Awards Daily interviews the songwriters behind the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 song “Lucky”—Leland and Freddy Scott—about the concept of the tune and how it all came together.
In the penultimate episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, before the reunion and winner announcement, RuPaul unveiled the latest earworm from the VH1 reality series: “Lucky,” co-written by Leland and Freddy Scott, who frequently collaborate on songs for the series (remember “UK, Hun?” from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2? Also from them!).
“The songs always start with Tom Campbell and Ru,” says Leland. “Ru has so many phrases and sayings that he has coined over the years, and also just has a wonderful tapestry of musical taste and influences, so he knows what he wants. We got the word ‘Lucky’ from Ru and Tom at the beginning.”
With everyone getting tested for COVID and the world seeming uneasy, “Lucky” ended up being the perfect song title for Season 13.
“The term ‘Lucky’ seemed to be the opposite of what everyone felt at the time,” adds Scott, “so it was this radical positivity. Let’s make something out of the misery we’re collectively experiencing and turn it into this fun, big song that gives the middle finger to what we’re going through.”
How ‘Lucky’ Came Together
To audiences, it seems like the song comes together overnight, but for Leland and Scott, the process can take months, especially when you factor in that they don’t get to see it performed until a year after the fact.
“A month out from filming, we’ll start working on the songs,” says Leland. “It depends on the season. For the UK, we’ll work on songs a year before they air. We try to get the basic structure down and tweak it little by little that by the time the queens put in their headphones and listen to it on their iPods—it is funny, catchy, and if they do their part, it’s something for them to take and shine with.”
Through the creative process, Scott and Leland break the song down into its core elements and sing melodies over what they do, with expert guidance from Ru and Tom Campbell.
“We’ll sit in a room together, yell at each other, maybe fight a little bit, and whoever wins the fight gets the next idea greenlit,” laughs Scott. “We’ll listen to things and reference favorite songs. The Motown 1-4-5 blues experience allowed both of us to shine as musicians on top of being songwriters. Brett’s [Leland] a great piano player, I’m a guitar player. We got to make a more organic track as opposed to some of the pop stuff we do and orchestra stuff we do.”
With iterations of RuPaul’s Drag Race happening year round now, Scott and Leland are busy. But even though there’s so much space between writing the song and the queens performing it, Scott sees it as a benefit.
“What’s really nice is to step away from it for a while and reexperience the whole thing over again,” says Scott. “It’s one of the most satisfying aspects working on the show. You really forget what you did a year ago, because you’ve been doing so much since then, since we’re working constantly.”
‘It’s Always a Wild Card’
Not only do they have to write a song, but what they put forth isn’t really finished until the queens add their verses to it. Leland describes the prospective drag race superstars as living up to their superstar name when it comes to this.
“It’s always a wild card, because you don’t know what you’re going to get. But each season that this show is on, the queens know what to expect and they bring a level of professionalism. A lot of them are releasing music prior and after their season airs, so they are songwriters and they are artists in their own right.”
The episode on the show where Leland and Scott work with the queens is their small window to get the best performance out of them, which they quickly turn around in a matter of hours, where Scott is hunkered down editing the vocals. Sometimes that day or the next day the queens are expected to perform these songs.
“There’s this super-concentrated moment of absolute pure talent that we have to pull from the queens and they have to pull from us honestly,” says Scott. “Working together to do something we didn’t predict. We don’t know what they’re going to bring. That adds an unpredictability to the song and a challenge as a songwriter because you haven’t planned what’s going to be in your song.”
But in the end, they can usually tell the end product has been a success when they look at the queens’ faces.
“It’s nice to see when the queens walk out on the main stage, and we see it on their faces, there’s a sense of relief, because they know it’s our job to bring out the best in them,” says Leland.
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.