LIVE

Bing bang bong! EW speaks to the 'UK Hun?' creators and a chart expert about manufacturing a queer hit that landed on the top 40.

By Joey Nolfi
February 26, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST
Advertisement

It's three in the morning, a mysterious stretch of nightly darkness that finds most people tucked away in a peaceful slumber. Still, some restless (and superstitious) souls call it "the devil's hour" — especially fans of RuPaul's Drag Race UK, who, for the better part of two weeks, have jolted awake on the dot to the repeated tune of bing, bang, and bong while Satan (and the dearly departed ghost of Joe Black) laughs.

While it's not that dramatic, the global obsession with the British Drag Race spin-off's original tune "UK Hun?" — which competing queens Bimini Bon Boulash, Tayce, Lawrence Chaney, and A'Whora crafted lyrics for as part of a Eurovision-themed girl group challenge — is intense. Countless memes referencing the song have swept the internet, TikTok dances abound, and the single launched at No. 27 on the Official Charts (Britain's song-ranking equivalent to the Billboard Hot 100) — a statistical feat the global RuPaul's Drag Race franchise hadn't achieved until now.

Given the single's unprecedented rise, EW spoke to its creators, longtime Drag Race collaborators Leland and Freddy Scott, and Official Charts digital editor Rob Copsey to break down the conception, birth, and fabulous life of the beast ("Bimini!") Drag Race UK released.

Binging, banging, and bonging to life

"UK Hun?" began its life in a mutual creative brain that, judging by their collaborative history of producing quality sonic content for RuPaul since season 9 of Drag Race, often feels like a singular entity shared between songsmiths Leland (who has also worked with Selena Gomez and Troye Sivan) and Freddy Scott.

After the duo (and World of Wonder Records) made major moves on the British charts with "Break Up (Bye Bye)," Drag Race UK season 1's girl group challenge tune by the Frock Destroyers, they began work on a follow-up with simple directives from production as they approached the "RuRuvision Song Contest" episode: Keep it cute, keep it simple, and keep it catchy.

"We did two back-to-back nights of four hours each night," Leland tells EW. "Freddy was working on the track, and I think I had the simple chord progression and the beginnings of the 'bing, bang, bong' [chorus]. I knew I wanted to create a nonsensical lyric that felt like absolute madness and chaos."

He and Scott then tinkered away at the melody on the piano in mid-2020, with shades of Mary Poppins, past Eurovision classics, "This Is the Song That Never Ends" from Lamb Chop's Play-Along, the B-52's "Love Shack," and even the repetitive saccharine sounds of Disneyland's iconic "It's a Small World (After All)" theme fluttering through Leland's mind when devising the zany chorus — which ultimately burrowed itself into the duo's subconscious months before the rest of the world became addicted.

The team then spent days literally shouting the chorus at each other, testing new takes on cadence and structure before landing on the final version that Scott suspects might've wormed its way into their ears from the harmonious heavens above.

"It was almost like God came down and touched us with 'bing, bang, bong!' It came together so well and quickly, the two of us sitting in a room yelling 'bing, bang, bong' to each other, figuring out how that flows in a lyric," he recalls with a laugh, adding that there may or may not have been some "edible" influence involved in the process. "Especially getting the 'ding, dang, dong' knocks to coincide with the kick of the song so it's something you can dance to, [after that], we left it alone. I remember driving home from that session listening to it on repeat thinking half, 'What the f--- did I just make?' and half 'I think I'm going to die remembering this song.'"

The queens (and their vocals) are coming

Once "UK Hun?" had a hook, chorus, and production that got to the tucked meat of the song "as quickly and simply as possible" via acoustic string flourishes, bright keys, and a peppering of synths, it was time for Drag Race production to step in before the cast of queens — split into two competing groups, Banana Drama and The United Kingdolls — filled in personal lyrics over the verses. One of the notes Leland and Scott received was to include a massive key change, which led to what Scott describes as a "second modulation" pushing the tune even further.

"They were like, 'Great, let's take it one step further,'" Leland remembers, adding that he and Scott provided backing vocals for the key change, joining a respected lineage of artists like Lizzo, Allie X, and more who've sung (uncredited) in the background of Drag Race songs in the past. "That's the blueprint for a RuPaul's Drag Race song.... it's something I always tell the queens, 'Your performance isn't right until you feel ridiculous, until you feel like you've gone too far, that's typically when it's right.'"

