Like many Trinbagonians not home for this year’s Carnival season, I watched (tried to anyway, on that god awful feed) and listened to the 2010 soca monarch feed online on carnival Friday. At the end, when the results were called, I wasn’t sure how I felt about “Palance” coming out on top. I really wasn’t.
Then I tried to break down why that was so. Mainly because initially, I didn’t think that “Palance” was an exceptionally crafted song—lyrically or otherwise—and for my personal musical aesthetic, that matters, to me. The hook was timely for sure, ridiculously catchy and infectious. Clearly, I am not a soca monarch judge either, and at the end of the day that is neither here nor there in the end picture. Nevertheless! It is interesting to think about. Smidge of an occasional soca snob? Perhaps I am. Especially while sober. [Ok, usually while sober].
Speaking of judging, yes I saw how JW and Blaze mash-up the place. That is indisputable. It is also indisputable that a song mashing up doesn’t mean that it’s lyrically or musically superior—or inferior for that matter. But we can also listen with a critical ear (if that’s your forte) and draw some parallels and or relative conclusions. I also see how musical aesthetics aside and scoring politics aside—it is virtually impossible for a positive, earth shattering crowd response to not impact the placing in results. Everyone knows the soca monarch crowd response is a microcosm of the most popular party soca of the season throughout the years, and many times, even road march. The judges know that too. They cannot not do that as a consquence. Democracy lives! (<—sarcasm)
As an aside, to those naysayers who are quick to say that party soca is never so lyrically astute anyway (um, yeah, I hear y’all alot!). I always have to ask, what range of soca have you been listening to? Lyricism, metaphor, and topic versatility is not, nor has it ever been an excluded facet of all party soca. A few random examples include:
“Soca Baptist” (1980) by Blue Boy aka Superblue–a powerful socio-cultural affirmation in song about African traditions and where they are rooted and manifest in a West Indian cultural landscape. From Shango Baptists to soca and [implicitly] everything beyond and in between.
“Amnesty” (2006) by Benjai & Machel Montano–social commentary on the rising crime and rising violent deaths statistics throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
“One Day” (2006) by Kes The Band–social commentary on the state of the country and the globe.
“Yeast” (2009) by KMC–essentially a social commentary party soca song critiquing many facets of life, politics, economy and where those intersect.
“Obama” (2009) by Third Bass–a party soca song paying homage to the first black president of the USA with a nod to the enduring legacy of the civil rights movement.
True, people hear a lot of so-called “jump-and-wave” and there is a fair amount but that is not all there is and it irks me when people try to do that and dismissively cast the entire spectrum of party soca in one light all the time. Sometimes, the very people that do that are those who have not been listening to soca music seriously and consistently over the years. And even jump and wave songs have variegations—to a certain extent.
There’s a genre of party soca that I like to think of as embodying the “break away” meme. This is not implicit in all party soca songs, but is a particularly crafted sub set of the genre. There are party soca songs that are lyrically conscious of being aware of the road, the space you use, the activity of waving, wining etc. and of placing you, the listener, inside of that consciousness. Then there are songs that are conscious of being unconscious of all of that. That is where the drive of the song moves towards, picks up steam and crescendos.
And that is the true break away song that allows you to transcend all of your stresses/concerns/what-have-you on the streets of Port of Spain and elsewhere. You are encouraged to lose yourself in losing yourself. To free up from any and everything. And that is where “Palance” hits the nail on the head squarely. It is a near pitch-perfect break away party soca penned by the ultra talented son of the late Grandmaster. Other epic break away party kaisoca songs include “We eh going Home” (1990) by Chris “Tambu” Herbert, “Free Up” (1989) also by Tambu, “Bacchanal Time” (1993) by Superblue and “Madness” (1987) by David Michael Rudder to name a few.
Musical trends of the year are often informed by and influenced by a myriad of factors taking place culturally, socially, locally, sometimes even globally et al. To quote JW “we doh care bout de recession / All we want tuh do is have fun / Jumping up in de blazing sun / Blazing sun, blazing sun.” This is a year for a break-away soca song to rocket the season—if ever there was one. Last year, evidently was not. (I wouldn’t class “Meet Superblue” as a true break away song because of the strong interpersonal narrative focus of it, among other things, but it is a fantastic song nevertheless with break away elements).
So talk dun.
Now you—you go ahead and palance.
The “Palance” music video:
Complete 2010 soca monarch results:
1st JW & Blaze – Palance, 2nd Fay-Ann Lyons – True lies, 3rd Shal Marshall and Screws – Police, 4th Tallpree- Wicked Jab
1st Shurwayne Winchester – Murdah, 2nd Fay-Ann Lyons – Start Wining, 3rd Rikki Jay – Barman, 4th Patrice Roberts – Work it