The Vengaboys’ revival of Typically Tropical beats “Barbados” in significant ways just by switching locations. At a stroke the song is no longer two white sessionmen pretending to be a black British guy longing to go back “home” (at a time when the far-right would have been keen for him to do just that). Instead it’s just but a bunch of European partygoers wanting to go party. This doesn’t make “Ibiza” distinctive, let alone good, but at least it redeems the very obvious issues with its original. In Tumblr terms, the song is no longer problematic. It’s just somewhat rubbish.
But it’s a workable kind of rubbish, flatly performed with barely more craft than its dreadful cartoon video, but fit for what it’s made for. The thing I would never take away from Typically Tropical is that they wrote a really good novelty hit chorus – the “Whoa! We’re going to [x]” hook is brainless and infectious and, yes, properly captures the feeling of stupid glee as you hype yourself up for a holiday. You could sing it in a car, on a plane, in a Vengabus. And even if the verses are delivered with sweet vacuity, the Vengaboys can’t screw the chorus up. Just as in 1975, this is a classic summer holiday smash – heard in European discos, brought back home. It’s just that, sandwiched between two far more memorable examples, it seems a particularly pointless one.
The Vengaboys are unlikely to have deliberately set forth as social justice crusaders on a righteous mission to subvert the cultural politics of 1975. Instead, the positive changes to the song follow smoothly and logically from its Venga-isation. What do we know about the Vengaboys? They like their vehicles, so “Venga Airways” is a fine escalation of the Vengabus – making the unchanged first line the best gag in the song. And they like to party, which gives us a destination, even if it isn’t one the band can pronounce. Though “Ee-bitser” surely is intentional – something for people to remember the record by.
Would the island have welcomed the Vengaboys? Perhaps not. But though Ibiza is up there with Hamburg as a place that tilted the axis of UK pop, by this time its role as the spiritual home of club music was fading. “We’re Going To Ibiza” is a cheap holiday in other people’s ecstasy: in the Vengaboys’ song Ibiza is what it always had been – a party island and nothing more.