Friday, June 10, 2011

'All Eyes On You': A Review of "Soca Gold 2011"

Music is very much an audio based art, however, I find that in some case, for certain genres in particular, the underrated and perhaps ultimately forgotten visual side of the art form can be, outwardly thinking, just as important. Reggae music, for the most part, because of the very varied way in which in can be displayed (from the ultra-hype, to the almost over-serene) and presented, is a very colourful genre, but I don't know that it resonates within most people in that same way, when listening to a record. Dancehall is SOMEWHAT different, but again, there’re so many different ways of looking at it that it ends up more than a little blurry when it comes to building a ‘prevailing’ vision. Certainly there’re visual performers in each such as Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel . . ., Capleton and others, but as you can see from just that sampling, it’s such a large gap you cross when comparing each of them. So let us continue. Next, as far as music we cover here, is Zouk which definitely is a very eye-sensitive genre and that’s somewhat unusual because much like Roots Reggae, you’ll well hear complaints and critiques of the music - being called ‘cookie-cutter’ and the likes. However, when you listen to Zouk, at its highest level, if that music does not mentally take you somewhere, drop you off and return to pick you up at later date, then I feel sorry for you. Also, it can be a very romantic and sensual art form and should you be unable to recognize (and then utilize that), well I feel even sorrier for you (and yes, "sorrier" is a word). Finally (surely you saw where this was going) is Soca. EASILY the most agitated of genres is one of the (and perhaps THE) most visual in the world. Not only are you going to have some of the biggest performances to be seen anywhere, but with the seasonal nature of the music, itself, it literally LEADS to its visual nature. Big tune after big tune leads to the road, leads to the frenzy, it leads to Soca Monarch - All of these visually enticing events which may be completely useless sans the music or, at the very least, much more restrained - which is, at least in part, to celebrate the music. It also works in reverse, if you take the visual element out of Soca; you’re also left with something far more sobering and very unfortunately so. With that being said, however there is more than a single side to musical illustration and although Soca music succeeds greatly on one of them, it usually fails mightily on the other.

"Soca Gold 2010"

Of course that other side is the way the music is presented, on form, through marketing and distribution. In 2011 Soca has very quietly made great strides in that , despite starting very slowly, we’ve now seen quite a few big names such as Kes D Band, Nadia Batson, Destra Garcia and Machel Montano FINALLY begin to develop the digital market of the music (the latter two, for the very first time and subsequently, almost their entire respective catalogs have now gone digital, a fact which you’re not likely to know unless you’re specifically looking for them) and that’s very timely considering that the music, at least from out of Trinidad (which is where all four of my examples are from) was outstanding this year, but there should be more and after “more”, more on top of that. Somehow, someway, we simply must find a way to bring this wonderful music and its stars to the forefront and the sooner, the better.

"Soca Gold 2011" Trailer

Annually doing its part to the tune of likely becoming THE single most recognizable entity (human being or otherwise) in the entire genre of music is the ”Soca Gold” series from VP Records. Interestingly, as opposed to its ”Reggae Gold” counterpart, the series is looked upon by new fans and older listeners, alike, to link together some of the biggest names and biggest tunes of the given seasons and, ultimately, give it to the masses. Obviously, the goal here is to (make money) attract more and more fans to Soca music and, in order to that, VP PRESENTS the vibes in as great of a form as they receive on any album, with Reggae-like promotion which simply (FUCKED UPPEDLY) does not happen in Soca to any type of consistency and on the occasion that it does, it’s almost always reserved to someone enjoying an all too uncommon break-out of international proportions (more on that later). Last year, sadly, ”Soca Gold 2010” didn’t live up to either expectations or its role and when that happens for this series, which is likely to be the absolute only interaction with Soca music quite a few people have for an entire year, it is a really valuable opportunity missed for the exposure of a music which really shouldn’t need it, but so woefully does. In retrospect, 2010 wasn’t the greatest year for Soca music, so perhaps that had something to do with it, but if we’re going to have a dominant (without question) compilation in pretty much anything, you’d well hope that it does show the music in the greatest possible light and ”SG2010”, even for a down season, didn’t do that (although the cover model definitely did her part). But that was last year. Even on paper ”Soca Gold 2011” seems to righted the proverbial ship and in doing so probably has managed to surprise a few people as well. Yes. It’s missing something, but all appears about as steady as it has been with “SG” in some time and that’s a good thing because 2011 was a good year for Soca in Trinidad and it would have been a damn shame had they not secured a good taste of it to display to the greatest audience Soca is sure to have on an album in 2011. The results here, while not the greatest this series has ever produced (see that Here), does manage to capture a healthy portion of Trinidad 2011 - one of the biggest year’s in recent memory. Let’s have a look back.

