How Vegas went from musical retirement village to the home of Cardi B

A-listers such as Drake and Cardi B are playing the once-tacky town, a sign of its shifting currency

“Yes bitch, I’m coming to Vegas,” announced rapper Cardi B via Instagram last month, referring not to a quick whizz around the slot machines, but a forthcoming residency at a new club in the Palms Casino Resort. This followed rumours, fuelled by the man himself, that Drake is about to announce his own lucrative residency at the XS Nightclub, and came just days before Christina Aguilera announced her own 16-date stay at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood. The trio follow the likes of Britney, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Backstreet Boys, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga and a handful of EDM DJs into the bright lights of Sin City. But what does a Las Vegas residency really mean now?

Of late, Vegas has managed to shake off its reputation as a musical retirement village, with Britney’s hugely successful Piece of Me residency coalescing with the success of EDM to create a night out tailored for twenty- to thirtysomethings with expendable income. Britney’s success has paved the way for the arrival of fellow 90s/00s superstars Lopez, Stefani and, soon, Aguilera, ie acts whose back catalogues offer a kick of nostalgia unencumbered by thoughts of new material. For pop artists whose album sales aren’t what they used to be, and who have grown accustomed to big-budget shows even as the venues have downsized, an “intimate” Vegas residency now feels like a legitimate mark of respect.

Drake. Photograph: WireImage

But it is not all nostalgia. In that same Instagram post, Cardi also acknowledges her embryonic career status. “A lot of motherfuckers in the comments saying: ‘But she only got one album’... ‘Why her’. Bitch, what the fuck you mean why me? Because I bring bitches out,” she mused, referring to her financial hypothesis that where women are, men with money will follow. So we know why Vegas bosses might be interested, but for Cardi, a new mum, it also makes practical sense, allowing her to play shows without having to travel. For Gaga, being settled in one place takes the strain off her body (she has chronic pain condition fibromyalgia).

For Cardi and Drake, it also means they are at the forefront of the next stage of hip-hop’s total cultural dominance, with a Vegas residency the ultimate in infiltrating middle America. In 2016, Sarah Feldberg, former editor-in-chief of the Las Vegas Weekly told me that Pitbull’s then embryonic residency could well mark the start of an influx of rap artists, stating that: “Fifteen years ago, the idea of having a hip-hop or rap artist doing any kind of residency would have been unthinkable.” Flash forward to 2019 and two of the planet’s biggest stars are planning on making Vegas their home from home, proving once and for all that where Pitbull goes music follows.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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