The greatest moment of Ice-T’s essential “I’m Your Pusher” comes at the five-minute mark, after the man born Tracy Lauren Marrow has finished declaring crack and smack to be wack, praised the purity of dope beats, and suggested that LL Cool J is the most appalling thing this side of Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, and Post Malone.
As an unrepentant old-schooler, you might recall the gold-star lines “Word up my brother/You got me high as a kite/I feel good tonight/Ice-T, you alright.”
Marrow isn’t riffing on getting ripped on crank, bath salts, or nitrous oxide from Land O’Lakes whipped cream in a can. Instead, he’s talking about getting high on music, in this case straight-outta-the-car-trunk black wax by Doug E. Fresh, Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, and Public Enemy.
And even though the iconic rapper is speaking metaphorically, he’s actually onto something. Music has been scientifically proven to flood the body with dopamine—assuming, of course, you aren’t listening to Creed, Limp Bizkit, or Post Malone. Here’s an eggheaded breakdown courtesy of researchers at Oxford University, as printed in Nature Neuroscience: “It has been empirically demonstrated that music can effectively elicit highly pleasurable emotional responses, and previous neuroimaging studies have implicated emotion and reward circuits of the brain during pleasurable music listening, particularly the ventral striatum.”
Translated, there’s a chemical reason why you feel euphorically alive when you hear Cardi B’s “I Like It”, Rico Nasty’s “Smack a Bitch”, or Nirvana’s “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”.
Additional research by neuroscientists such as McGill University’s Daniel J. Levitin posits that—kind of like drugs and booze—music has its most devastating effect on the human brain when consumed in one’s teens. In his book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, he argues that the teenage years are ones of emotionally charged self-discovery, when songs become hard-wired into a person’s circuitry. “As adults,” he writes, “the music we tend to be nostalgic for, the music that feels like it is ‘our’ music, corresponds to the music we heard during these years.”
This brings us to the PNE and this year’s Summer Night Concerts lineup. On paper, the list of talent isn’t—other than perhaps Marianas Trench—exactly of the young and sexy variety. The Village People first formed when Happy Days was the hottest thing on TV, Air Supply dates back to Gerald Ford’s American presidency, and the Goo Goo Dolls are today a reminder that the ’90s weren’t all soul-sucking angst and flannel-clad runway models in army boots.
The Summer concerts lineup Lost 80’s Live package (featuring A Flock of Seagulls, Men Without Hats, and Wang Chung) is being marketed as follows on the PNE website: “Was it really that long ago that synthesizers and cotton-candy hair seemed oh-so modern? Not for Lost 80’s Live!”
The I Love the 90’s tour night, meanwhile, packages Salt-N-Pepa with Spinderella, All-4-One, and C&C Music Factory with the pronouncement “The I Love the 90’s Tour invites fans to reminisce about the trend-setting decade with some of the most iconic, indelible names in rap, hip hop and R&B. In its first run, the top-selling tour quickly became the year’s most sought-after show.”
“Sought after by who?”, one might rightly ask. That’s easy—people who at some point in their earlier lives realized music isn’t something to play as background noise on the soul-sucking daily commute from Maple Ridge to Vancouver. The I Love the 90’s tour is instead aimed squarely at lifelong hip-hop heads who owned the whole Salt-N-Pepa “Push It” ensemble (red boots, black spandex, gold chains) decades before it became a serious thing on Pinterest.
To be an original fan excited about seeing the Village People in 2018 is to suggest that you’re eager to boogie down memory lane for no other reason than it takes you back to a golden time. A period when Studio 54 was the hottest club in the world, McDonald’s coffee spoons were a godsend to North American cokeheads, and no one looked at you twice for strutting down the street in Huggy Bear–issue silver-lamé platform shoes.
Because pop culture cycles so fast these days, there’s a tendency to disregard anything that’s, say, over seven hours old, as yesterday’s news. One might therefore legitimately question just how much interest there’s going to be in Dagny, Maren Morris, or Maluma in 2048.
What the PNE is serving up with its nostalgic Summer Night Concerts lineup is a drug every bit as pure as the stuff Ice-T traffics in on “I’m Your Pusher”. If you’re lucky enough to be in the front row for Air Supply, get ready to be transported to a dopamine-hazed time during the opening strains of “All Out of Love”. Same for Kool and the Gang’s Pulp Fiction–sanctioned “Jungle Boogie”, Burton Cummings’s pounding “My Own Way to Rock”, or Boyz II Men’s smooth-as-silk “End of the Road”.
As drugs go, such hits are purer and cheaper than anything you’ll find on the streets of Vancouver. Of an age where you don’t know or care who Post Malone is? When Cyndi Lauper launches into her weirdo anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, expect the emotional wallop to be as hard as when you were 15 and she was first flying her freak flag on MTV.
A good rush is a hell of a thing. Ask Ice-T. And then embrace a Summer Night Concerts program curated to remind you of that first time you got high as a kite.