Vanilla Ice on today's pop culture: 'There's nothing that really defines this generation'
When EW connects with Robert Van Winkle, the man better known as Vanilla Ice is having a hell of a Wednesday. “Sorry I’m a little late,” the 48-year-old musician says. “We were on a helicopter — it’s a little hard to hear anything.” But Van Winkle’s back on the Miami soil he calls home and once he sorts out his chips and salsa situation, he’s ready to dish about his upcoming stint as a headliner on the I Love the ’90s Tour that kicks off April 15 in Greenville, South Carolina.
“It was sold out in record-breaking time and in record-breaking numbers,” Ice says of the tour. “But it’s not the soccer moms you’d think would be coming out. It’s college kids and high school kids. It’s so incredible that most of them weren’t even born when the music was out! It goes to show that you can’t pick your fans, they pick you.”
Sharing music, including his 1990 chart-topper “Ice Ice Baby,” with a new generation of fans has turned Ice on to the nuances of nostalgia and pop culture longevity. After joking that the audiences he draws in 2016 look “like a Justin Bieber concert,” Ice gets serious. “They call this the lost generation, because from the year 2000 to the year 2016, there’s really nothing that defines pop culture,” he says. “There’s no music that’s left such an impact that it defines a generation. Nothing defines it. A hundred years passes, and you look back at 2000 to 2016, give me one pop icon that defines it. It’s not Justin Bieber.”
In Ice’s eyes, that lack of a unifying pop culture explains the continued love of all things ’90s. “I’ve got two teenage daughters … it’s like they went to the ’90s to find a generation, to have something to have fun with fashion and pop culture,” Ice says. “There’s a space and time that people want to go back and relive — or live for the first time, so that’s just because there’s nothing out there that really defines this generation.”
But Ice also suggests that modern technology has helped keep songs like “Ice Ice Baby” a part of the cultural conversation. “People are tweeting and Instagramming me all day, whenever they see the A1A Beachfront sign!” he says. “I still love singing [‘Ice Ice Baby’], and it never gets old.” The “timeless” song, Ice elaborates, just captured a snapshot of a weekend from his youth. But was that weekend representative of his life at the time? “I guess you could say that,” Ice says after a pause. “I mean, what is typical in my life?”