ALBANIA: Live Blog of Festivali i Këngës 57 from 20.45 CET
The 2019 Eurovision season kicks off properly tonight, with the first show of Festivali i Këngës from Tirana in Albania.
A grand total of 22 acts will perform tonight with the aid of the RTSH Symphonic Orchestra. Follow the action as we at Eurovision Ireland blog our thoughts. Let’s see if there’s a potential winner from amongst them.
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And here we go. It’s a step nearer Tel Aviv from Tirana. We kick off with a little song. It’s Mall from Lisbon. But not sung by Eugent Bushpepa.
Here are our hosts
But what are the songs:
Bojken Lako – Jeto jetën
Song one starts in a moody stylee. Bojken is murmuring into the microphone, and for some reason is covering his face. His song is a bit of a plodder with a heavy violin orchestration. It’s no Mall Part II even though that’s what he’s aiming at. He gets a nice round of applause at the end.
Alar Band – Dashuria nuk mjafton
This is a bit more like it. An upbeat number by a set of smartly-dressed young men with more than a hint of klezmer about it. That would go down well in Israel. It’s heavy on brass and the odd cries of ‘hey’ liberally sprinkled throughout. It’s OK. It gets more applause.
Lidia Lufi – Rrëfehem
Lidia is hurried on stage next. She’s dressed in whagt you could call trendy widow’s weeds. A black fascinator with veil, a black dress with one sleeve. She’s gone for drama and mood. And a big voice that we’ve not seen since Rona Nishliu. This is a good song for an orchestra although it mixes is styles. It goes from lilting Spanish guitars to a 1980s/90s saxophone riff (think Anixi).
Time for a quick chat from our presenters. We get a little English, obviously a nod to the people around Europe and beyond watching the broadcast. Among the ‘banter’ is a nod to the RTSH Symphony Orchestra.
Kujtim Prodani – Babela
Kujtim is a man of mature years and gives us a slower song, sat astride a bar stool. It’s almost Sanremo fodder with drama and precise pronunciation, almost spoken in parts. It’s orchestrated very well but a bit of a marathon to listen to. Kujtim has a lot to say for himself. It ends with a whimper rather than a bang.
Gjergj Leka – Besoj
Gjergj is another season performer – no ageism in Albania. His little song could almost be a continuation of the last song to start with. It eventually kicks in and has one of those syncopated bossa nova-style beats to it. Sadly this song too is slightly laboured. There will be places where this would go down well – some offbeat backstreet music venue. But it’s not really atuned for Eurovision.
Dilan Reka – Karma
Dilan is of a younger vintage. His song is upbeat and would suit a Eurodisco. He’s maybe been influenced by George Michael, both in looks and delivery. It is a decent song, one of the best so far.
More chat from our presenters, afront a black and white film what will have some significance to Albanian audiences.
Mirud – Nënë
We now get a ballad about a mother. Mirud just has a piano and cello to accompany him at the start, before the orchestra builds up its part. It’s a challenging song, with soaring notes held for a long time. This song is OK – very earnest – but might get lost with a backing track. It’s not the worst tonight. Nor the best.
Soni Malaj – Më e forte
This song has a very long introduction. The backing singers earn their money befire we see Soni in a striking white jumpsuit with black strap motifs. Or is it a young Cher? Hmmm. The beat is quite catchy and the song is very wordy. Could it do well? Well, it’s dramatic.
Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës
Jonida is also doing dramatic, but in a more sultry way. Her outfit immediately catches the eye. It’s like one of those emergency blankets made of shiny foil. She wails through her mid-tempo song and there are many breaks where the orchestra do their stuff. I feel like I’m heading for drama overload at the moment, and we’re only on song 9. Could this do something? Well, actually it could.
Three more songs down now, so back to our hosts for the night. Cue banter, information, education, entertainment. All of those things that a good broadcaster can easily do.
Elton Deda – Qetësisht
Elton wants to be a rock singer, but this is a little too sedate for that. It has a pleasant tune that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1980s Melodi Grand Prix. Pleasant sadly doesn’t win competitions these days, and, if it were to win, would raise a few eyebrows with the package of singer and song. There’s nothing wrong with this as such. It may well get lost though in an everyone’s fifth favourite sort of way.
Elona Islamaj – Në këtë botë kalimtare
Elona is straight on and has another moody song. And a little more downbeat. It takes a while to get going, and when it does it relies more on her voice than the tune, and the orchestration. Not a winner I’m afraid.
