I’m just here to say I love you
A voice from out the blue.
—SuperBlue “Fantastic Friday“
So the talk of the town—justifiably so—is the redemptive return of SuperBlue and the song “Fantastic Friday”. The deceptively simple song is a master-class for all young pretenders on song craftsmanship, economy with lyrics, and why there’s no replacement for melody.
You can visualise the mayhem that will accompany this song in the stadium. Good mayhem. A mayhem of joy…The song is evidence of the best of what Soca Monarch can be: the irresistible force of the great party song marshalled by the mesmeric figure at the centre of soca’s ability to move bodies. I’ve a mental catalogue of transcendent Monarch moments: nearly all Blue’s galvanic performances—from those first years when the Monarch was a few hundred people and a stage on barrels, to Blue’s epic performances whilst climbing scaffolding; Destra’s holy performance of “Carnival” in 2003 when she should’ve won; Iwer’s in 2011 when he should’ve won; Machel’s pitch-perfect multi-media stage-performance that same year that pipped Iwer; and Bunji’s amazing 2005 performance of “Blaze It” when he literally became Ogun…
We need to understand Blue’s importance to modern Trinidad. I wrote in 2005: “It is no exaggeration to say he’s the father of the modern Carnival and modern soca. The man called SuperBlue has had two incarnations—the first from 1980 to the mid-1980s was Blue Boy, one of the most melodically gifted calypsonians of the post-Sparrow era, known for an almost-trilogy of road marches composed around female muses— ‘Ethel’, ‘Rebecca’, and almost with ‘Lucy’—and for bringing simultaneously Baptists, Shaolin, and Superman into the soca party. His second coming was as SuperBlue, the man who single-handedly transformed the entire phenomena of Carnival itself!… The energies that SuperBlue set in train are still coursing through the society with a hand alighting on phenomena as far flung as the growing number of young soca millionaires, soca on the Billboard charts, the Soca Warriors, and the flag waving patriotic fervour of Trinbagonians in this era.”
“What SuperBlue has done has yet to be quantified and defined— and is yet to stop. Apart from the fact that he brought thousands more into the Carnival globally and transformed feting culture; apart from the fact that he transformed Trinidad’s music from subject matter, BPM (beats per minute), to song structure and imagery etc; apart from changing Trini Carnivals by accelerating their transformation into orgies of bands of thousands of frenzied girls waving and wining; apart from bringing a younger generation into the Carnival as consumers and creators; apart from opening up wider our capacity for joy; apart from consolidating Trini patriotism by bringing the flag into the streets—and heroes and folkloric characters back from the dead; apart from and because of all of that—his impact on the festival and Trinidad’s economy could be said to be almost of Michael Jordan-like proportions…” In 1998 Forbes magazine estimated Michael Jordan’s effect on the US economy was US$10 billion—Blue’s impact is similar. If the 300-Trini-styled carnivals are worth $15 billion annually—how much of this is due to Blue?
Last week I spoke about 2012’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame nominees—Guns N Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others. Nearly all band members are drug addicts—many died of overdoses. The guys are worth billions. Around these drug-addicted geniuses—like throughout the cultural industries—is an American industry created and maintained by political and monied leaders.
An industry made up of supportive policy, legislation, fiscal incentives, schools for the arts, heritage institutions, and corporations that invest in the arts. The refusal of our Government to implement the 129 line items passed in budgets is about the disrespect for artists. And it is about class. Trinidad’s elites can never see a man looking like Blue as a super multi-millionaire. And if they can’t we’ll never have a creative industry—because a major portion of our creative millionaires will look like Blue…
I always go back to national turning points. Twenty years after gang boys from east Port of Spain created pan the Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) went to London to take pan to the world in 1951. We didn’t put things in place for this genius. The power began to leave us…In 1973—almost a perfect 20 years later (one generational cycle) Bob Marley and the Wailers performed at the BBC, taking reggae to the world–and the power shifted from us. Right after TASPO in 1956 Harry Belafonte had the world’s first platinum album “Calypso”, marking the culmination of T&T’s Golden Age. Twenty years later in 1976 Marley had his major US Billboard hits with Rastaman Vibration… Jamaica—unlike us—builds systems around their ragamuffin geniuses. The pantheon of Jamaica’s “culture” millionaires runs in the hundreds. Most look like men working in CEPEP—because in Trinidad that’s precisely what they’d be limited to…But the hope of the country rests in flawed geniuses like them—and Blue.
It’s no secret Super’s wrestled with drug addiction and seemed to have slipped off the precipice… We all watched him haunting St James at various hours of the night, still dressed in blue regalia, a warrior wearing his armour to the last… Blue- his spiritual colour, shield, and burden… I hope Blue’s handlers put systems in place for him to safely ride this wave back. Addiction’s a lifelong battle, and the entertainment industry has many temptations… As it stands it’s a brilliant come-back story, a door ajar peering us in at the possibilities of redemption, and a lesson to us all of the power of Genius…