Reigning Soca Monarch Neil "Iwer" George has been waiting two decades to win another Road March title. It was evident, by Monday, that he was going to do it again with Stage Gone Bad, a collaboration with former Soca Monarch winner Kees Dieffenthaller.
His other collaboration Conch Shell with Machel Montano and Skinny Fabulous of St Vincent was a very close contender in the run-up to the annual two-day street party.
George had his first win in 2000 with Carnival Come Back Again but had to share the crown with Austin “Super Blue” Lyons who sang Pump Up.
In 2018 he placed second with his song Savannah which was a top contender until Montano and Lyons released Soca Kingdom which obliterated any chance he had of winning.
Since the defeat, there was a professional rivalry between Montano and George for the title culminating in four "diss" songs between the two. While the two were “fighting” Montano ran away with the crown with his hit Famalay – a collaboration with Ian "Bunji Garlin" Alvarez and Skinny Fabulous.
However, in 2020, everywhere you turned on Monday and Tuesday, whether it be Port of Spain, San Fernando or Tobago, Stage Gone Bad was the song of choice.
Newsday was told masqueraders at one judging point in Port of Spain were so adamant about crossing the stage to Stage Gone Bad, that they refused to dance when Conch Shell was played.
Apparently conceding defeat and realising he was not about to achieve his 11th Road March title, Montano crossed the Socadrome stage at the Jean Pierre Complex with the band Tribe and was hyping the crowd to Stage Gone Bad. With him, on the music truck, was Trini-born US rapper Nicki Minaj who was given the microphone by Montano.
She said, "Trinidad make some f**ing noise."
When told that using explicit language was illegal, she said: "Oh are you serious? Are you going to arrest me? Would you guys break me out of jail? I just want to say I love you guys and I'm so happy to be here. This is my first Carnival ever. God bless you and have a great time."
Kees and Iwer kept the tempo up with the band Yuma with Iwer leaving the music truck and going onto the stage, surrounded by the sea of masqueraders.
When asked how he felt about the reception to his work, George said: "It feel very sweet to know that God actually gave you a year. After all those years, after 32 years, God actually gave you a year. That's a great feeling, ent? It's just a blessing. At the end of the day, everyone in this life will ask God for a certain thing, and that's what I asked for and that's what he sent."
As Tribe crossed, George joined Montano and sang Conch Shell.
(with reporting by Rachael Espinet)