Friday, March 18, 2011

'Miss B If You're Nasty': A Review of "Miss B" by Nadia Batson

If the popularity of a particular artist was something which was inherently and primarily attached to their respective skill level, most of music, in general, would likely be a much different world. Of course, I think that Reggae artistes and Caribbean musicians, in most cases, would be the most popular in the entire world, but music, on the large scale, or at least what is most prevalent would be much different in my opinion in most genres. However, with that being said, it’s very difficult to actually measure skill because seemingly the most UNTALENTED or artistes are skilled at something (even if their skill is convincing others that they have it when they don’t). So when we look at a wide variety of different genres - and what it takes to be successful in those genres - You get a very wide mix of what talent looks like. Take, for example (very randomly, of course) (not really) Soca music. You can take someone such as (again, very randomly) (again, not really) Machel Montano and then take Bunji Garlin and see how their talents line up. Machel isn’t anywhere near the level of lyricist as Bunji Garlin and it isn’t even close, but at the same time if you simply want absolute CHAOS, which is VERY important in Soca music, then Montano may very well have no current equal at his best - And both are, rather easily, two of the most popular practitioners of Soca music EVER. In my own personal opinion, currently the most all-around talented name the genre boasts is (Destra - DUH - But my bias notwithstanding) Fay-Ann Lyons, who is currently within a stretch of success which, at least to my opinion, will aid in granting her a musical immortality in the not too distant future (if it hasn’t already). She, too, is one of the most popular faces of Soca music’s still rather young history and that will never change. What I’m trying to say is that USUALLY Soca gets it ‘right’ in terms of who pushes towards the front - And I think that has a lot to do with how ‘seasonal’ the music is - It almost ‘naturally’ sucks out those who cannot CONSISTENTLY provide hits. But as I look at the landscape of the music today, I do see a couple of names who I think should be even bigger stars than they are or have been (in total and in their own respective countries). There’s Ms. Alysha (especially these days), Skinny from out of Dominica and a string of others, but at the head of that pack is simply one of the most skilled lights Soca has EVER produced, Ms. Nadia Batson.

"Caribbean Girl"

As I certainly touched on the last time I reviewed her work, Batson is one of the finest writers Soca has ever known and will always be a favourite of mine for having penned arguably my absolute favourite Soca song of all time, ‘Expose’ by El-A-Kru, a few years back. But besides her skills with the written and spoken word, Batson also possesses a vast variety of abilities which are greater (and by no small amount) than that of the greatest of majorities of most of her peers. And in a genre such a Soca, which isn’t always looked upon as being one of the classiest or classic - Nadia Batson has definitely injected a certain bit of CLASS into the most intoxicating frenzy. And, unfortunately, unlike all of the other big names I’ve mentioned here, I cannot as comfortably say that she is one of the BIGGEST faces of the history of the music (at least not yet) (more on that later), but whether you need a really cool Groovy type of song or a HUGE steamroller of a powerful Soca song, she can do it all and do it all with any of them. Also, should you require it performed on a grand stage . . . Yeah Nadia Batson probably talks too much when she performs (although I think she’s gotten better in recent times), but she also is one of the better performers, consistently, in a genre which is very very visual. Back in 2007 Batson showcased her wonderful talents on what I think was her debut album, the very strong ”Caribbean Girl” which DEFINITELY worked well for her. It took awhile, but Batson, ever the entrepreneur, would ultimately take that album digital and international and you can now find it on services such as iTunes and the likes (an option which remains woefully too fucking underused, underdeveloped and unexplored in regards to Soca music) and when you like up that album, you’ll find it listed right next to, underneath or on top of Nadia Batson’s brand new album for the 2011 season, ”Miss B” (with its WONDERFUL cover). This new album even further demonstrates the wonder that is Nadia Batson’s craft as she combines an ability and a command of melodies with a very underrated and POWERFUL voice (seriously she may have one of the best set of vocal pipes in all of modern Soca ranking near the likes of Antiguan dynamo, Claudette Peters) to a great effect. I was somewhat surprised to see that Batson came with an album for this season and even more surprised when I saw what it was comprised of (more on that in just a second) because I don’t think that most people considered 2011 a particularly successful one for the Trinidad native. She did make her rounds and provided me with a personal highlight which I am about to tell you about, but there didn’t seem to be much reaction unlike when the first album reached, on the direct heels of a slew of hits from her, including the MASSIVE ‘My Posse’ tune and others. Still, in retrospect and first of all, with seemingly so few big named Soca artists releasing albums this season and with the fact that this particular project is DAMN GOOD, I’m just as happy that she did decide to return to form this year - It was a very good idea. An album in Soca can very much be seen as a musical snapshot of a particular performer in a particular time and be that the case with ”Miss B” in 2011 - Even if you weren’t paying the greatest of attention, you’re likely to be driven to the conclusion that Batson was on fire this year. Let’s play!

