice. Sometimes you like icing a lot! So that’s how that feels.
AVC: Speaking of bylaws: I don’t know all the rules and regulations, but—
FS: [Laughs]. I completely made that up.
Leland: You’re allowed to write songs for it and be from the States. It doesn’t really matter.
AVC: So what I’m hearing is there’s a chance this song could go to Eurovision?
Leland: There is. And I actually judged Finland’s competition today, which was really fun. I have to finish turning in my votes. That was a Duncan Laurence hookup, and it was really cool.
AVC: And you’re like, “Well, it’s no ‘UK Hun?,’ but…
FS: [Laughs.] Right, he’s just saying that to every song.