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October 9, 2015

Vanilla Ice on 'Canada Sings' and Why It's Anything But Another 'Idol'

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Aug 2nd 2011 2:30PM

If someone asked you to list the things Vanilla Ice is up to, the last thing you'd probably say is "Acting as a judge on a Canadian singing contest/TV show." But it seems Vanilla Ice (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle) is doing just that.

Along with fellow judges Jann Arden and Pierre Bouvier (Simple Plan), Van Winkle is appearing on six-part original series 'Canada Sings.' The show challenges ordinary Canadians to form glee clubs with their co-workers and compete against another workplace team for a $10,000 donation to their charity of choice.

Unlike 'Idol,' these people have never sang before, and they're not seeking fame for themselves -- and that's partially what drew Van Winkle to the show. AOL TV caught up with the '90s phenomenon to talk about what brought him on board 'Canada Sings,' why he loves music and why this is anything but another 'Idol.'

Tell us about 'Canada Sings' and why you're involved.
Van Winkle: 'Canada Sings' is amazing. I didn't know too much about it before I got it; I just kind of came in, did my thing and it turned out to be fantastic. I didn't know how much talent they were really going to have. I knew it wasn't like any other reality show -- it's more of a tear-jerking show because it's real. It has real people, working in real environments who put their act together for a great cause, which is the charity of their choice.

For instance, one of the guys was competing for the Ronald McDonald House, and he gave his daughter a kidney and saved her life two weeks before she was about to die. Another girl helped out with the AIDS crisis in Africa. These people are really competing for these causes, and it shows a non-selfish way to put a talent show together. They're regular working-class people who aren't looking for record deals, or looking to be the next American Idol, but looking to get some money for these charities.

Right, so it's less self-motivating, right?
Yeah, exactly, it's more of a team effort and a great cause is the reward.

Is it really emotional as well?
It's emotional, it really is. It'll get you going because you see these charities involved and you see things like kids in the hospital. You'll see a lot of that, and then, bam! There they are on stage, and it's seriously a tear-jerker. There is no Simon Cowell, there are no copy-cat judges or anything. Every judge was themselves and no one was the bad guy. We judged it in a classy way. I think the show came out way better than I predicted coming into it.

And it was very entertaining for me and believe it or not, there's some stand-out talent. People didn't even know they could sing, and all of a sudden they've got this fantastic voice coming out of nowhere. It's like, "What the hell?"

Do we see you cry at any point?
I might get a little emotional. I don't really cry too much. There are a lot of hurdles people are jumping over on personal levels that they're going to show to the public, though.

Wow. This sounds heavy.
You know, it's very entertaining, and it shows that karma is real, man. Spread a smile and it'll come back to you. Share a smile and you we can all smile.

That's great. I know you're still involved in music -- and your album is called WTF?
Yeah, it stands for Wisdom, Tenacity and Focus.

When you look back on your music career, how would you sum it up or describe it?
You know what? Music is my diary. And without music I wouldn't have any therapy. Music has always been a real thing to me. It's a very big passion of mine because I love poetry. I was just heavily influenced by that whole movement and it's molded me into who I am today. My whole career has had plenty of ups and downs but that's just who the public's looking at. I look at it like it's all growing pains and we are who we are because of who we were. My career has been absolutely amazing and never predictable at any moment, not even myself.

You know what's great about your career?
What's that?

You had your downtime, and then you completely jumped back in. You never really lost that "It" factor.
That just shows the impact of how big 'Ice Ice Baby' was. One of my mottos is "Today's history and tomorrow's a mystery." That just means that no matter if it's good or the bad, you turn them all into positives.

Do you have any advice for people that are looking to get into music, not necessarily with 'Canada Sings,' but in general?
Yeah, be yourself. Too much artificial out there. You have 'American Idol' and, to be honest with you, that's what most people think music is all about, and 99 percent of all the successful acts in music do not go that route. That's just for television, it's great, but in the end, it's karaoke. Someone else is dressing them, they're singing someone else's song, and it's great for TV. I even love it, I watch it, I think it's great, and yes, they have great voices, they found some people with good voices. But I can go to any church and find a person with a good voice anywhere in a choir. So it's not about that. Just don't be fooled by what you see on television because that's not what the real music industry's about. The real music industry's about passion, and you expressing yourself through your music.

Like if 'Ice Ice Baby' comes on, people still remember what kind of hairdo they had, if they had the zig-zags that I used to cut or the eyebrows shaved or if they had subwoofers in their car. That's the stuff that was going on during that time -- it's better than any photo album. With a photo album, to bring those memories back, you have to look at the picture and go, "Oh, I remember that, that vacation, I forgot all about that. We went scuba diving or we went swimming in the ocean, there, it was one year ago." You don't need a photo album. It's in your brain. It's tattooed there forever. Once the song comes on, all the memories come back. You know who you were dating, I mean, it all comes back. Photographic memory. That's the great thing about music.

'Canada Sings' premieres on Wednesday, August 3 at 9PM on Global.

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