'We Not Leaving'

Although there’ve been a couple of full seasons in between her two releases, the lion’s share of the albums to be found here are actually from the 2011 season. That was also somewhat surprising to me as I didn’t think that she had enough actual activity to push a sixteen track release (which is pretty much a damn boxset in Soca terms where albums generally register very close to ten tracks and sometimes less). Thankfully I was a damn fool and most incorrect on that and ”Miss B”, the new album from Nadia Batson is FULL of excellent moments. None are more sublime, however, than the HUGE ‘We Not Leaving’ which gets the album started. The tune was one of the . . . five or so best of the 2011 Trinidad Carnival season to my ears and (speaking of underappreciated), I even really enjoyed the performance of the tune at Soca Monarch (but I was in the great minority with that). Surely boosting the opener in my eyes (and ears) is the fact that it was a combination with another of my favourites, Patrice Roberts, and the two did DAMAGE on the biggest song of this album and one of the biggest anthems of the season. LOVE that song! Next we have a song with which I am so familiar that I just knew it was from last season, but again I was brain locked and the superb ‘My Time’ is a song for this year and on this album, just as Batson suggests for herself - It shines and so does she with this really LARGE, but controlled and dazzling sound. Things slow down to round out the opening batch of songs with the cool and sterling ‘Do You Remember’. What I really like here, in reference to the whole of the album, is how drastic the vibes change, but you aren’t SHOCKED by it, it’s very seamless and that’s not only an example of how versatile Nadia Batson can be, but I also think that it’s a sign of her classiness which I mentioned as well.

'Bumpers Rule'

Most of “Miss B” is actually the slower and more ‘Groovy’ type of sets which are just delightful throughout and really make a nice impression on the listener (especially myself because I love the madness). To my opinion, the best of that lot is probably the oldest song on the album and the “bonus track“ (I THINK), ‘Bumpers Rule’ from a couple of years back. The composition that it carries, the Fix Up Riddim, is one which I didn’t take too highly back then, but some time on, with it well out of my mind, it sounds so nice here and this tune was also a bonafide hit as well. I also really like Batson’s cut of the Tola Riddim from last year, ‘Party People Anthem’ (generic title . . . So what???), which features her alongside Don Iko, who also joined in on the ”Caribbean Girl” album. ‘Admiring Me’ (for some reason, to me) sounds kind of Reggae-ish (I think I hear ‘Bam Bam’ in there somewhere). It’s also very lyrical and just a cool song - Not surprisingly it’s also a brilliantly vibrant vibes one of my favourites on ”Miss B”.

