Crop Over’s biggest musical competition that started with more than 80 hopefuls has now been whittled down to ten. And on Friday night, these terrific ten will brave the Pic-O-De-Crop judges, if not the weather, to see who earns the right to be the 2014 monarch.
The ten competitors have equal opportunity to win the crown, but though the calypsonians are some distance away from Animal Farm, a few might find out to their chagrin that some of their colleagues have more equal opportunity than they. The finalists are reigning monarch Ian Webster, Classic, Chrystal Cummins-Beckles, Kid Site, De Announcer, Adrian Clarke, Mikey, Miguel, Blood and Biggie Irie.
They all have strengths and a few weaknesses. Clarke is a complete package; Kid Site is a big night performer; Blood’s rendition ability is second to none; Cummins-Beckles has few, if any, discernible stage flaws; De Announcer loves the big stage and the big moment; Webster is kaiso’s future; Mikey exudes confidence on stage, as does Miguel, though this will be virgin territory for both; Classic is a genuine calypso performer, but can be a nervous wreck; and Biggie Irie is simply “the voice”. So it all comes down to material.
That they are in the Pic-O-De-Crop Final indicates that the judging knights of the long table, or, as some would suggest, the wrong table, believed their material in terms of lyrics and melody were the best, and it is just now a case of rendition on the night.
Biggie Irie is a tremendous artiste, but if his Get Over is calypso, then somewhere in New York Rihanna should be lamenting that she didn’t enter Please Don’t Stop The Music and Umbrella in this year’s competition. At least, with Edwin’s Voice In My Head and John King’s How Many More? an effort was made to give both a semblance of a calypso feel; but with Get Over, an absolutely beautiful song, no such attempt has as yet been made.
He returns to the genre with Pankatang, a melodic gem, and one of the most popular songs for 2014. Can Biggie Irie win the crown? His inclusion in the Final suggests that he has a more equal chance than some of the others to do just that.
Kid Site was lacklustre when All Stars judged, but still advanced to the Semis. He was fabulous at the Semi-Final with the same songs: De Missing Plane and Cutback. Thus it appears to be a question of rendition, which he raised second time around.
He didn’t win three consecutive crowns by accident, and on Friday fans at Kensington Oval can expect him to turn up his performances even further. He is not one to be underestimated.
Classic is a veteran in the field, but strangely doesn’t command the respect of judges, as evidenced by his frequent omission from Semi-Finals and Finals, even when he has quality material. He sang “out of key” at a Pic-O-De-Crop Final more than a decade ago and an unfair tag has been stuck on him since.
This year he is in good form with I Ain’t Come Here For That and Freundel Knows. Both have pleasing melodies and are lyrically adequate. His rendition will determine how far at the top of the order he finishes. But he should be mindful that he is no Napoleon on this kaiso farm.
Miguel is a huge talent. How he adapts to this first appearance on the biggest stage of his career will be the significant factor to his success. Blessed with an excellent voice, his previous years in the tents were marked by his ability to breathe comfortably while trying to get through some lyrically cumbersome songs.
This year he finally has the material in Gun Town and The Jury where the creators have shown an appreciation for scansion and how sweet rhythms can be best accommodated by steering clear of long-winded prose. He is one to watch on Friday night.
Adrian Clarke is a class act. He hardly slips up onstage. It is usually a question of whether he has the material, as his rendition is always first class, and his melodies, more often than not, are among the best on offer. Reports are that he might be bringing a different song on Friday night having performed Constituency Of Calypso and I Apologize at the Semi-Final.
Fans can rest assured that whatever he brings to the “big yard”, his will be a professional presentation. He is a definite contender for the crown under any circumstance.
Blood marks high in the three judging criteria, rendition especially. His Hold Together has a delicious melody and its call for political unity might be especially relevant in these times of domestic political fallouts and knife-sharpening. Though How To Win does not possess the same resonance, it is not necessarily a weak song and Blood should give the judges much food for thought. He should be somewhere among the top four.
Mikey has benefited from the generosity of the judges and the love of fresh, youthful talent that the National Cultural Foundation would be the first to agree encourages paying fans through the gates. But if Get Over got in, then Mikey’s Turn Up The Love has equal right to be there, despite suggestions in some quarters that it should have been entered in the Junior Monarch competition.
His Time Fuh We has one of the sweetest melodies heard this year and should garner him plenty of points. But not enough to win the crown in Friday night’s company.
De Announcer’s De Man They Love To Hate and Second Song are biting commentaries, whose appeal rests to a large extent on the listeners’ familiarity with the personalities who take a bashing. Melodically, they are okay, but are nothing special. Lyrically, they are above average, but nothing spectacular.
Expect Ronnie to render them among the best for the night, and then expect him to finish from fourth downward. He will be certain to provide entertainment value for patrons, as he always does.
Cummins-Beckles has the material to emerge the winner of the competition and it has nothing to do with this continued foolhardy call for a female monarch, even though gender is not among the judging criteria. It is true that her Enough Is Enough is a familiar theme but it is heart-tugging stuff and our judges are not always known to deliberate with their heads.
Her Another View is a good competition song, and if these two selections take her to the top of the kaiso pile, no one should be surprised.
Can Ian Webster repeat? He did his Karaoke Song in the tents and it went over well with the crowds, but on Friday night he could bring two new songs to the stage. It is this unknown element that will make his appearance even more exciting.
He is among the best young talents in the art form, and his penchant for performing witty material is a definite plus. If he sticks to his brand, he could leave The Oval as the repeat monarch. Now, it is all left up to those lettered knights of the long table.