Classic’s title well earned
In one fell swoop, memories of years of frustration, disappointment, heartbreak and frequent accusations –– fair and unfair –– of singing off-key were erased with a popular and resounding victory for Classic on Sunday morning
at Kensington Oval.
There might have been a few names –– most notably Donella’s and Colin Spencer’s –– on the lips of fans as their monarch, prior to the official announcement, but the overwhelming opinion from most of those still on location at Fontabelle was that the often maligned judges had got it absolutely right.
Classic has remained true to witty calypsos for decades, and his In Bed Together and Something Fishy fitted that bill. The themes were not overly dissimilar but both packed significant lyrical punch.
His rendition was excellent, and both songs carried quality melodies. It was noticeable, however, that he slowed In Bed Together somewhat, compared to what he had done throughout the season. Though many comments suggested they preferred the tent speed, the move obviously worked for Classic, and 32 years of terrific toil were finally rewarded with 98 points –– and a chest of prizes, inclusive of a luxury car.
Donella was the favourite of many –– after her performances –– to take the crown. She was a delight with both the melodic Rise and Let He Go, with her vocal range captivating the audience and being particularly outstanding in the former song.
There wasn’t much more she could have done to improve on her points tally that saw her fall just four short of the winner.
Colin Spencer kept it simple and to the point in his presentations on both The Oceans Rebelling and one of the sweetest songs of the season, It Ain’t Only Me. His vocalization on the latter song was arguably his best for the season and he must have scored well for rendition. Classic had to wait 32 years; Spencer’s wait for that illusive crown continues.
Hee Haw’s Respect De Man was excellently rendered, and it was also strong on lyrics. His second song Not Me Liver Gall was lyrically adequate, strong on melody, and was rendered with much gusto. But one got the impression, especially with the anti-liquor song, that this was one night he would have had to settle for being one of the best men and not the bridegroom.
Adrian Clarke’s Too Soft was beautifully rendered. It was a number in which he complained about calypsonians not dealing with issues and avoiding frontal confrontations. He brought a “new” number in Real Kaiso, which looked at the art form (yet again) and was a commendable effort done along traditional kaiso lines.
But one often wonders if a song gets a calypsonian past the tent judegment stage, past the semi-final stage, and is then changed for the final, what does that change say about the quality of the original song, the judges who deemed it fit to beat other songs, or the calypsonian himself?
Enobong with Join De Army and Crop Over Without Canes, as well as Chrystal Cummins-Beckles with Wake Me Up and Music To My Ears both had creditable performances, but their failure to break into the top five came as no surprise.
Most Barbadian calypsos, in terms of the rhythmic arrangement of syllables, tend to be too lengthy. Singing prose often takes precedence over rendering verse, and local writers –– with a few exceptions –– simply put, talk too much in their songs.
Enobong’s songs were too wordy, but she must be congratulated for her vocal and breathing skills in performing them quite well.
Cummins-Beckles is an excellent musician and singer, but her lyrics are begging for an injection of wit. And there is a development of a pattern of straight lamentations without any significant change in the treatment of the subject matter.
The same could be said about Ian Webster’s performance. The former monarch had to be the fittest performer onstage with some of the best pipes in the business on Saturday night. In the first half he performed What Is Calypso splendidly. It is not the most melodic of songs, but passable; and the lyrics of this latest version of explaining what is calypso held one’s interest.
His Gem Gone Mad, in terms of melody, was akin to a 100 metres, 400 metres, marathon and pole vault somehow meshed into one event. To be frank, it was all over the place. Still, that he rendered it extremely well, suggested that vocal gymnastics could have also been thrown into the skills set.
Adonijah touched on an issue which –– in keeping with Adrian Clarke’s protestations about being “too soft” –– showed that not all calypsonians sidestepped controversial topics. His Blues, making use of short impactful lines, maintaining a tempo to fit the subject matter, and experimenting with the blues genre, highlighted the extrajudicial killing of Selwyn “Blues” Knight earlier this year.
While some calypsos might have meandered between the mundane and usual complaints, the veteran calypsonian dealt well with an important emotional subject. Perhaps if the killing had been committed by a white cop, the judges might have then got its lyrical import.
Biggie Irie’s misnomer Singing Competition was well rendered and was of a high standard melodically. But one suspects that singing an untruth is not punishable, as he made the final even though the Pic-O-De-Crop competition, or any calypso contest, is not a singing competition per se.
After all, the likes of Destroyer, Charmer, Liar, Romeo, Chalkdust, Black Stalin, Shadow, and many others, have won crowns at varying levels.
Like Adrian Clarke, Biggie Irie delivered an indictment of sorts against the judges by dumping his sweet soca tune Sweet Kind Of Way from the semi-final for De Big Dawg Sleeping. The latter might or might not have been a reference to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, but only time and reflection will determine if it was an improvement
on his party song.
The Festival Band was utterly brilliant.