“People would say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like you should be doing metal.'" We went on tour with Scene Queen, the bimbocore leader who's turning metal stereotypes on their heads (and infuriating gatekeepers with "twerkle pits")

Scene Queen crowdsurfing
(Image credit: Future (Photo: Derek Bremner))

There’s a pink feather on the stairs. And another one. And yet more scattered all the way down the corridor. We follow the trail, backstage at London’s 02 Academy Islington, and end up at a dressing room. Inside is Hannah Collins, aka Scene Queen – metalcore’s answer to Barbie. While she may have a stash of feather boas and other accessories for the stage, she’s currently off duty and wearing a tracksuit. Pink, of course.

Tonight Hannah will play the first of two dates here, capping off her UK headline tour: Bimbos, Beans & Toast. The Ohio-born artist currently lives in LA, and was last here a year ago, on her first ever tour, playing in the cramped basements of sweaty dive bars. Since then, her infamy has grown exponentially, and every venue on this run has been upgraded. With the pressure on, she’s on vocal rest – but nothing will stop her doing a meet-and-greet with her beloved fans. Before we go upstairs, Hannah takes a deep breath, exhales, and centres herself.

“I’ll amp myself up as we’re going in,” she explains. True to her word, Hannah’s Scene Queen persona takes over as we reach the door to the venue floor. “Ready,” she says, flashing an award-winning smile. And in the Queen goes, to hold court with the semicircle of devotees wearing fluffy bralettes, sparkling eyeshadow and bedazzled cowboy hats.

The sharp rise of Hannah Collins’ Barbie-coded metalcore is no accident. Teaming aggressive breakdowns with butter- wouldn’t-melt singing, hip hop beats and glitzy pop hooks, Scene Queen is carving out a space for people who enjoy moshing just as much as getting their nails done. From tongue-in-cheek tales of vulgarity in the form of cunnilingus anthem Pink Panther, to furiously condemning the overturning of Roe v Wade on Pink Barbie Bandaid, Scene Queen balances on a knife’s edge of sarcasm and outright feminine rage. She calls her genre ‘Bimbocore’, a plastic fantastic spew of vitriol that dares to challenge the norms of a typically testosterone-centric genre – all delivered with a knowing wink. As a result, she’s attracted a lot of attention from the LGBTQIA+ community in particular. But for Hannah, the success of Scene Queen still feels “surreal”.

“Initially, being Scene Queen was hard, because I’d get an influx of hate for everything I released,” she admits. Amid the positive YouTube comments for her first official single, Pretty In Pink, there were others such as “it’s a trash song with worse lyrics”, “this is horrible” and the wildly original “Cringe Queen”. “It was really tough before I’d played an actual show, because I hadn’t physically seen the people who supported me. As soon as I started playing shows, I could see that Scene Queen was affecting people in a positive way.”

At the meet-and-greet, themed around Scene Queen’s invented sorority Bimbo Beta Pi, an overwhelming number of people admit that tonight will be their first ever gig. "I’ve always worried about feeling comfortable in a crowd,” one girl says, “but I know a Scene Queen crowd will be safe.” Even regular gig-goers express similar feelings. Recounting tales of harassment to outright assault, many feel a sense of security when surrounded by other Bimbocore enthusiasts.

“Scene Queen has given me a lot of confidence to be more outwardly girly,” admits a fan who’s travelled from Sweden. “I usually wouldn’t be able to wear a long satin skirt to a gig, but she makes me feel empowered when I dress up all hyper- feminine and go into the crowd.”

While the ‘sorority’ gimmick fits in with Scene Queen’s ‘party girl’ persona, the underlying message of community and empowerment is real. Later, she’ll even get two punters onstage and ‘induct’ them into the sorority with necklaces. And she’s also effected tangible change: on releasing the single Pink G-String, she sold actual pink g-strings to raise money for abortion access. A portion of the proceeds from the song 18+, which condemns band guys who prey on underage fans, were donated to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

“I dropped out of college, but I always liked the idea of being in a sorority,” Hannah reflects. “I love the core value of bringing people together. It’s not just about getting fucked-up – like, I’m pretty sure the sororities formed in the 1800s weren’t just started to get fucked-up in floor- length dresses...”

