KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle’s performance at the Soca Monarch competition Saturday night was an exercise in crisis management, in which the artiste saw most of what he had planned fall apart but held himself together well enough to win the crown.
(Watch video highlights at end of post)
Skinny told I-Witness News shortly after being crowned around 4 a.m. Sunday that after his performance he was somewhat nervous that Lornette “Fya Empress” Nedd, who won the Ragga Soca Monarch title one week earlier, has won her second crown this year.
Fya Empress placed second while Shuanelle Mc Kenzie was third, the first time in the history of the competition that two women are among the top three.
Antonius “Baddy” Simmons placed fourth with his song “Road Calling”.
“This victory for me is a pleasant, pleasant surprise. Ah (I) knew it was tight,” Skinny told I-Witness News.
(Listen to I-Witness News’ interview with Skinny)
“Ah not going to come here and say, ‘Boy yeah! Ah know ah had it in the bag.’ Ah sat, ah wait, ah had my fingers crossed. If it went to Empress, ah not going to say ‘Boy they cheat.’
“… Ah thought it was a very tight competition,” said the artiste who lauded the performance of the women.
“But at the end of the day, I’m a monster,” he said of the performance that secured his fourth Soca Monarch title, quoting the catch phrase of his song.
After being crowned, Skinny congratulated Empress on stage on her Ragga Soca Monarch crown and noted that Shaunelle is a former Junior Calypso Monarch.
“For the very first time, here tonight, we have two females on stage in the top three. It means a whole lot … So everybody who proud to see females up here in the top three, put something in the air right now,” he told the crowd, which responded with shouts and cheers.
No high-tech props
Skinny’s performance was devoid of the many high-tech props and pyrotechnics that have characterised his Soca Monarch presentations.
But while the artiste, who entered the stage using a jetpack last year, did drop the high-tech gadgets this year, he told I-Witness News the absence of pyrotechnics from his performance was not planned.
“You know, it’s funny that in your head as a performer, when you have so many things in your head that you know are supposed to go a particular way and they are not going, you get so consumed in the things that are not going that you forget that persons only see what they are seeing and they don’t know what’s happening from what’s not happening,” he said.
“When I came off, I was a little bit peeved at the fact that certain things did not work for me but from the feedback of the people, they didn’t know it,” said Skinny, who told I-Witness News that none of the pyrotechnics worked.
A miniature forklift device used to raise the artiste above the crowd did not work as planned when it was time to lower him, he further said.
“The funny thing about live performance is that in the visual, you always have to concentrate on the visual,” the artiste, however, told I-Witness News.
Skinny’s performance of “Monster” began with a video projected onto the big screens at Victoria Park, showing the artiste in a room at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital — located down the street from the Park .
As the healthcare providers — two of Skinny’s dancers — consult medical implements, a devious character sneaks into the room and gives the artiste a “mad injection”.
Skinny transforms into a monster — characterised by wild looking hair and bulging eyes — then flees the hospital, pursued by medical staff — his dancers.
As the video shows the artiste outside the Victoria Park, the live part of the performance begins with his chanting, “Open the gate! Open the gate!”
He enters with the “medical staff” who had tried to prevent his unauthorised discharge from the hospital in hot pursuit and rushes on the stage for the performance.
Last minute filming
Skinny told I-Witness News that parts of the video were filmed that very night.
“It was done in pieces so the last part, which was the run, has to be replicated with a live crowd outside so we had to do it as close as possible to Soca Monarch.”
But Skinny and last year’s winner Delroy “Fireman” Hooper, who opted out Saturday’s competition, had in the weeks before the show threatened not to perform, saying that appearance fees were inadequate.
Asked how his winning and having energised the crowd without elaborate props and pyrotechnics would affect their argument that higher appearance fees are needed to help fund their performances, Skinny said:
“The thing is, the last three years, I listened to the people. The people say they like Skinny; they love what he is doing. But, is it that it is him or is it that he is just mastering big props? Is it that he is all grandeur and no real punch to him as a performer?” said Skinny, who was Soca Monarch for three years in a row before Fireman, who has won the tile seven times, halted his beaver trick ambitions last year.
“So, I made up my mind this year if I entered ah wasn’t going to overkill props. Ah wasn’t going to overkill the actual live dramatic presentation. I was just going to run in, and just do my thing. Aint no break down for no drama again.”
Emphasised ‘monster injection’
Asked how he came up with the hospitalisation idea for this year’s performance, Skinny said “the mad injection” was the most popular part of the song.
“So I know that persons waiting to see that mad injection thing. And the only how to be realistic and human without doing the monster prop was to just play the whole presentation around having like a mad person,” he said.
But Skinny was affected by Fireman’s absence.
“You know, I think that is probably why I feel so weird, too,” he said.
He explained that after previous Soca Monarch shows he and Fireman would “lime” together (hang out) at Heritage Square, “throwing talks” at the loser.
“So I got an opportunity to sincerely congratulate Fya Empress on the stage. And I never got that. So a lot of things feel strange about it.
“So, he was missed. I ain’t going tell no lie. Ah miss Fireman Hooper in the competition. I did. Because ah always like to see what he is coming with. Ah like it. I like it. It’s a friendly rivalry that Ah does always look forward to,” Skinny said.
The other competitors were: Bernard “Mentalis” John, Aurella “Queen B” Beache, Ryan “Royal” Abraham, Travis “Wizkid” Lynch, Raeon “Fete King Madzard” Primus, Glenroy “Homey” Delplesche, Godwin “Gao” Billy, Roland “Pressure” Peters, Edison “Lively” Mc Dowall, Tamisha Nichols, and Cornelius “Poorsah” Willams.