New Festival Song winner crowned - ‘Loaded Eagle’ takes flight
It was a vuvuzela-blowing, shoulder-rubbing affair on the grounds of the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Saturday night as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) hosted the finals of its Festival Song Competition. By the unofficial start time of 8 p.m., there was not an empty seat in the Hope Road venue as the 11 finalists prepared to deliver their best performances, hoping to impress judges Ibo Cooper, Alaine Laughton, Michael Sean Harris and Clyde McKenzie.
At the end of the evening, it was Randene ‘Loaded Eagle’ Dyer who soared, singing and splitting his way to the top of the leaderboard. Not only did he scoop up the coveted winner’s trophy and accompanying million-dollar prize, he also snatched the songwriter’s prize – another cool million – along with the titles Best Performer and Best Vocalist. With the addition of these sectional prizes, tagged with a cash prize of $300,000 each, the singer from St Ann walked away with a bounty of over two and a half million dollars. His song, Big Up Jamaica, will now become the soundtrack for the 2019 Independence celebrations.
A former winner in the JCDC dance competition, Loaded Eagle could not stop smiling. “Right now, mi just happy. Mi overwhelmed,” he stated, adding that he had put in the hard work, and it had paid off.
Coming in second was performer Alero ‘Alley Bless’ Perrier, one of two females in the competition. Her entry was entitled Queen Jamaica, and she took the stage in a Jamaica-inspired regal costume complete with cape and crown. She upped the ante at the finals by rolling out onstage her trump card, a big-bodied, fast-foot-skanking, body-shaking dancer who thrilled with his antics. Exciting as he was to watch, the audience was in for another surprise when emcee Jenny Jenny blurted out, “Is her Pupa dat, enuh! That is how a fada support him pickney.”
Clearly, dad’s support resonated with the judges, and, proud as a peacock, he was later seen backstage after the announcements, demanding to know, “Where is mi daughter?”
In an interview with The Gleaner, Alley Bless said that she had expected to place in the top three. “Expect bigger and better things from Alley Bless,” she promised.
Third-place winner Jerome ‘Jay Smith’ Smith, was definitely one of the favourites, and his song, Embassy Appointment, proved to be quite popular. Jay Smith was a hit with the real crowd on Saturday night, and he scored in the virtual world, as well. It came as no surprise that he was awarded the sectional prize for Most Popular on Social Media and claimed the cash award of $300,000. The JCDC’s Andrew Clunis told The Gleaner on the islandwide road shows in the run-up to the finals that it was Embassy Appointment that was the front runner.
“This is a big surprise. It is something of an upset because Jay Smith was the favourite, and he ended up third,” Clunis noted. He pointed out, however, that there was no pre-judging and that everything was decided on the night of the finals. He added that the eventual winner, Loaded Eagle, had demonstrated his preparedness on the road shows and “got better with each performance”.
BIGGER AND BETTER
Jamaica’s 57th anniversary of Independence is being celebrated under the theme ‘One Nation, One People’, and for the minister of culture, Saturday night’s undoubted success was validation of the hard work that had gone into the staging of this competition.
“The Festival Song contest is alive and well. It gets bigger and better each year,” a smiling Grange told The Gleaner. “We do whatever is necessary to improve it as the years go by, and by the time we are ready to celebrate Jamaica 60, it will be even grander,” she declared.
Special guest performers were former winner Nazzleman, who told the crowd that his two-million-dollar win in the competition was the reason he was so clean and sharp; the still-Afro-wearing Zac Henry of The Astronauts fame; and Bounty Killer, who lived up to his ‘Poor People’s Defender’ moniker.
The other finalists in this year’s competition were Edwin Meyers with Piece A Jamaica, Jason ‘Iya Concord’ Wright with Hero Fight, Percival ,Dharma, Lord with A Jamaica We Love, the Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God Choir with Jamaica Bless, Nickoy ‘Shawn-D’ Green with Sweet Jamaica, Nester ‘Humility’ Chung with Battlefield, Vernon ‘Ramize’ Smith with Jamaica Fi Life, and Meckedah ‘McKada’ Henry with Love for Jamaica.