'Come To Meh' by Iwer George

Incidentally, what is likely the second best and most popular Soca compilation of the year, ”Best of The Best”, which is pretty good generally, had somewhat of a disappointing year in 2011 with its choices of tracks, so when you take that and combine it with what happened last year (and some would add 2009 as well), we definitely ‘needed’ a nice showing here and that’s exactly what we got. Getting us going on VP’s ”Soca Gold 2011” is arguably the nicest of them all and the first of what are, in my opinion, three GREAT songs on the album as ‘De Boss’, Iwer George enjoyed a resurrection of sorts this year on the strength of ’Come To Meh’. Were I not completely partial and just went by what I heard, this would be THE best tune on the album and it was one of the best tunes of the season and definitely one of the best of George’s entire career. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his, but he absolutely mined gold with the intoxicating Jab Jab infested tune which was absolutely MAMMOTH!

“I say I guh stop sing Soca
And go an live in Grenada
And live lak a Jab Jab King
Play music on pitch oil tin
Every night I lay down in meh bed
A Jab Jab singing in meh
Saying allyuh
Trini people I seh
Come to meh!”

Next up is Bajan veteran, Lil Rick, a favourite of ”SG” over the years, with ‘Guh Down’. I probably have more of an appreciation for this tune now than I ever have, but that’s not saying much - pretty much everything over that riddim, the Condemn, rubs me the wrong way. Still, again, Rick constantly appears on this release and the tune was a pretty sizable hit and a lasting one as well, so its presence here should be to no surprise at all. Next in is another tune which I’m liking just a bit more these days as lyrics demon Bunji Garlin links with St. Vincy star, Problem Child on the fun ‘Party Cyan Done’. This one isn’t a personal favourite of mine (and I find that, unless I haven’t heard a song before, it I don’t REALLY love it, I’m probably not even going to listen to the entire thing, thus, listening to this tune for the sake of this review may just be the very first time I’ve actually heard the whole of it) (fortunately, I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to Soca music), but it is a nice track and somewhat reminiscent of Bunji’s link with Beenie Man from two or three seasons back, ’Plenty Gyal’. Later on, we get very impressive wordplay from both which, again, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard before.

“ Dis dance caah dun
It caah finish
Dance dun early?!
Dat is sacrilege
People might get vex and start pillage
Love party like how Popeye love spinach”
- Bunji Garlin from ‘Party Cyan Done’

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway), that the single biggest story in the Soca world in 2011, thus far, has been the re-ignition of Soca supernova, Machel Montano. While his big shot of the season, ’Advantage’, which netted him a Road March title, remains exclusive to his own album, ”The Return”, he does lend what is probably my second favourite of his batch this year, the announcing ‘Coming Again’. Having taken a backseat role in 2010, the song was meant to announce that ‘HD’ would be returning to the scene for Carnival 2k11 and it did that and a whole lot more. This song is EXCELLENT! It’s the second of three really big tunes on this album and I swear I won’t be surprised if a year or two from now I hold the top Groovy selection in an even higher esteem than I do the maddening Road March tune which would also score Montano his first Soca Monarch crown as well. STILL, in my most prejudiced and partial mind, my favourite song on this album is ‘Neighbour’, which actually features Machel Montano’s ‘sidekick’, Patrice Roberts (no combination of the two in 2011. Disappointing) alongside the poster boy of the series, Bajan Soca superstar, Edwin Yearwood. Yearwood’s presence here is pretty much mandatory, but I assumed that they would draw his big tune from 2010, ‘Chrissening’ and instead they went in this very welcomed direction and included Roberts (who is quickly becoming a staple of the compilation as well, having now appeared on the four most recent installments, by my count). ‘Neighbour’ is just gorgeous.

