Sell Out or Sold Out - Has Ibiza sold her Soul to the Mainstream?

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 10/8/11 17:47

Sell Out or Sold Out -  Has Ibiza sold her Soul to the Mainstream?When Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold decamp to Las Vegas while Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent party in Ibiza it’s time to ask: has something fundamental changed about Ibiza’s musical attitude?

Once upon a time it was the epicentre of house music; now it is home to a smorgasbord of sounds that range from antiquated pop stars like Duran Duran to young rockers like the Friendly Fires and The Vaccines. It’s enough to leave the party people scratching their heads but, as usual, the bottom line seems to be all about the benjamins.

Commercial music, by definition, makes money by appealing to the mass market. This is as true in Ibiza as anywhere else, but nevertheless Ibiza has always had a cheerfully skewed relationship with its pop stars. Back in the 80s Freddie Mercury was partying at Pikes while a buff young George Michael drifted around the pool. Okay, probably not at the same time, but they were just two of the commercial megastars who are indelibly associated with Ibiza.

Add to the list pop icons like Grace Jones and Boy George, as well as the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Jimmy Page. The difference between Ibiza and the rest of the world, however, was that it was where the superstars came to let their hair down. On the dancefloor at Ku, or beneath the sky at Space terrace, superstars could blend in with the crowd. Electronic music was a great leveller and the egalitarian spirit of Ibiza kept the island from descending into cliché.

Unfortunately, the brakes seem to have come off this particular car and a runaway train full of wrinkly pop stars is careening across Ibiza to the tune of cheesy records twice the age of the average clubber. Last year Bryan Ferry opened the season at Wonderland, doubtless to the befuddlement of partiers who were mere twinkles in their parents’ eyes when Roxy Music were famous, but Pete Tong isn’t the only island jock guilty of waking the (near) dead in the name of entertainment. Ushuaia Hotel is dragging up hoary disco-electro types Kool & The Gang of ‘Ladies Night’ fame for a show, which rather damages its claim to be the hottest new thing in Ibiza. Then there’s Mr Heidi Klum, aka Seal, crooning to the diners at Lio; not to mention P. Diddy plumbing new depths by showing up at DJ Sammy’s MyClubroom night. Not to mention the Mark Ronson/Boy George Amy Winehouse tribute at I Want My MTV Ibiza that was notable more for its air of bad-taste opportunism than for its musical merit.

I want My Pop Star in IbizaIt is tempting to write this off as a bad run, a conflation of too many marketing meetings and too little common sense on the part of promoters, coupled with clubber complacency. Surely real dance music will win the day. Right? The thing is, it’s hard to tell these days just what “real” dance music is – or who gets to decide.

Rappers like Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah help define the sound of the Ibiza Rocks Hotel; Lady Gaga brought her uber-glam style to the island; while underground stars like Benga, Skream and Appleblim have twisted bowels and rattled eardrums with their fat-bottomed basslines. The traditional definition of dance music, e.g. electronic sounds created by geeky guys in someone’s basement no longer applies.

For some, the likes of Zoo, DC10 – especially its amazing Wednesday night ‘From Disco to Techno’ – and Sankey’s define dance music with their intoxicating blend of techno, deep house, and underground eccentricity. For others, it’s the big room sounds of the Swedish House Mafia and nights like We Love… that epitomise the true ethos of Ibiza. Still others prefer the atmosphere found in beach bars and smaller nights, like Delano, Es Vive, Boutique Hostel Salinas, and Aura.

This diversity is part of Ibiza’s appeal, but when it gets to the – admittedly very funny – point where Dennis Rodman is doing tranny shows at SuperMartXe it begs the question, is there such a thing as too much musical democracy? Traditionally the thread that ties Ibiza together, musically, is that the island has maintained, against the odds, a dash of irreverence and hedonism.

Even though “underground” nights like Cocoon are now franchising like burger restaurants (in this case adding a pool party in Punta d’Arabi and a Thursday night at the Formentera club Tipic.) the fact of the matter is that nobody gets taken too seriously in Ibiza – at least not for long.

P. Diddy grabbed the mic at Pacha but he was laughed out of town when someone caught him on camera clumsily trying to buy pills at DC10. When Kylie launched her album Aphrodite no one apart from a hand-selected group of journalists paid much attention. No matter how much money is washing around, or how long the queues behind the velvet rope, Ibiza has a way of puncturing the most pretentious egos.

But when those egos are propped up by massive media campaigns and loads of cash there is a risk of Ibiza turning into a parody of itself. Underground music is still thriving but it’s the likes of Akon and Diddy who end up on the front page of the newspapers. Oscar Wilde said you can survive anything except a good reputation. Ibiza, on the other hand, can survive anything except being overrun by idiots with full pockets, empty heads and cloth ears. Pop stars are welcome on the island, as long as they get what it’s about and bring something fresh and interesting to the mix. When they start arriving on coaches with the rest of the old age pensioners, however, it’s time to draw the line.

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