Soca isn’t like other music. The rest of the musical world has SXSW buzz, taste-making blogs, and indie posturing to determine who is a big deal. Soca musicians have Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. And that’s it. The festival, which goes down this weekend, runs on the jumpy, calypso-derived dance music and every year the festival chooses a Soca Monarch to reign over the peaceable kingdom of Party for the subsequent twelve months. Soca stars from around the Caribbean compete for the title (and the prize money) in a battle of the bands-style showdown on “Fantastic Friday.” It kind of takes the guesswork out of determining who is running things.
As of now, there are fourteen finalists in the groovy soca category and twelve in the faster power soca category. Who will win is anybody’s guess, but we can confirm that this year’s crop of soca singles could keep us wining all year. In the spirit of the season, we’ve rounded up a few of the hottest to help you get up to speed and into a fete frame of mind. Some are by contenders for the crown, while others just rule.
So, even if you are going to spend this weekend trudging around in the cold somewhere far away from the equator, you can have your own Carnival celebration by counting down these 10 wine-spiring tracks.
1. “Stress Away” – Kes the Band
We’ll start with the defending champions. Last year, Kes the Band’s “Wotless” made everyone go nuts and the group claimed the title in the groovy category.
This year, they just want you to relax with “Stress Away.” It’s been remixed by the famously laid back Snoop Dogg, so the track has an extra boost of star power in its favor.
2. “Pump Yuh Flag” – Machel Montano
Montano, the defending monarch in the power category and an inarguable legend, is back this year with a selection of hits in the making. He’s going out for both the groovy and power titles this year, but his high energy tracks are the hardest to deny.
“Mr. Fete” is a catchy, effervescent number, but we’ve got our money on the truly frenetic riddim of “Pump Yuh Flag.” The video is pretty fun too:
3. “Surrender” – Farmer Nappy
The track has driving energy, pop appeal, and a seductive undertow. Farmer Nappy might not be a finalist, but he’s reigning over our headphones right now.
4. “Duttyness” – Blaxx
Blaxx brings a brash, larger-than-life energy to everything he does. He’s got quite a few fiery traxx, er, tracks out this year, but we’re hooked on “Duttyness” for its, well, duttyness.
5. “Bacchanalist” – Kerwin Du Bois
Groovy soca contender Kerwin Du Bois hits a classic sweet spot with this festive manifesto on the Antilles riddim. If you’re not sure what a bacchanalist is, the video will tell you everything you need to know:
6. “Attitude” – Destra Garcia
With the refrain “attitude and a big bag of wine,” Destra takes a tuneful turn on the Red Bull riddim with this track.
The soca heavy hitter and Caribbean style icon has certainly given our feet wings. We’re finding it hard to listen to “Attitude” and sit still at the same time.
7. “In Your Eyes” – Erphaan Alves
If your are standing in front of your significant other’s place and this is blasting from a boom box you are holding over your head, the relationship is half past doomed. And yet something about the swing in the tune and young Alves’s lilting vocals makes you want to pull someone close. The song and the video are all about mistrust and infidelity, which begs the question: What kind of crazy person would fool around on Erphaan Alves?
8. “Born Ready” – Bunji Garlin
This infectious track will get you ready for the mas with its springy rhythm. As Bunji Garlin will tell you, he was “Born Ready.”
9. “Miss Behave” – Fay-Ann Lyons
“Miss Behave” is one of the most charming soca singles of the year. Fay-Ann Lyons promises she’s not going to get crazy at Carnival this year, even as the beat urges you to do exactly that.
10. “Vintage Wine” – Lady Gypsy
Just in case you got the idea that soca was a kid’s game, Lady Gypsy, AKA Fay-Ann Lyons’s mommy, is here to set you straight. With tongue only slightly in cheek, the 2010 monarch bemoans the pernicious dancehall influence on soca and shows all the young girls how you really wine. Interestingly, the video for Machel Montano’s “Vibes Cyah Done” is on a similar theme. But here’s Lady Gypsy: