Friday, June 28th finds me on a rooftop park in Kendall Square, in the shadow of the Google building and the Cambridge Innovation Center. Greater Boston is emerging from a heatwave, with the temperature dropping mercifully into the high seventies, and I’m emerging from a month of depressive episodes and a chaotic eight weeks at the service job where I’m still working from an increasingly fraying closet– It’s Friday, and my dysphoric ass still has the stubble to show for it. A security guy goes through the ritual song-and-dance of explaining to the sharply-dressed jetsetter couple that they can’t bring their Cava takeout up here before giving up, a pair of neighborhood kids kick a soccer ball around the pavilion while their parents catch up at a picnic table. And Scene Queen has a new album out, and I have a couple of hours to kill before my friend gets off work at the day shelter down in Roxbury, so I’m on a couch in the corner, earbuds in, listening to Hannah Collins do her thing.

The cover art for Hot Singles in Your Area is peak early aughts, a hot pink computer monitor bedazzled with stars and Scene Queen stickers, screen flooded with porn site pop-ups of Collins serving a range of blonde bombshell archetypes. It’s an intentional throwback to an era where popular depictions of female sexuality were airbrushed and carefully packaged for mass consumption, and women in the public eye dealt with blistering levels of scrutiny–early Scene Queen single “Pink G-String” name drops Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan as her “holy trinity,” and sure, Collins’ visual language gives nods to all three, but it’s primarily the way these women navigated late-capitalist hypervisibility that elevates them to pantheon status. In a February interview With Metal Hammer, Collins reflects on how Hilton “was acutely aware of what people’s perceptions of her were – and completely played off of that to her own advantage.”

It was, without a doubt, a weird-ass time to grow up. Hannah Collins came to her de ella queerness late, as I did, coming out as bisexual around the release of her Bimbocore EPs in 2022. I came out to myself as transgender around the same time, right as I started revisiting the nu-metal of my adolescence. Personally, my affinity for the genre is because I’m using it to reinterrogate my childhood, re-engaging with familiar music and reflecting on what it means to come back today, as a woman. On Hot Singles in Your Area, Scene Queen feels like she’s doing something similar with nu-metal–having survived conservative America as a queer woman, she’s revisiting and remixing early ’00s pop culture on her own terms, returning with a new relationship to her own sexuality and femininity.

Early track “18+” calls out bands who prey on minors, both as a response to the recent wave of sexual misconduct and notes app apologies in the alternative scene, and as a way of processing Collins’ own experiences at shows as a teenager. “I’ve been asked by multiple merch guys, ‘Come hang out with us and the band after the show!’” she reveals in the February interview with Metal Hammer. “And the band seeing you that way, as opposed to [as] their fan, it was very confusing to navigate as a teenager. It makes you feel like it’s completely your fault, when these bands shouldn’t be hanging out with you in the first place.” There’s no confusion or ambiguity here–the chorus ends with a cheerleader-style chant from Collins: “18 plus, 18 plus, get those children off your bus.”

“Pink Push-Up Bra” keeps the energy up with djent-inspired bounce riffs and a parade of hooks about killing and pissing on the graves of rapists. Nu-metal has always had an intimate and often off-putting relationship with gendered violence–the eroticized murder fantasy of Deftones’ “Digital Bath” is just one example–but here Scene Queen takes that violent history and recontextualizes it with righteous anger. I’d be sorry if I didn’t also mention the music video, a nu-metal send-up of Legally Blonde where Collins appears in a courtroom as a fishnet-rocking Elle Woods. Another unequivocally fun nostalgia trip on an album full of them.

Scene Queen also wants to be a real bad iconoclast. While outlining the thinking behind the sapphic country/metal mashup “MILF” in an interview with KerrangCollins explains that “Country is an extremely gatekept genre in general, and so is metal. I feel like both have these people who are like, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this, you shouldn’t be [in this genre].’ I was like, ‘This would be the perfect storm of irritating the people that I want to irritate.’ It’s always been the joke of it all, [being] “a conservative person’s worst nightmare.” As far as trolls go, this one’s pretty dang fun, leaving us with country verses about cunnilingus between hard-hitting breakdowns. I don’t always vibe with Collins’ brand of iconoclasm–the refrain on Wargasm collab “Girls Gone Wild” where both artists muse “if I had a dick I’d be dangerous” still hits a little weird for this girl who spends way too much of her time self-conscious about showing bulge in public for safety reasons. Girl, I promise, and I say this with love, I may be living the dream but the dream’s way less fun than it sounds.

But look, Scene Queen is pretty self-aware on this album. The rapid-fire penultimate track “Oral Fixation” contrasts sexual imagery with Collins’ own insecurity–”I keep choking on the shit I’m saying / sucking on my tongue like an oral fixation.” It’s a noticeable departure from previous tracks, followed by an even bigger departure with album-closer “Climax.” This one starts as a mellow ballad reflecting on impermanence, and how all good things keep coming to an end. “I wanted to grow up/now I’m scared of age,” she admits. “A heart full of love is easier to break / because when there comes pleasure / there always comes pain.” Then things take a shift to the intimately personal, with Collins directly addressing a lover–”Tell me you’ll be the exception.” The song plays out with a repeated, desperate “Don’t let it end.” It’s an intensely vulnerable, human way to close a project I really wasn’t expecting this from until it was there. I’m a sucker for shit like that.

Let me put any doubt to rest–Scene Queen is nu metal as hell. Fuck the haters.