Thirteen seasons, six international spin-offs and an uncountable number of wigs later, RuPaul’s Drag Race has well and truly conquered the world. But while musical numbers are an everlasting presence on the show, it’s the rare Drag Race song that breaks out from the confines of the maxi challenge and goes completely, utterly viral.
I am speaking, of course, about “U K Hun”, the stupidly catchy song from the second BBC Three series of Drag Race UK, which has delighted and tormented fans across the UK and beyond in equal measure. To give you some idea of the popularity of “U K Hun”, as sung by the winning group United Kingdolls, there are clubs in Australia now playing it. It’s spawned endless memes. It hit number one on the iTunes UK chart and number four on the official UK Top 40 charts, eclipsing the number 35 placing from last season, Frock Destroyers’ “Break Up (Bye Bye)”. All this, with a chorus that goes “Bing bang bong / Sing sang song / Bing bang bong / U K, hun?”
It’s all so magnificently silly and perfectly Eurovision that, for two minutes and 50 seconds, you are instantly transported to another world where coronavirus doesn’t exist, Bimini Bon Boulash is prime minister and the only question that exists is whether you will clap for the bing bang bong, or, if you so wish, the sing sang song (Maybe even the ding dang dong?).
VICE: First off, congrats on the song. It’s debuted on the charts ahead of people like Dua Lipa, which is wild. How long have you guys worked with Ru on songs for Drag Race?
Leland: Us working together has been about five years. In Drag Race time, that's like 11 seasons of the show, because of the regular US season, All Stars, UK, now Australia. It's been a minute.
Freddy Scott: I remember being at the gym and getting a text from Leland saying, “Hey, are you around? Would you like to work on something for Drag Race?” And I was like, "Yeah, that sounds really fun." That was for the Kardashian musical.
Talk me through the creation of “U K Hun”. Who came up with what?
Leland: The Drag Race UK team sent us the title of "U K Hun" and explained the double meaning, the influences and what the challenge was going to be. Then it was on us to pull from those and create something that felt like it could compete on the Eurovision stage. I spent a lot of time watching past Eurovision entries and knowing I wanted a nonsensical lyric that just felt right. That applies to songwriting across the board – sometimes the lyrics might not always make sense, but does it feel right?
We were in my studio here, and I knew I wanted to say – I didn’t know in what order – "bing bang bong / sing sang song / ding dang dong". It took us a few minutes just sitting at the table being like, "Okay, what order feels right?" And we pretty quickly landed on that order. And then the track came together beautifully. Honestly, I mean, we really spent a couple days on it. Because we have, thankfully, such a big laundry list of projects with Drag Race, it’s really, ‘Okay, we have to do this and on to the next.’ So there wasn't a lot of time reflecting on the song. It was: did we meet the requirements? Are we setting everyone up to give a wonderful performance? Usually, what we find is the queens initially hate the song and then grow to love it.
Freddy: I was on Instagram Live with A’Whora yesterday, just watching, and I saw her literally say, “When we got the song, we thought the chorus was a placeholder, like it was a joke, like bing bang bong – those aren't the final lyrics, right? And the producers were like, ‘No, that's the song.’” That made me laugh so hard. Its simplicity is the key to why it's, I think, a hit. That being said, when I did leave the session, I could not stop playing it in my car. I was like, ‘This is the craziest but most infectious thing I think we've done so far.’
What kind of influences did the Drag Race UK team sent over?
Leland: It was past Eurovision entries and from [2018 winner] Netta, whom I'm a big fan of. I knew I wanted to pull from songs like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", where even the lyrical context surrounding the chorus is: “But what does it do? I don't have a clue, sing it loud.” These lyrics are simply a feeling; they have no meaning. When you don’t know what to say, just say "bing bang bong".
Did you at any point think: ‘This song is so silly. Will people get it?’
Leland: When we do stuff like this, no matter how much we think we do a great job, we don’t know truly until it's out how it's going to be received. I don't think, when you write a chorus that says “bing bang bong / sing sang song / ding dang dong”, you're like, yeah, this is gonna captivate the globe. You just kind of hope for the best.
Do you take a different approach writing for the UK versus the US? The US songs don’t seem to have that same sense of British humour.
Leland: I think the UK just has a different sense of humour, where we can maybe get away with more and also be a little more ridiculous. But I really have to commend the UK team in guiding us in the right direction – one of the best compliments we've received throughout the success of “U K Hun” is that the song feels authentically British. Also, when US audiences watch a song on Drag Race, I don’t know if their next thought is, ‘I love this song. Let me go buy it on iTunes.’ I think it’s more encapsulated in the episode, as opposed to transcending and becoming a part of pop culture.
I mean, the UK is the country that sent “Crazy Frog” to number one.
Scott: When I started my career, I was working in radio in Washington DC for Sirius XM. I was working on a radio station called New Pop 29 – this is dating me a second – but “Crazy Frog” had been number one in the UK for a long time. So to even be in the same room as “Crazy Frog” is quite the honour.
What happens after you write a song like “U K Hun”? Do you just pass it over to the production team and hope for the best?
Scott: We do get feedback, but once it’s given to the queens it’s part of the competition of Drag Race. The queens do their thing, it comes back to us, we do some edits, we do some mixing and some more additional production to make it sound like a pop song it is.
Leland: Bringing someone on like MNEK was very important. We go on camera for the US version and we'll record the queens, but it was important to everyone to have someone English represent that. It was wonderful to have him back, not only as the person who records the queens but as a guest – his fashion was amazing. He also helped a lot by giving us the performances that we needed in order for this song to do what it’s doing.
So you guys must turn it around in 24 hours after the queens record their vocal track?
Scott: Shorter [laughs]. When we're shooting, the amount of demos and versions and things flying around in emails – it's a ton. It’s very quick. To get to the final versions is also very quick. We're on, like, kind of like SNL deadlines, but times five – we really turn these around quickly, which means we have to trust our instincts. It's amazing, fun, rewarding, awesome work.
What did you make of the different interpretations of the song, from United Kingdolls to Bananadrama?
Leland: I'm a fan of the cast as a whole. I think they just give off pure joy and innocence and camaraderie, so I loved both versions. I didn’t know which [version] was going to resonate with the judges and with the UK, but I am partial to Bimini’s verse because of the lyrical content – and what she's saying is being played on Radio 1. I think that's really powerful.
Scott: I do remember repeating in my head, “Glenn Close, but no cigar” for a few months. That just made me laugh so hard. Every verse on this song from both versions is huge and important and makes me either laugh or think. But yeah, Bimini’s verse – specifically “cis-tem offender” – to me, is just one of the greatest double entendres in modern pop.
Did you get a final sneak-peek at the performance, or do you watch along with everyone else?
Scott: We didn't watch it live, but we don't get to see it first either. We get to experience it like anyone else. Leland was visiting his parents and I had just come back to LA from visiting mine, and he was like, “Hey, it's airing.” Then I went on Twitter and refreshed and waited for reactions, because we had these big, big shoes to fill with "Break Up (Bye Bye)". Within like 30 minutes or so, I saw a lot of people writing "bing bang bong" and “this is a bop", and I texted Leland and was like, “It's happening again.”
You know there's a campaign to get this to Eurovision, for real. Would you guys support it?
Leland: If the United Kingdolls or Frock Destroyers ever get the call, we will not only be ready, but we will make sure they are able to compete at the highest level, show up and give one of the most iconic Eurovision performances of all time.
Scott: Absolutely. If the call happens, we’re there.