The saying the voice of the people is the voice of God was no truer yesterday than when the youngest artiste in history Aaron St Louis (Voice) took home the title of the International Soca Monarch 2016.
It comes four years after he failed to capture the win in his final performance at the Synergy Soca Star season seven.
At 23, the artiste is enjoying his first year of breakaway success with a powerful, uplifting and progressive soca track that fete-goers have been singing word for word.
St Louis performed Cheers to Life on Fantastic Friday night, wearing a white and gold suit, and standing between two massive champagne bottles.
His introductory video was a video of reggae icon Bob Marley in an interview where the artiste was asked about riches and shut down the interviewer with the statement that riches were not money.
St Louis focused on his vocals and while he said the results didn’t matter to him, the big screens flashing the word “Winner” in bright, big, gold letters, and the grin on his face as he exited the stage following his performance spoke of confidence and satisfaction with his effort.
Minutes after the stage was cleared for the final artiste, defending champion Olatunji Yearwood, to perform, the patrons who had filled out the stadium continued to repeat the chorus of “cheers to life.”
The Soca Monarch supporters screamed his name when asked if they had seen their winner.
Placing second was 24-year-old Akeem Chance (Preedy), who is another first-time finalist at the event with his song Veteran.
Preedy delivered his performance with a vocals warm-up as he walked towards the microphone at the centre of the stage and, cool as can be in his charcoal three-piece suit, began singing Richard Nappy Mayers’ bring back the Ole Time Days.
He crooned the lyrics of Lord Kitchener’s Sugar Bum Bum before segueing into the lyrics of Veteran with “Do you remember when?”
On the screens at the side of the stage, videos of Wendy Fitzwilliam’s Miss Universe win, national cricket icon Brian Lara and T&T Olympic winning moments accompanied his performance which took a nostalgic stroll through the patrons’ psyche.
Preedy was also given a “blessing” by calypsonian David Rudder.
In a draw for third place was soca songstress Patrice Roberts and Dexter Stewart (Blaxx) in perhaps his greatest performance in soca history with the song that evoked the second biggest reaction from the audience.
Blaxx had the audience thrilled as he brought the fire and rhythm section and the dutty mas, and flawlessly used fog and warm orange lights that glowed on the faces of drummers, adding an exciting and somewhat sinister atmosphere to the theatrical performance.
He went so far as to attempt to try the fire-breathing trick himself, though it seemed that he almost had an accident on stage.
Patrice, in a performance that was fun and showed her amazing skill at wardrobe changes in a matter of seconds, made good use of the powerful vocals she is known for.
There were some shaky moments in her delivery but for the most part the songstress delivered and had flag crews reacting in a frenzy as her final moment on stage saw her technical team shooting out dollar bills along with confetti into the crowd.
Patrons were awed by the fact that as compared to previous years, almost every performer delivered more than mind-blowing performances.
Newcomer Pternsky, who was the only competitor to sing a dancehall song at the soca event, spent more time than necessary serenading and praising Jamaican producer Kurt Riley.
He sang that it wasn’t about the competition for him, which was fortunate as the audience did not show much appreciation for the performance.
Patrons were overheard saying it was the best Soca Monarch experience in years.
This came as a surprise to many who had been strongly critical of the event.
This year, scalpers were outside selling tickets for as low as $50 for the VIP section and practically giving away general tickets.
But the stadium, which had small handfuls before 11 pm, filled almost completely by midnight.
The show started with seven minutes of fireworks which saw patrons looking up in awe and also in fright as residue from the Roman candles floated down into the VIP section.
Then it was time for the Breakout artiste competitors—Jadel and Salty.
Jadel was the eventual winner of the category.
Salty, who seemed to have added verses to a song which was lyrically deficient by most standards, thrilled audiences with his rendition of Girl Meets Brass.
His performance was promising and preceded a very strong performance from Grenadian duo Cloud 5 with their song No Behaviour.
As the duo descended onto the stage bringing their jab invasion from Grenada to Port-of-Spain, the crowd, lulled into comfort by a lengthy performance from Chutney Soca Monarch K.I, came alive with the intent to jump and wave and misbehave.
While the duo performed in suits which looked more like ninja wear than alien chic, patrons cheered their approval, singing along to the lyrics.
M1 aka Menace followed up on the energy released by the jab men, with a presentation that was theatrical and seamless.
M1 re-enacted a J’Ouvert scene on the stage, complete with both the traditional characters of moko jumbies, fire-blowing devils and midnight robbers and the more prominent regular short pants and T-shirt wearing revellers. His white T-shirt and pants became a canvas for the “dutty mas” players who took the pristine cleanliness as an invitation to share in paint and mud, and he performed and sang his song without a hiccup, as his team backed him on stage.
The two Bajans followed next, Peter Ram with a hype song whose underwhelming performance was backed by high energy dancers. Unfortunately, his energy didn’t seem to peak at the same level.
Hypa Sounds chose to fetishize the Catholic schoolgirl look with dancers on chairs gyrating to his excellent delivery on vocals. He focused on his song, which has been a hit on local airwaves and at fetes.
As host Sunny Bling announced the next artistes, prop men brought nine-foot banners with the words, “T&T Land of the Free,” emblazoned in national colours.
Soca artiste Lyrikal, dressed in a mas costume, set the stage with a replica of a shed with a gas lamp illuminating dancers who portrayed slaves prior to 1838. With tassa dancers and steelpan he brought energy.
In a series of what seemed to be endorsements from more popular and established artists, maybe a potential changing of the guard, Sekon Sta was given singing support by vocalist Nadia Batson who joined him on the track Magic, to the crowd’s screaming approval.
Later, Ricardo Drue would be endorsed by former Soca Monarch champion Bunji Garlin.