“I want a real hot who can do di goody wuk
Gimme hardcore, bway I doh want no stop
Bway you betta know how fi wine nonstop
If its 12 o’clock, I want it til 6 o’clock
In de morning

Bring a bucket!
Of water
Bway mi bum bum
On fire
Doh just stand there
Admiring meh”

‘Ride It’ is a bit more forceful, but it’s another of the pieces of midtempo magic on the album. This one has a POUNDING sense to it and it’s borderline whether I should include it here or not, but whatever you want it to call, you should probably with the simples like calling it ‘BIG’. Also check the somewhat hilarious ‘Jiggle Like Dat’ which gets increasingly nice as it progresses and is probably one of the most COMPLICATED and lyrical ‘wining songs’ that you’ve ever heard. There’s ‘Silent Freak’ from last year (which, incidentally, came across a riddim named the Panty Droppa), which is a song I distinctly recall not enjoying too much, but the last time I heard it, I also didn’t have too many complaints about it. Almost a year later and I’m actually starting to enjoy it a bit. ‘Pretty Dolly’ is another very interesting and colourful song which, although not one of my favourites, it’s quickly growing. And also there’s ‘Holla Back Girl’ which has very much an R&B/Pop type of subjectry (and maybe even a cadence as well to some degree) which Nadia Batson wonderfully translates into Soca without missing a beat and I really like it (currently I’m STRUGGLING to get it out of my head to wrap up this review).

“Leave me for di girl called Shelly-Ann
Make style when you’re out on the town
Now Shelly-Ann beat out and flop down
So now you think that you can come back around”

The single tune on ”Miss B” which I do not like is ‘Trouble’, which features the legendary Black Stalin. This song is just messy - It sounds like five or six songs playing at the same time, although if you can manage to tune in onto one of them - It isn’t very bad actually.

'Lighters' featuring Tallpree

But, as I said, I really love the madness. While obviously the most insanity inducing moment this album has to offer, it ‘exposes’ in its very first opportunity, there’re still four tunes which push the intensity levels sky-high once again. The most high profile of this quartet is also the first to appear on the album, ‘Lighters’ which features the always impressive and welcomed Tallpree. This tune is much better on the studio version than it is live and in person because I didn’t think very much of it (might want to let her move around next time Tallpree, I know she had to perform again but . . . I digress), but having a moment to really take it in - I’m impressed. That’s not very surprising at all considering the levels of this duo, as they link together to serve up the second biggest Jab Jab Trinidad saw in 2011 (biggup Iwer George). Later we get a couple of ‘veiled’ tunes right next to one another ‘Ready’ and ‘Miss Grindin’. Both of these tunes start off nice and bubbly and you think that’s the way it’s going to be, but that’s merely a DISTRACTION of sorts because they are both quite impacting. The former (sounds like another Jab Jab, to me at least) doesn’t go the degree as the latter - Which is absolutely devastating and explosive - But I really like them both (just especially ‘Miss Grindin’) (it kind of sounds like ‘Mind Yuh Business’ to me) (just louder) (okay, a lot louder). And finally we end up, fittingly, dropped right in the middle of a ‘Parade’ hosted by Miss B, herself. This parade is ridiculous in every single way possible and it’s the only song on this album which can reach that level of ‘I’m-experiencing-extreme-difficulty-containing-myself’ MADNESS that is present on ‘We Not Leaving’ that everyone loves so much. WELL, WELL DONE!

Overall, there’s also something VERY important about this album that I’ve purposefully neglected to mention - Nadia Batson is VERY attractive. She is a very BEAUTIFUL woman and that is essential in taking in her music (not really, I just felt like mentioning that).


And besides that, I just really like how the album is presented and carried out. Despite her versatility and the many directions in which she takes it, you can find a unifying or a ‘prevailing’ vibes on this album, it isn’t strictly just singles thrown together (. . . well it is actually, but clearly there was some discretion or just good old fashioned common sense exercised in the ‘throwing’ process). Or it may just be that our subject here, Nadia Batson is a damn genius. As I alluded to before, while she may not get that top billing credit as some of her peers, I REALLY think that, years from now, Batson will become one of the most well regarded and INFLUENTIAL Soca artists of all time. And while, ostensibly, we may not look at her 2011 season as one of her greatest, if we do look back at it through the spectrum that is ”Miss B”, it too will grow to be as appreciated as its most skillful of creators, one of the greatest to ever do it.

Rated: 4.25/5
Nadia Batson
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