Leh We Show Dem Who Is The Real Champion

title taken from "Champions" by Turner

Soca Monarch Finals

The International Soca Monarch finals took place on February 9th at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Trinidad.  As predicted, Aaron "Voice" St. Louis is the Soca Monarch winner for three years in a row  Okay, so we were not surprised by that.  However, what was surprising was the order of the other winners.

First Place - Voice, "Year for Love"

Second Place - Blaxx, "Hulk"

Third Place - Orlando Octave, "Love You So"

Fourth Place - Turner, "Champions"

Blaxx (photo courtesy Newsday)

That's right, veteran soca artiste Blaxx took the second place spot in this year's competition, much to everyone's surprise.  His song "Hulk" was good, but Blaxx is known for bigger tracks like "Breathless" and "Leh Go."  Those songs are still played in parties when deejays want to turn up the pace of soca parties worldwide.  Even if the song was as big as his prior hits, the stage show was certainly not prize-worthy.  The odd appearance of two Hulk characters who simply jumped around the stage while Blaxx sang the song seemed confusing and unnecessary.  My  assumption is that this was consolation and not a victory as Blaxx has been in the competition for seventeen years without a single win.  

The man everyone expected to take second place was Orlando Octave.  His song "Love You So" on the groovy Vas Riddim is an ode to Trinidad and Tobago.   His stage show included old mas Carnival costumes and moko jumbies as well as many T&T flags proudly waving during his 5-minute set.   ISM allowed Orlando to showcase not only his singing skills, but his now lauded freestyle skills.

Orlando Octave (photo courtesy Trinidad Express)

While his song promotes patriotism and love, there was certainly no love in his freestyle when he stated that he cannot understand why Blaxx is still in the competition.  Octave also implored judges to honestly consider the artists' vocal abilities - obviously another jab at Blaxx who is known to get winded on stage.

But the real champion of the night was Trevon Turner.  A novice to Soca Monarch, he survived the 35-participant semi-finals in order to make it to Fantastic Friday.  His groovy track "Champions" has been in heavy rotation on Trinidad radio stations and 2018 soca mixes around the world. 

Trevon Turner

Like Orlando Octave, Turner's performance paid homage to the roots and culture of Trinidad and Tobago.  His distinct voice (he sounds much older than 28) sounded the same live as it does on radio and he successfully performed the song, despite an awkward freestyle.  In the final moments, calypso legend David Rudder - also known as King David - appeared on stage to literally crown the young artiste.  

Turner has only been in the soca scene for less than two years, yet he has notable tunes like "Weh Yuh Want," "Holding On," and "She Bad" with Machel Montano.  This latest feather in his cap will likely afford him new and bigger opportunities.  Although, how do you get bigger than Machel Monday?

Unfortunately, the International Soca Monarch competition may no longer be the best vehicle for artistes to showcase their talent.  For years there has been a decline in online viewership as well as attendance at the stadium.  It appears that ISM will need to do something drastically different to maintain its relevance.  Perhaps they may want to woo back major artistes like Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, and Fay-Ann Lyons if they hope to bring back their dwindling audience.