It’s March 2020, and Hannah Collins is sitting in the garage of her family home in Ohio. It’s the start of the pandemic and there’s a sense of alienation eating away at her - a longing to connect with other people, to immerse herself in the comfort of community. She turns to TikTok. Despite only having seven followers, she props up her phone on a garbage can and begins dancing. Over the next few days and weeks, she begins posting religiously in the hope of finding more people like herself, people desperate to bond over their love of the alt scene. Little does she know that she’s about to open up an entirely new world.
Today, Hannah goes under the name Scene Queen and those initial TikTok posts have turned into something much bigger. Serving up rhinestone-encrusted riffs, bubblegum-infused breakdowns and bubbling hyperpop, she’s pioneered her own unique brand of Barbie-pink metalcore she calls ‘bimbocore’ – a balancing act of sugar, spice and reluctance to be nice.
“Listening to Motionless In White and the Spice Girls made me what I am,” she says. “Bimbocore is metal theatrics plus the pop princesses.”
Scene Queen’s unlikely combination of in-your-face music and hot-pink persona deliberately challenges metal’s deep-rooted machismo. It’s provocative, and she knows it.
“Some people will be like, ‘Oh, that’s not what metal is!’ and I’m like, ‘I know. That’s the point. That’s why it’s funny!’” she says. “Scene Queen is the most amplified version of myself, and the whole project is kind of making fun of that. How can people even be mad at something that is clearly poking fun?”
Born in New York, Hannah’s introduction to music came when she was young, via her older sister’s love of early-00s emo. Her own heroes were ‘scene’ bands like Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens and Motionless In White. “I’m starstruck by literally everything,” she admits. “I was that kid in high school where I wouldn’t just look up to the bandmembers – I would want to get autographs from, like, their lighting guy.”
That fandom extended to wanting to be part of the music industry herself. She set up a Tumblr account in high school and twice unsuccessfully applied for an internship at punk/ emo label Hopeless Records (ironically, the label that would sign her as Scene Queen). But by the mid-2010s, she was becoming disillusioned with everything around her. “I actually left the alt music scene in 2016,” she admits. “I was so tired, I just didn’t feel like there was a place for women in it.”
Instead, she focused her songwriting on pop, R’n’B and Latin music, something she weaves into what she does now. After her pandemic-inspired lightbulb moment, she released her debut single, Are You Tired?, at the end of 2020 under the name RØSÉ.
“It was because rosé wine is sweet, it sparkles, but it fucks you up if you have too much of it,” she says. But it was when the Scene Queen concept came into play soon after that Hannah truly came into herself. “It was just perfect and it fit the project so much better,” she says.
Early Scene Queen singles Pink Bubblegum and Pink Rover went viral, thanks in part to her growing TikTok following. “I was quickly able to connect with my people, people who want to rebel against the scene,” she says. Those releases were followed by the song Pink Panther and the Bimbocore EP in April 2022, plus Bimbocore Vol. 2 seven months later.
Scene Queen has struck a chord with the LGBTQ+ community. Hannah’s bisexuality is worn on her fluffy pink sleeve, endlessly and explicitly explored throughout her music. Yet while she purposefully pushes the envelope, seeing just how racy her hyper-sexual lyrics can become, her vulgar tone is offset by a constant thread of giggling, comic exaggeration, from Pink Panther playfully soundtracking the act of mass shower cunnilingus all the way to Pink G-String’s resourceful promise to use a thong as dental floss (she makes a point of fitting the word ‘pink’ into as many songs as she can as an act of defiance against the metal scene’s gatekeepers, which has thrown up ridiculous yet brilliant titles such as Pink Cocaine and The Rapture (But It’s Pink)). Her recent single 18+ mercilessly took aim at the scene’s kick-it-under-the-carpet attitude towards the grooming of teenage fans.
“I was once that 16-year-old fighting to hang out in the tour bus with band dudes in their late 20s,” she says. “Sometimes I feel emotional because I get DMs from young mums saying, ‘I’m gonna make sure that my daughter never has to experience what I went through in the scene.’ So many bands reach out to me just being like, ‘Thank you for doing this, I’m so tired of having to silently kick bands off of tours.’”
The clash between her hyper-sparkly persona and such serious topics may seem unlikely, but there’s a raw feminine rage at the heart of what she does. Whether it’s 18+’s focused condemnation of music business perverts or Pink Rover’s enraged, phallus-chopping venom, Scene Queen vocalises the shared fears of women within the scene. “My whole schtick is delivering hard-to-digest topics with a sense of humour,” she says. “At least it gets people talking.”
It does more than that. Everything from her music and lyrics to her persona and even her name have the capacity to rile a certain kind of person - specifically ones who can’t deal with an outspoken woman in the middle of ‘their’ scene.
“Nothing I say is actually that controversial,” Hannah asserts, “but everything I say has so much intense backlash.” The judgement she has faced reflects underlying aversions to hyper-femininity in heavier spaces. “Recently I’ve been getting more tattoos, but I try and hide them when I perform, because I feel like if I looked more ‘alternative’ people would never be mad about anything I was doing. Because I look the way I do, it’s as if certain people can’t process that it’s a joke.”
Rather than back off from the online hate, she feeds on it. With every disapproving glare, Scene Queen only amps up the hyper-femme sparkle, feeding on every bark of objection and every disapproving glare. For every person that doesn’t connect with Scene Queen, there are dozens who do – something her online presence has helped with.
“If I was playing at random festivals and trying to grow organically, playing to misogynistic crowds or people that just didn’t get it, it would have been so much harder to forge a community,” she says.
But just as any kind of viral success comes with a pushback, her online following is so strong that there’s a pushback to the pushback. “With that influx comes a lot of hate, because people don’t understand you yet,” Hannah explains. “Luckily I’ve developed an intensely protective fanbase just as quickly.”
The last couple of years have been a whirlwind for Hannah Collins. Scene Queen’s seven original TikTok followers have swollen to almost a quarter of a million. Her very first UK headlining tour sold out in 24 hours.Her full-length debut album is due out later this year.
“I don’t even know how to manage my expectations any more,” she says with a laugh. “Being Scene Queen has just given me so much confidence - it’s the best superpower. If I’m nervous I’m like, ‘Nope, I’m Scene Queen now.’ Hannah’s shitting her pants, but Scene Queen is totally cool with it.”
More than anything, the success of Scene Queen has proved to Hannah that there’s a space for girls like her. “I want to be as loud as possible,” she says. “I’m excited for the next generation of young women in music. I want any girl that wants to do this in five years to do it with absolutely no backlash. I’m fully comfortable being in the line of fire to make that possible.”