Grading the Top 10 in … TRINIDAD!

1. Bunji Garlin, “Differentology”

It’s only a few weeks until the annual International Soca Monarch competition, held since 1993 on the Friday during Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Artists compete in two categories, Soca Monarch (uptempo) and Groovy Soca Monarch (slower tempos, added in 2001). Bunji won Soca Monarch in ’02, ’04, ’05, and ’08. Bunji and fellow favorite Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez unexpectedly dropped out of the competition a few days ago, objecting to some sketchy legal language in the contracts. Bunji and Fay Ann are the royal couple of soca, since Fay Ann’s father is soca legend Superblue (see below). Bunji is the crown prince of the ragga soca genre, which is the Trinidadian equivalent of Jamaican dancehall. Fans are upset that “Differentology” won’t be up for Soca Monarch, since it was widely considered a front-runner. Nothing better than a melancholy song about partying.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “I’ve said it a million times, soca sounds better in the minor key. This song takes a very strange key of F# minor but its wonderfully produced and arranged.” — CGollum

2. Super Blue & The Love Band, “Fantastic Friday”

Super Blue is a calypsonian and soca icon, famous for being a great performer who dances on top of speakers in blue costumes. He is credited with inventing a style called “jump and wave,” was the first Soca Monarch winner, and has appeared on Sesame Street, where he interacted with Super Grover.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “He’s back with a Big Badd Tune yow … will be in dah Finals fuh sure & is Realllll MASH-UP!!!” — 1702alm

3. Machel Montano, “FOG”

Lead singer of soca band The HD Family, Machel Montano became the youngest winner of the Caribbean Song Festival in 1987. His first big hit was “Too Young to Soca,” which came out when he was 9. He’s sold out Madison Square Garden and currently lives in Los Angeles, where he works on fusing soca music with other modern musical trends for a global audience.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “Could this be double-entendre? Might he be speaking about cocaine?” — ashababe56

4. Blaxx, “Leh Go (Soca Future Riddim)”

Blaxx, a.k.a. Dexter Stewart, is an underdog from Siparia who has performed at Soca Monarch 20 times but has never won a title, which makes him especially beloved by his cult of fans. His songs are always solid if mostly unspectacular.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “I love this song…Blaxx never disappoints but is so underrated” — SuperTrinibitch

5. 5 Star Akil, “Partier”

Akil Borneo, known as 5 Star Akil, has been making club soca influenced by global EDM. (For an example, check out this song called “Up in This Rave.”) Unfortunately the two are blended in a way that makes no sense, with a lot of Auto-Tune sauce on top. It’s not very good.

Grade: D


6. Ravi B, “Prescription”

Ravi Bissambhar makes chutney music, which is soca that incorporates elements from Indian music. Ravi B’s musical heroes are famous Bollywood playback singer Kumar Sanu and Eminem. When he lost Chutney Soca Monarch in ’11, Ravi B encouraged the crowd to throw things at the winner, which is pretty 8 Mile of him.

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “Lets face it ravi b can only sing about rum this rum that Trini TO DA BONE” — MichaelGaness

7. Denise Belfon, “Wining Queen”

Denise “Saucy Wow” Belfon is a goddess. STICK IT!

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Saucy is BOSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!” — SassyNatty

8. Bunji Garlin, “Savage”

Another Bunji Garlin song, a remake/interpolation of the calypsonian “Savage” by Maestro Cecil Hume. Bunji keeps singing about being “anti-stush,” which I know now means that he is against those who are uptight and snotty.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “if Bunji doesn’t win Soca Monarch, summen wrong, he has at least 3 good contenders for it” — brittyz

9. K.I. & 3Veni, “Friends for the Night”

A jaunty little chutney soca song about casual sex.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “i like it friends wit benefits” — audiantoine

10. Benjai, “Feter (Project 5 Riddim)”

Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc sounds like his voice has a bubble in it. This song inspired the hashtag #IzaFeter.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “love dis song ready 2 fete” — daviesheldonramdassingh

Filed Under: Billboard, Grading the Charts, Top Ten

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert