Is A Rankin Ting or What?

title taken from "Rankin Ting" by Blaxx

Soca Monarch 2017 Review

A staple in Trinidad Carnival is the International Soca Monarch competition that takes place the Friday prior to Carnival called Fantastic Friday.  Artistes from around the Caribbean - and sometimes Japan - compete to see who will take home the title of Soca Monarch and the cash prize.  This year the 1st place price decreased from $1 million TTD to $500,000 TTD (approx $74,000 USD).  I am sure that the decrease is not to blame for the reduction in entries.  Many artistes continue to shun the show and perform elsewhere during what used to be the biggest event on Friday night. Notably absent was the Ultimate Rejects whose hit "Full Extreme" has been mashing up fetes and making headlines in the global soca world. The 2017 show was perhaps evidence of the declining relevance of Soca Monarch.

The 2017 International Soca Monarch competition on Friday, February 24th got off to a very slow start that left many debating whether or not the competition was even worth watching.  The show had many low points including Nailah Blackman's live rendition of "Workout," her duet with Kes the Band.  Viewers described the performance as terrible, awful, and even torture to sit through.  A fan favorite, Terri Lyons had a less than stellar performance that included bringing her father, calypso legend and former Monarch, Super Blue on stage.  This appeared to be a copycat move as her sister, Fay-Ann Lyons surprised the audience with a touching father-daughter moment during her 2009 Soca Monarch performance (the year a very pregnant Fay-Ann won the competition).  

It was not until veteran artiste Neil Iwer George took the stage that the seemingly somnolent crowd erupted.  This was a surprise considering his song "Take A Bath" was not a hit.  However, this being his 22nd year performing at Soca Monarch, he knew how to rally the crowd.  Yet the highlight of the night for me was Orlando Octave's "Single."  While I like (not love) the groovy track, my pores raised when he showcased his highly developed freestyle skills with witty strikes at his competitors.  

The reigning Soca Monarch, Aaron "Voice" St. Louis defended his title.  Despite a false start where the track was out of sync with the artiste, he went on to deliver a showstopping performance.  As with the other artistes, he addressed his competitors during his freestyle including a note to the yet-to-perform Sekon Sta where he told him to "take his props and leave."

Rather than leave, Sekon Sta responded with an outstanding, high-energy performance wherein he paid tribute to his departed father, soca legend Merchant.  The emotional tribute did not take away from the energy of his performance.  In chat rooms and comments sections on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter speculating that he would either win or at least place in the top three.  

Neither happened.

The final results were:

  • First Place: Voice
  • Second Place: Orlando Octave
  • Third Place: Devon Matthews
  • Fourth Place: Iwer George

While I am happy to see Orlando Octave get the shine he deserves, I am confused as to how Devon Matthews ranked above Iwer George and how Sekon Sta did not even place in the top four.  There is always controversy in Soca Monarch, but this left viewers scratching their heads and wondering whether or not Soca Monarch is even worth watching anymore.

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