“Theirs goes, ‘Ding ding ding dingy ding-ding.’ Ours goes, ‘Ding ding ding ding dingy ding-ding. It’s not the same, it’s not the same…'”
–Vanilla Ice, defending “Ice Ice Baby” against charges of plagiarism.
It’s nothing short of a tragedy that both “Under Pressure” and “Ice Ice Baby” were huge hits, using that same bass line. Called one of the greatest basslines of all time in Pop Music, it’s been suggested by some ignorant traditionalists that Queen and Bowie are the only artists allowed to use it. Such epic musical inspiration should not be hoarded by one band, or even two, or one band and a solo artist collaborating. It should be shared with anyone who has the raw talent and wisdom to improve it with their own style and lyrics about growing up in a Florida suburb. How sad then, that Vanilla Ice was vilified for taking the line that Queen and Bowie merely played around with, and realizing its true potential in his epic 1990 hit, “Ice Ice Baby”.
There’s more genius to this song than just that bass line. The same music keeps repeating until it’s burned in your psyche. Barely a trace of any acoustic instrumentation can be heard, placing the song firmly in the future of popular music instead of looking back to the past. Indeed, if the past 20 years have taught us anything, it’s that this music stands the test of time as a groundbreaking precursor to classics that would come later, such as Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You”, who like Vanilla, took a mediocre song from the 80’s and cast such a shadow of its own, that the original (recorded by some band calling themselves “The Police”, how arrogant) is barely even remembered today.
These lyrics to Vanilla’s story are at times poignant, sometimes funny, always inspiring. Clever lines like “killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom” puts Vanilla in the same company with the legends of poetry, outshining even the likes of Emerson or Keats. If it weren’t for the amazing beats that go with the song, it could stand on its own as poetry. From the first words of this opus, Ice creates mystery. “Something grabs ahold of [him] tightly, pulling like a harpoon daily and nightly”. We’re already intrigued, but Ice has to ask the question we are all wondering: “Will it ever stop?”. It’s particularly noteworthy here that Vanilla doesn’t try to pretend he understands everything about his genius. He readily admits in the next line “Yo, I don’t know”. Just like real life, none of us know what the future holds, the best we can do is just “turn off the lights” and do our best to “glow” as brightly as the white light that is the Ice Man. The song goes on to back up that bluster with Ice’s tale of the mean streets of South Florida. I won’t spoil it for anyone who may not have heard this amazing story, but lets just say that if there was a problem, we know in the end who can solve it.
On a very personal note, this masterpiece of music is so inspiring that I’ve used it as an anthem for my own life time and time again. When Ice is “ready for the chumps on the wall”, I feel ready too. If Vanilla could stand up to those “nimble” chumps, “full of 8 Ball”, then what excuse do I have for backing down when a meter maid tells me she’s already started writing my ticket? Never again. Next time, instead of clinging to the back of her Meter Mobile, begging for mercy, I’m grabbing my 9, jumping into my 5.0 and slamming the gas before she can finish that ticket. Word to her mother.