Why you can't get Drag Race UK's 'Bing Bang Bong' out of your head
We spoke to the songwriters behind this season's runaway hit, and the United Kingdolls themselves, to investigate why the earworm is so enduring.
Still from Drag Race UK
“Barbie Girl”. “The Ketchup Song”. “Baby Shark”. All songs so ridiculously catchy that they burrow into your head against your will, replacing all useful information with lyrics that play on a loop until another earworm comes along or you die — whichever comes first. A few weeks ago, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK — the only ray of light in an otherwise bleak world — tasked the remaining queens with forming two girl groups to compete at RuRuVision, an even more camp Eurovision Song Contest, and gifted the world another earworm in the form of “UK Hun”, a nonsensical pop ditty with a chorus so catchy that “bing bang bong, sing sang song, ding dang dong, UK hun” has been the backing track for fans’ lives for the past fortnight.
The culprits are songwriters Leland and Freddy Scott, long-time Drag Race collaborators who wrote the song a year ago from the States with the Eurovision Song Contest as inspiration. “I did go back and watch many Eurovision performances,” Leland - who has worked with reigning Eurovision champ Duncan Laurence - explains from LA. “I also pulled from influences like Mary Poppins, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - nonsensical lyrics that feel right. Since this chorus was not saying full sentences lyrically, it just needed to feel right to the ear, so when we’re writing a song, we’ll say — does that sing well? Basically that means, does ‘bing bang bong, sing sang song, ding dang dong’ feel right? You can tell when you’re listening back that something doesn’t feel right, it’s this little uncomfortable feeling in your ear.”
It’s that centre of the song (the bing bang bong) that Leland started with, rearranging the rest of the track like a puzzle, which, he notes, doesn’t have to actually mean anything to entrance us all for weeks. “We did deliberate for a while on what order the bings and the sings and the sangs and songs would be, which is hilarious,” Freddy added. “Thinking back now, if you could zoom out to the room where we were writing it, it’s the two of us sitting there, me holding an acoustic guitar, Brett singing ‘bing bang bong’… if you showed that to anybody out of context, they’d be like, ‘these two gentlemen have lost their minds’.”
The song is so contagious, it haunts me everywhere I go. You want to hate it, but inside you’re screaming and feeling the fantasy.”
Before the show aired, Freddy and Leland received the verses recorded by the United Kingdolls - Bimini Bon-Boulash, Tayce, Lawrence Chaney and A’Whora - and Bananadrama - Joe Black, Tia Kofi, Ellie Diamond and Sister Sister - not knowing who any of the queens were. Lawrence Chaney, a comedy queen, opted to introduce herself to people who may not have watched the series before hearing the song; fashionista A’Whora wanted to “take the piss” out of her sexed-up drag persona. From there, the songwriting duo simply produced the track and moved on, only seeing the glory of the full, choreographed, finished product when the episode aired in mid-February. “We don’t have a lot of time to dwell on what we’re making after we turn it in,” says Leland. “You just forget how ridiculous the song was.”
The ridiculous aspect was not lost on the queens themselves, who had some strong first impressions to the song. “I thought, ‘What the fuck is this shit?’” says Awhora. “At first I thought, well this ain’t got nothing on ‘Break up (Bye Bye)’. It sounded like a record I’d hear my two-year-old nephew play on YouTube, it was like “Baby Shark” meets “Crazy Frog” on a coach trip to Lazy Town.” But, as with the viewers humming the track on loop for the past few weeks, “UK Hun” grew on the queens, too. “The more we listened and once we added our verses, it became one of those songs that lives inside of you and refuses to leave,” Awhora continues. “Every time I’d be doing my makeup I’d find myself randomly saying the words ‘Bing bang bong’ without even thinking about it. The song is so contagious, it haunts me everywhere I go. You want to hate it, but inside you’re screaming and feeling the fantasy.”
“I remember hearing UK Hun for the first time and hating it,” adds Tayce. “But it grew on me very quickly and now I’m obsessed with it as much as the rest of the world. My biggest inspiration in my verse was, honestly, myself. I wanted to get my name out there so what better to literally spell it out for you?”
It’s safe to say nobody was expecting the reaction “UK Hun” has received. Drag Race UK season one bop “Break Up (Bye Bye)” by the Frock Destroyers cracked the top 40 last year, but “UK Hun” became an even greater phenomenon. It stormed Twitter and TikTok, becoming a bonafide crossover hit, affecting our every waking moment. A week on from its debut, “UK Hun” topped the iTunes charts, was the second most downloaded song of the week in the UK and made it to number 27 in the official charts, just two spots behind Dua Lipa.
“The fact that a challenge song we did on Drag Race made it into the charts is incredible,” says Bimini, the wordsmith behind the song’s standout verse, which has already spawned its own TikTok dance challenge. “I love the internet because it births so many ridiculous memes and they do brighten up my day. It’s so exciting to have it received so well and it’s inspired me to push my pen and write more.”
“UK Hun” is perhaps so successful because it’s a true pop song. Drag Race songs have a foundation of camp, and the production teams keep their ear to the ground for cultural references that make the songs sound uniquely British. But otherwise, there’s not that much difference in crafting a Drag Race song and a pop song for the charts. “Both of us still bring our pop sensibilities and our instincts for wanting to make something catchy, but the only thing that changes is the structure,” Leland, who has worked with artists including Troye Sivan and BTS, explains. “For a traditional pop song, it would be verse, pre-chorus, a typical song structure. But here, we’re writing for girl groups where there may be three or four in each group. So we’re extending it, figuring out the flow, how do we make each verse just as competitive as the other — it doesn’t matter if you’re opening or closing the song or if your verse is in the middle. We really do the same thing that we do for Drag Race, but up until now, those worlds have been so separated.”
But mabye the song’s success can also be explained by timing, a spark of light and camp in a miserable, locked-down winter. “UK Hun” has given Drag Race fans something to smile about, but it has also birthed a ‘modern-day gay Spice Girls’ in the form of the United Kingdolls, and all of the girls have their eyes on future Eurovision glory. “Madonna called me asking for a few tips! She’s Madame X and I’m Madame XXL!” Lawrence said. “The response has been amazing. I’m so proud, as someone who was so apprehensive of doing any singing or dancing that when I finally let go — it was magic! All of us created magic!”
“Everything in the world is kind of insane right now,” adds Freddy. “To have people singing and dancing along and writing messages of pure bliss, in a time when we don’t get a lot of that serotonin and good news, that has been one of the most rewarding things. I’m getting texts from people in the US that I never would have thought watched the show. Yesterday, my buddy texted me saying, ‘we’re going to get our Covid vaccines and my wife asked if we could play “UK Hun” the whole way there’. I was like, good, two things that are healing the world. Maybe “UK Hun” is the vaccine.”
But as with all good things, the reign of “UK Hun” will surely come to an end soon (perhaps after the clubs reopen on 21st June). “First I was getting messages saying ‘thank you’”, says Leland. “Now it’s ‘how do I make it stop?’”