‘Stayin' On Yas’: the story behind the Bee Gees classic that's now a Yas Island anthem

The latest campaign by the Abu Dhabi destination is fun and funky

'Stayin' On Yas' is a reworked version of the 1977 hit 'Stayin' Alive' by the Bee Gees. Courtesy Yas Island
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When the Bee Gees released their mega-hit Stayin’ Alive in 1977, the song spoke of the bravery needed to survive the mean streets of New York.

More than four decades later, the signature disco groove is now daring us to withstand the world's fastest roller coaster.

Welcome to Yas Island’s version of Stayin'Alive, cleverly reworked as Stayin' On Yas as part of its latest tourism campaign.

In marketing speak, a key indicator of a successful project is if the message “cuts through”.

Judging by the reaction on social media, the cover tune and its accompanying retro-styled video shot across Yas Island’s key attractions, is a hit.

The video has been viewed more than a million times on Yas Island’s Instagram account and has racked up more than 400,000 YouTube views within three days of its release.

Listen to the track a few times and you may also find it hard to dislodge some of the lyrics, such is the effective way the new couplets blend with the classic song arrangement and swagger.

An example is the strutting opening lyrics: “Well you can tell by the way I booked my trip/ I’m a holiday man, no time to waste.”

The accompanying video captures that mix of old and new with a trio of friends, dressed in retro fashion, singing and dancing their way across various island destinations including Yas Mall, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi and the surrounding mangroves.

That’s a lot of ground covered within the space of 70 seconds.

Then again, that’s the point of the campaign, according to Liam Findlay, general manager of Yas Island's Experience Hub.

"We have been mostly known for our individual assets," he says. "Ferrari World or the Grand Prix has been more famous than Yas Island. So every asset is known famously by itself.

“But now, because we have volume ... meaning we have all these new assets like Etihad Arena and SeaWorld coming up, Yas Island is a destination."

Striking the balance

It is from that premise that Experience Hub's brand marketing director Badr Bourji and his team got to work at the start of the year.

"This is how we came across Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees,” he recalls.

"We thought ‘why not?’. It is a legendary track and if we wanted to 'cut through' then this is the song because it’s known across many generations."

But no amount of recognition could have saved Stayin' on Yas without the lyrics being carefully woven through.

That balance of preserving the original song’s spirit and Yas Island's messaging was crucial, Bourji says, in getting approval from Yas Island executives and Stayin' Alive’s rights holders, Universal Music Publishing Group.

This made for some rather entertaining board presentations.

"Now I am not a natural singer and I remember I had to present the song over a dozen times to board members and high-profile people," Bourji says.

"And you know what? While I was singing it, I realised that this is actually nice and the song was coming together really well.”

The new Yas Island anthem

Upon receiving the green light from both parties, the production process began.

Bourji says the song was recorded and produced by musicians in the UAE, while the three male actors in the video were flown in from the UK and Colombia.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to go international,” he says.

“We were honestly looking for the best cast members that would bring the whole thing together.”

The music video of 'Stayin On Yas' was recorded in various Yas Island destinations, including Ferrari World and Yas Mall. Courtesy Yas Island

Expect Stayin' on Yas's infectious spirit to permeate across Yas Island for some time to come.

“We have a few things up our sleeves and we are going to be doing a lot of engagement with the assets on the island, with places acting out certain scenes for social media,” Findlay says.

“Every possible touchpoint on that island will make sure the [song’s] message is out there, from staff videos on social media to our call centre music. We will make sure that it’s everywhere.”

Bourji says another song and video is on the way.

Although he won’t confirm if it’s another Bee Gees track – perhaps How Deep is Your Love for Yas? he promises it will be another social-media banger.

“What I can say is we will keep that momentum running and plan to build on our success.”

Updated: July 28, 2021, 1:09 PM