When Queer Eye for the Straight Guy came into our lives in 2003, it came with a fab theme song called All Things (Just Keep Getting Better). The dance pop track was written by Canadians Ian Nieman and Rachid Wehbi, who also record under the name WIDELIFE, and featured vocals by Toronto’s Simone Denny.
As the TV makeover show became a smash hit, so did All Things – scoring club and dance radio plays around the world and a JUNO Award for Dance Recording of the Year in 2005. It even got lampooned on South Park. In 2018, Netflix re-booted Queer Eye, giving Nieman and Wehbi’s track a second life.
We’ll just start at the beginning. What led the producers of Queer Eye to ask you to submit a theme song?
Ian: In 2002, Rachid and I produced a song called “I Don’t Want U,” which got picked up by Nervous Records in New York. That song went Number 1 on the Billboard club charts in the US. One of the people working at Scout Productions was a fan of our song and contacted us wanting to know if we’d be interested in submitting for this brand new show.
This person was a music supervisor?
Ian: He was actually a graphic artist at the company. My understanding is that he just took it upon himself to seek us out. We beat out more than 10 other submissions to get the gig.
How much direction did you get?
Rachid: They just told us the name and the theme of the show. Neither of us had done a TV show before. I remember clearly sitting down with Ian and discussing how we could put in our best shot. I know we wanted to write something with lyrics. We just thought about the idea of the show and came up with, “When you are around, all things, keep getting better.” Originally, we only wrote what people call the TV version, just the first verse and a chorus.
How did it become a radio single?
Rachid: There’s a radio station called KTU in New York, and I think what KTU and other stations around the country were doing is they were playing our 58-second show open – playing it twice back-to-back. Like, to create a two-minute pop song. Because people would call in, ‘We love that show. Can we hear that song?’ And I think that’s what made the record companies take notice and ask for a full single.
Ian: The single got picked up by Capitol Records in LA, and then from that they made a soundtrack and then we made a music video. They shut down the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and Rachid and I are in the video having a great old time. That’s when it became more than just a TV show theme. We’d had success before but this was another level.
The song got a second life in 2018, when the Queer Eye show was resurrected by Netflix. How did the new version with Australian singer Betty Who come about?
Ian: I found out about that the day I watched it on Netflix.
That’s another part of the business, isn’t it?
Ian: Unfortunately, yes. If I could go back in time to 2003 with my knowledge now, hopefully I’d be able to do things a little bit differently. SOCAN has been excellent from the beginning to help us out, and I do want to thank them for that.
Rachid: We still own 100% of the writers’ share. But the publishing share went to the TV production company.
Ian: Which is fine. Sometimes you have to go for an opportunity rather than keep 100% of everything.
Why do you think the message “things keep getting better” still resonates?
Ian: ‘Cause it’s hopeful. We need that positivity, whether you’re gay, straight, married, single. I think it’s a tribute to us that Netflix decided to go with the original theme song [for the reboot] because our message still rang true in 2018.