'Neighbour' by Edwin Yearwood & Patrice Roberts

“When we have each other
Mix it up with Soca
Alla wi together
My neighbour forever!”
-Patrice Roberts from 'Neighbour'

“Disaster in one country
It affects alla wi
You must know wi come to party
With wi neighbour ‘longside a mi”
-Edwin Yearwood from 'Neighbour'

Cool and big Soca with a message will always have a place on my players and this tune in particular - I’ve been killing it for the better part of the past year and I won’t be stopping anytime soon. Included here, I’m actually hoping it gets a bit of ‘second-wind’ and maybe (probably not) even a video (I still say they should’ve qualified that tune for Groovy Monarch this year).

'White Oak & Water' by Rikki Jai

Along with Bunji, Machel, Yearwood and Iwer there are some seriously big names on board of ”SG2011”. The supreme Destra Garcia returns from her last appearance here from 2009 (“I name Bacchanal, they call me Bacchanal!”) with another tune on the same Outta Control Riddim which backs the previously mentioned ‘Neighbour’, the cool ‘Feel Like Wukking’. This tune doesn’t approach the levels of that MASSIVE shot to my opinion and you would’ve preferred that they could have gotten one her two biggest hits this year, ‘Welcome Back’ and/or ‘We Own It’ (both available on here scintillating new album, ”Welcome Back”), but her simply being here is a plus for me and her song is a nice one having now spun maybe five consecutive times, I’m well loving it at this point more than ever before. Queen Alison Hinds (happy belated earthday) is also on board, alongside Ziggy Rankin with ‘Baddest Wine’. Unfortunately this is another tune on the condemned Condemn Riddim, but it isn’t horrible (I just don’t like that riddim for some reason). Skinny Fabulous also steps forth with his cut of the big Tin Pan Riddim from Da Mastamind, ‘All of Your Body‘. I like this tune but I think that I really like it because it WELL reminds me of one of my favourite Skinny tunes from last year, ‘Must Be Carnival’. This song does feature Skinny dusting it off with a straight forward DJ style [hey Heather!], going almost Dancehall-ish and I always love to hear that and it just has a BIG vibes to it as does almost everything on that riddim. Iwer George also has another tune for the album, in ‘Mashing Up’ and . . . Condemn Riddim. Yep. Also check Rikki Jai going Chutney (not really) with ‘White Oak & Water’. The song is the same which netted Jai a Chutney Soca Monarch crown earlier this year and it’s also one which I’ve woken up to just a bit. I don’t pay a great deal of attention to Rikki Jai, but maybe I should because almost every time I do, he nearly always has a winner.

'Touch Road' by Busy Signal

And of course VP is sure to Reggae-fy "SG2011" just a bit and does so with two of the biggest names to be found on its roster, Gyptian and Busy Signal. The former brings the ‘Soca Refix’ of his already well Soca-ish hit tune ‘Nah Let Go’ from the ”Hold You“ album. And as for the latter - It should be well said that, to my opinion, Busy had a HUGE tune by the name of ‘Get Outta My Way’, but the one they chose may very well be even better. ‘Touch Road’ is simply one of the finest tunes to be found on this album as Busy continues to absolutely destroy conventional thinking in the Dancehall and now he’s taken his act beyond because this song is just DAMAGING!