Leland and Scott also say they felt the song take on a new life when the queens added their lyrics to it (with help from recording artist and Drag Race guest judge MNEK), which largely focused on general swag, non-binary identity, and, well, being a "hoe," as vocalized by A'Whora. In essence, it's a melting pot of fabulous references that doesn't always coalesce into a clear narrative as much as it communicates an impressionistic, electrifying mood.

"'Love Shack' was a great reference because the spoken moments of that song are reminiscent to what Bimini did, and how these queens who aren't necessarily vocalists have to approach their verses," Leland says. "They have to approach it in a speak-rap form. It came down to watching a lot of Eurovision and pulling from the cheesiest parts of it, and leaning into that. The only place where a song like this could work would be RuPaul's Drag Race or Saturday Night Live."

Releasing the beast (Bimini!) to the U.K. public

But, Leland was wrong. Upon the official release of "UK Hun?" following the Feb. 11 "RuRuVision Song Contest" episode, the pop confection garnered 3,700 single-sale downloads (the No. 2 download of the week), notched 903,000 streams, and even received spins on BBC Radio 1 — one of the region's most influential pop stations — in the United Kingdom, all fueling its debut at No. 27 on the Official Charts.

The success was huge, but wasn't promised. And there was a lot riding on the episode for all of those involved (definitely more than H&M stock prices, but that's another story for another time). Leland and Scott had a reputation to live up to after their previous season's smash "Break Up (Bye Bye)," which similarly began its life on the Official Charts at No. 35.

"That created a brand new pipeline that [had people expecting] to get something chart-worthy from this show every season. The fans and people who watch the show were waiting for that," Scott suspects. "This show has set precedent in season 1…. It's now a star-making enterprise in the U.K."

But, the stars aligned, and the Drag Race fandom pushed the song past new releases by Rita Ora, David Guetta, and Pink that dropped on the same day with huge marketing campaigns behind them, but charted lower on the week-end Official Charts tally. Ora and Guetta's "Big" logged 931,000 streams and under 1,000 downloads for a No. 53 launch, while Pink's "Cover Me in Sunshine" began its run at No. 60. Even Dua Lipa's new song "We're Good" only narrowly escaped the rise of "UK Hun?" at No. 25, bagging 1.62 million streams and less than 1,000 paid downloads over its first seven days in release.

The song's streaming performance, according to Official Charts editor Rob Copsey, is standard for a song in this range of the ranking, but its downloads performed "disproportionately" better compared to other songs.

"It might have something to do with the song having broad appeal, almost by accident, it appeals to young kids and adults. It's got a nostalgic feel to it. They also modeled themselves on the Spice Girls, so it has [appeal] to a different age bracket!" he speculates. "It's so ridiculously catchy, which obviously gives it high replay value."

RuPaul's Drag Race UK
Credit: World of Wonder

Copsey admits "UK Hun?" and "Break Up (Bye Bye)" positioning within the U.K. top 40 is "unprecedented" for a pair of songs crafted on a TV show (as opposed to the more common occurrence of a song performed by contestants on The X-Factor getting a huge chart boost over the following frame). The girl group theme speaks to deep-seated British affection for all-female collectives like Girls Aloud, but he says the song could also transcend historical precedent simply for being the right, bonkers tune lifting many people out of the gloom of quarantine days.

"The song has this surreal quality to it that really plays into how a lot of people — especially queer people — are feeling in lockdown," he observes. "It's so hard to describe this song, but it's got such rapid, hilarious repetition to it in the chorus that it totally feeds into the stir-craziness that a lot of us are feeling in lockdown. Being able to have a bit of a laugh with it and not take it all too seriously, it's just great!"

"It's an enthusiasm for unapologetic camp pop that creates this frenzy," Leland adds, while Scott feels there's long been a road map to a quirky song's domination written in U.K. history.

"The U.K. has been primed to appreciate a different sort of comedy," he says. "This is the same chart system that had Crazy Frog atop the chart forever. In that market, you get a different sensibility!"

Related content:

Episode Recaps

DRAG-RACE-ALL-STARS_C

RuPaul's Drag Race

RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 11
rating
genre
network
  • VH1
stream service

Comments