Another December national final to look at, and this time it’s a biggie … one of the biggest national finals, with 17 songs hoping to get a ticket to Malmö. Only Ukraine’s hefty 20-strong roster was bigger (and I’ve been putting that one off too). So forgive me for glossing over some of them a bit, if there’s anything amazing (or notably terrible), I’ll be sure to signpost it.
These are all in ascending order of where they placed in the final, starting with the three that came joint LAST. Fun!
Valon Shehu – Nuk do të ndal
A fairly uplifting ballad, the melody is nice and the string orchestra certainly don’t hurt. But it just sounds a bit dated and unextraordinary. His voice hits the notes but it’s a bit monotone.
Vesa Luma – S’jam perfekt
Oh interesting a dancey track! Is that Barbara Windsor? She’s really rocking the tartan. After a long intro we get a pretty standard eurodance track, albeit with a quite lovely harp in the bridge. The chorus is pretty solid and her vocals do that ascending scale think pretty well.
OK so it’s not a Eurovision winner, but I quite LIKE this! Love the string-laden middle-eight too, super! As good as many Balkan entries I’ve heard over the years.
Selami Kolonja – Ku je?
The other “nul points” of the night was a theatrical ballad. It’s difficult for me to think too strongly about these ones, it just sounds a bit old-fashioned. I’ve no doubt some people would enjoy it, but there’s just nothing exciting there for me.
Lynx – Si ty askush
Oh hello, he’s like a greasier-haired Albanian Ben Whishaw. A slow start, eventually broken by a slightly painful “oooooh” refrain from the backing singers. A pretty standard rock ballad, competently sung (for the most part). Quite understated, but picks up towards the end, and the singer finds he can hold a note with some effort. Nice but forgettable.
Xheni ft. Enxhi Kumrija – Arti i një fundi
Albania has fierce-looking emo types too, it seems. A simple few verses are traded before the chorus finally arrives. I can’t say it was really worth the wait, but that string section really helps out again. Their voices are barely audible sometimes, and the melody is hard to pick out. Not really getting this one.
Kelly – Ylli im polar
Quite like that piano intro, but after a lengthy 30 seconds the singer emerges. What an ugly tattoo he has! Otherwise quite handsome, but he’s got that rock voice hasn’t he? All chest and rawness and not much else. It’s not even a particularly rocky song is it? Sorry, not enjoying this one much.
Ardian Bujupi – I çmendur për ty
Wow, opens with one really flat note … but he bounces back with a bit of a rip-off of that Plan B song I hated. He looks good, but he’s onto a loser here. Or at least for me, I just hate that Plan B song and I can’t hear anything else, as his vocals aren’t anything really special, or at least they aren’t stretched on this song.
Rosela Gjylbegu – Dëshirë
Sounds like a pretty typical ballad first, how will this pan out? Her vocals are nice, even if that glittery dress doesn’t quite fit the sound of the song.
Unfortunately the ballad doesn’t grow to much more than a Leona Lewis album track. She does get a chance to pull out a few big notes, but the song doesn’t quite turn into anything massive. Shame really!
Dr. Flori & Fabi – Jam ti!
Greaaat… some low-key Albanian rap, just what I need! I do like the arrangement a bit, I’m not sure why they have a string orchestra for pretty much every track, but I do love them.
Fortunately Fabi (or is that Dr Flori?) tries to sing a song for the chorus, but unfortunately he’s not singing a very interesting chorus. Before you know it, we’re back in rapping, with only a light sprinkling of singing after that. Not for me, sorry.
Bojken Lako – Lot… Jetë? Dashuri
What a strange singer, is he blind? Possibly deaf too … or maybe I am, because I can’t hear him for the first 30 seconds. Is that offensive? Apologies. The vocals are barely there, and when he attempts to sing, we barely get more than a vaguely-Bowie vocal that doesn’t actually sing much at all. One of the most dismal so far…
Rezarta Smaja – Ti?
Hello boys! Rezarta and her ample bosom kick off with a pretty standard-sounding ballad. But the bridge hints at something bigger than that. It’s got a bit of drama about it, interesting!
I won’t pretend it’s a killer chorus, but it’s not bad. That dress isn’t doing her arse any favours. She’s got a good range, I just wish she was singing an uptempo, there aren’t enough of them in this line-up so far, and I reckon she could really raise the roof if she wanted to.
Flaka Krelani – Labirint i zemrës
That’s some severe make-up there. Sadly the ballad sounds pretty ordinary, with a bit of a meandering melody that’s doing nobody any favours. At least they managed to fit a chorus into it, even if it doesn’t quite get off the ground.
Or not at least until the last minute when unexpectedly it burst into life (nearly taking out an aerial camera at the same time), and while it’s a good finish, with some almost X-Tina levels of strong balladeering, it’s too little, too late.
Merland Kademi – Këtu fillon parajsa
He looks like a disgusted interior designer for the first verse. Some of those faces he’s pulling! He’s obviously overcome with emotion, as demonstrated by the rather waily chorus.
Wow, he’s rather intense … not sure I’d like to see this one again. Haha, that “Ewwwwww” face after the first chorus is priceless! Alas, I don’t know any Albanian, so I don’t know what he hates so much, but I think he needs to learn how to turn it down a notch. You can’t doubt his passion at least … and he came 5th, so maybe it’s just me.
Kejsi Tola – S’jemi më atje
Oh now, nothing like a former entrant to pique my interest, since Kejsi represented Albania in 2009 with one of the best songs they’ve ever sent, and one of the best of that year’s contest.
There are no acrobatic midgets or green goblins in sight this time though. She’s all grown up and barely recognisable. I love that bridge! The chorus is a bit of a hard sell, but she’s got the vocals to back it up. Love that 90s-sounding vocal sample too.
The second chorus is even bigger, and she sounds great on it. Finally this final has started!! Shame she didn’t get another bite of the cherry, but there’s always next year.
Hersi Matmuja – Kush ta dha këtë emër?
3rd place now, and what is that instrument? An oboe? You don’t hear many of those these days. Wow, she’s a striking figure of a woman isn’t she? Not sure that centre parting is doing her any favours.
Those are strange verses, very stop-start. It’s a bit nothingy though, maybe the lyrics are awesome, I just can’t tell. Not sure why this did so well, it’s a bit of a bore.
Anjeza Shahini – Love
Another former Albanian representative, who took the glorious “Vision of you” to a great finish in 2004. Another grown-up haircut, though I hate that dress! Her voice is still in great shape.
Not sure the melody is anywhere near as strong as “Image of you”, but it’s still very uplifting and pretty, and gives her some space to stretch her range a bit. The verses are a little meandering but those choruses are really nice. It’s a bit Celine Dion b-side, but still quality.
Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko – Identitet
So here we are, finally, the winners of the Albanian pre-selection. I can’t say I was crazy about this the first time I heard it, but in the context of the other hopefuls it at least has something about it. Normally Albanian entries get an English-language makeover before it hits the Eurovision stage, so maybe that will help. Maybe a haircut too.
The intro is promising but the whispery vocals in the first verse are paper-thin. The chorus is a bit better, but other than that half-decent guitar hook, I’m not very excited by this at all. The other vocalist is much better, but it’s all a bit shouty.
They flirt with the idea of a melody later on, so that’s promising, and that guitar solo is pretty hot … but I’m not expecting Albania’s chances of qualifying are that good this year sadly.