Rounding out the list of tunes on ”Soca Gold 2011” are some big pieces from a few up and comers and big solid artists. In terms of impact, definitely the biggest and solidest of them all is Luta, from out of St. Vincy, with his unlikely (but subsequently MASSIVE) hit from Vincy Mas 2010, ‘Tight Spot’. Big tune. This one is saturated with a ton of old school charm and innuendo which really resonated with so many people way beyond Vincy and I was so happy to see it present on this release and hopefully Luta can follow it up with a big 2011 (you have no idea how much time I type ‘Lutan’ instead of ‘Luta’). And speaking of old school (and 2010), 2010’s UNANIMOUS breakout star, Buffy, delivers her Calypso effort, ’Soak It’. She should have DEFINITELY been on last year’s edition with her HUGE tune ’Anything’, but I suppose it’s better late than never and I’ve warmed up to this tune these days. Buffy is a potential future star with Dancehall crossover potential, heavy lyrics, so you should keep an ear in her direction in future years. Lyrikal is another name to pay attention to as he’s quickly becoming one of the most discussed Soca acts, at least in my opinion and here he had a hit with the groovy set, ’Nuttin Undah’. Decent song - But I think that Lyrikal REALLY has a big future and his present isn’t bad either.

'Drop It'/'Created 4 Carnival' by Mr. Dale

My favourite remaining tune (including the last three mentioned) certainly comes from Achis Reggae favourite, the Soka Junkie, Mr. Dale from out of Barbados. Dale appears very frequently on this series and his latest drop, fittingly titled 'Drop It', is nearly as good as he’s ever brought. I love the one and clearly it ranks amongst the finest present on the album. Veteran KV Charles (I THINK) makes his first ”SG” appearance with the cool ‘Buss Ah Lime’. This one doesn’t rank very well with me, but apparently it did quite well for him, so biggup KV Charles. Sending us home is another series favourite, Sean Caruth, whose tune, ‘Leave De Cyat’ is absolutely intoxicating madness! I did hear this one, but I obviously didn’t pay it a proper attention. This song is “DUMB” and “VERY UNINTELLIGENT” (so say my Wife) . . . But who cares! It’s a fun time to be had and, again, it features that old school type of Calypso innuendo which Caruth works to near perfection here. Well done!

'Leave De Cyat' by Sean Caruth

I would like to (very quickly) say that I’m sure that so many people will look at this one and talk about what’s missing (because that’s just what we do), but maybe what’s missing is a sign that Soca music is growing up. Pretty much everything you’re going to say is missing (unless it comes from either Fay-Ann Lyons or Bunji Garlin, who did their own compilation for Faluma last year, so maybe they’ll do it again), is available in other places and perhaps some exclusivity was attempted to be maintained with those “other places”. This year’s edition does, however, manage to bring back the big names which is what we demand and, at least for that, in a year where there SHOULD have been significant progression, in my opinion, I’m thankful. Oh, and there’s also a DVD here, which I don’t have, but is sure to include the usual worthwhile features such as videos (hopefully not that shit for 'Come To Meh', however), performances and behind the scenes at Carnival features.

Overall, it’s good music too! Soca in 2011, as I said, was very good in Trinidad in my opinion and that’s well reflected in the album. And if you take that into consideration and then think of those other songs in your mind missing - We could very well be dealing with what will go on to be regarded as one of the best years for Soca music . . . In a really long fucking time (and in a genre which isn’t really fucking old). I don’t think that that is a very widely known fact. I don’t think that people around the world came flocking to Soca in 2011, but what they likely will come to is ”Soca Gold 2011”. When they do, what they’ll find is the greatest VISUAL example of this wonderful music to be found on an album. From the stunning woman on the cover, through the promotion of it and everything - This is how the music should be shown and it takes the biggest the release it has to offer to do that. Say what you will, but in 2011, they pretty much got it right.

Rated: 4/5
VP Records
CD/DVD + Digital
Soca Gold @ Myspace
Soca Gold @ Facebook


  1. SOCA is without a doubt- the curviest music.

  2. One thing I can say about SOCA Gold 2011, it sure makes the game of Cricket look Sexy as hell. I think I need to rock one of those team uniforms LOL.

    I enjoyed this post.. learning so much about Soca this year. :)