With the meet-and-greet wrapped up, showtime rolls around, and opener Delilah Bon takes the stage to a packed- out venue. While Scene Queen flaunts her feminism via bubbly popstar tropes, Delilah Bon’s riot grrrl take on the same themes is considerably grittier. Flanked by two serpentine dancers, constantly winding and grinding along to each track, her unflinching brand of self-produced rap-punk is absolute dynamite. Armed with no-nonsense hard-hitters such as Dead Men Don’t Rape, the self-proclaimed ‘brat pack’ effortlessly rile up the crowd.

When Scene Queen makes her grand appearance, she is greeted like royalty, and opener Pink Whitney immediately pops off. The tracks take on a sharper edge live, each breakdown hitting harder as Scene Queen howls and screeches along, in front of a fake sorority house entrance bearing the initials BBπ. The juxtaposition of her bright, playful outfit and the rage she embodies is powerful, the ‘twerkle pit’ furiously showing its appreciation with every passing track.

As Hannah dons a pink stetson for new track MILF (standing for ‘Man, I Love Fucking’), which turns out to be a two-step happy hoedown anthem, it’s bewildering to consider that Bimbocore makes people angry. Her tone is brazenly ironic – and there’s something fantastically amusing about people getting up in arms over a raunchy aArtist who incorporates a cowbell into a breakdown.

Arriving at Islington Academy for day two, we bump into Hannah’s mum. She’s wearing pink – it must run in the family – and has flown over from Ohio for two days, ahead of a mother-daughter trip to Paris. Although she doesn’t quite approve of some of the risqué lyrics, there’s a strong sense of pride as she recalls Hannah inventing Scene Queen during the pandemic. “I remember back in 2020, walking in on her doing her TikTok dances in the garage,” she laughs.

Hannah has tried on multiple genres for size. After getting rejected twice for an internship at pop punk label Hopeless Records – which would one day sign her as Scene Queen – she focused on songwriting for pop, Latin and R’n’B artists. During Covid, she found herself taking comfort from the alt community on TikTok and reinvented herself. At first, management tried to stifle her flame.

“People would say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like you should be doing metal... you’re too pretty to do metal,’” she recalls. “Gatekeeping is the reason why I started the whole project. I decided I would become the antithesis of everything that people expected of me.”

With her debut album due in the new year, Scene Queen is set to significantly ramp up her persona. “I like to play off of current events, but I’ve also been able to do big personal statements like Pink Push-Up Bra [a rager about getting justice following sexual assault] and 18+,” she says. “On the record, I want to let that intensity linger for the listener.”

But right now, Hannah needs to carry out her most important pre-show ritual: twerking. “Once I didn’t test out twerking in this tight, latex outfit, and when I went at it onstage...” she grimaces, “nothing moved at all. It was so embarrassing.”

A calm yet giddy aura envelops the dressing room, as Hannah simultaneously tries to preserve energy and suppress a nervous buzz. As she paces around and warms up her voice, alternating between a cappella versions of 90s R&B songs and deep, rumbling growls, you can feel her shifting into the role of Scene Queen. When she hears the crowd chanting her name, she breaks into a grin. As we watch Hannah go onstage for the final time this tour, a sentiment she shared earlier rings in our minds:

“I really do compartmentalise my day-to-day life and Scene Queen,” she admitted. “When I put my Scene Queen clothes on for the day, I know I’m taking on a lot of responsibility. I use Scene Queen to inspire myself, in a way.”

Live, you can see the confidence take hold. While Hannah can be rather reserved, Scene Queen serves up cunt and controversy, condemning cat-callers, abusers and the British Prime Minister. As she shakes hands and jumps into the pit, the crowd meet her energy with gusto. Welcoming Delilah Bon and second support band In Her Own Words onstage for one final hurrah, downing shots and wreaking havoc in the onstage pink ball pits, the tour comes to a triumphant close.

Backstage, as peers including Bambie Thug and Sophie Lloyd gather around, Scene Queen celebrates in the only way she knows how: by shot-gunning a White Claw and popping open some pink bubbly to Bimbos, Beans & Toast a successful tour. It’s official: Bimbocore is here to stay.

Originally printed in Metal Hammer #381

Emily Swingle

Full-time freelancer, part-time music festival gremlin, Emily first cut her journalistic teeth when she co-founded Bittersweet Press in 2019. After asserting herself as a home-grown, emo-loving, nu-metal apologist, Clash Magazine would eventually invite Emily to join their Editorial team in 2022. In the following year, she would pen her first piece for Metal Hammer - unfortunately for the team, Emily has since become a regular fixture. When she’s not blasting metal for Hammer, she also scribbles for Rock Sound, Why Now and Guitar and more.