Klodiana Vata – Mbrëmje e pafund
It’s now gone a bit more ethnic. You’ll be forgiven for thinking the same lady has sung the last two songs. But you’d be wrong. Klodiana has a better voice and is a little warbly in a Sarit Chadad sort of way, if a little strained in places (Google her). The song is one of the best so far and even with a full orchestra is nicely modern. The melody could do with beefing up a tad, but it would be welcomed by a Eurovision crowd more than some of the others we’ve heard tonight.
Klint Collaku – Me jetë
It’s another ballad from Klint, in his dark suit. He’s emoting, yet trying to look a little moody too. As a song, it’s not that bad, and he can carry a tune, unlike some of the other performers tonight. A better quality ballad with the right amount of drama (my word of the night) and it has a modern feel to it. This could be one to keep an eye on.
Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti – Dua ta besoj
A duet at last with a couple who look like they’ve come straight from their wedding. A registry office wedding, naturally. She does the ballad and long note bits. He’s more into rap and waving his hand in a trendy way. If you can get past Shqiprap it’s pleasant enough. It’s different enough. Artemisa does bit in English which is different. It’s no winner, but it’s made me smile
Kelly – A më ndjen
More talk-singing and downbeat arrangement from Kelly, who’s dressed like a doorman. You can call this one from the outset: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, key change, chorus. The trouble is there are better songs like this around, no matter how dramatic you try and be.
Bruno Pollogati – Nuk ka stop
Bruno like to work out, so his postcard tells us. And he likes to get funky. And wear braces. His song is a little bit ska in beat. I’m impressed with the hook here. A slightly repetitive chorus never does any harm, and he’s got the help from a competent electric guitarist. This could have legs.
Marko Strazimi & Imbro – Leyla
Marko’s and Imbro’s song is the complete opposite to Bruno’s. It’s an odd mix of classically-trained voice and something bit more edgy. We know Albania likes its duets and songs with this title have made Eurovisions before. It’s not really to my taste, but their contrasting voices work. The song ends very abruptly, but there’s a lot of applause and chanting, particularly for Marko.
Lorela Sejdini – Vetmi
Lorela has a striking trousers and top look which is different. She also likes to wave the arm that’s not holding the microphone. It’s again very formulaic and so a little samey. There are other songs tonight in the same construction that are better. However, the sell comes form the bridge when she tries to demonstrate her range. I’m not quite sure that it works though.
Eliza Hoxha – Peng
This song relies very very ehavily on the orchestra and actually takes a while to get going. There’s an early key change which is slightly baffling. And it’s only towards the end when the song really tries to get going. I think by this time it may have lost much of the audience. But keep listening, and you get more of the same. Not a winner.
Eranda Libohova – 100 pyetje
I’m not sure what to make of this next song. The beat flits from jaunty to stuttery and there are a lot of words from Eranda. When it’s jaunty, it’s very listenable. But the stuttery bit I don’t get. Thankfully, there is more jaunt than stutter. And in a nod to songs from the past, there’s that ‘Lai lai lai…” element near the end. That must be the bit when you all stand in a line and sidestep. There are better, but much much worse. And the crowd really like her.
After a break we don’t get song 21. Instead, our hostess gives us a song in English. She’s changed to a gold dress and sat at a piano. There are mannequins on stage, much like a Romanian song in Lisbon. She does that odd thing of leaving the piano, yet it continues playing. Hmmm.
Aurel Thëllimi – Të dua ty
This is quite a pleasant little song sung by Aurel who knows what he’s doing, and is doing ti quite well. It could be another one that loses something when put to a backing track, however. There’s warmth from it, there’s emotion that doesn’t turn into drama. And there’s a nice role for the first violins in the orchestra. This is building and it’s growing on me. Maybe it’s too subtle to do anything big, but it could catch a few votes.
Orgesa Zaimi – Hije
Finally. Orgesa gets her turn, and goes for the striking look. And she’s not gonna lose her cool. Dress sense maybe, but not cool. This might be a good song, it might be a catchy song, it might be a shouty song. But I’m transfixed by the individualistic choice of garb. It’s a turn off for me and just looks a tad silly. Others’ opinions may differ, but this ain’t winning.
Songs over, it’s special guest time. Who could it be? It’s only Ermal Meta! You might remember him co-representing Italy last year with Fabrizio Moro. And finishing fifth to boot. He’s a popular bunny in downtown Tirana. There is much talking.
Naturally, as a seasoned performer, he has to give us a song. Once the technicians have made things work. He sings in Italian. His second song is Non mi avete fatto niente.
And that’s it for tonight. Festivali i Këngës continues tomorrow and Saturday nights.
Based on what you may have seen tonight, do you have a favourite? Is there one that could at least make it to a Eurovision Grand Final? Tell us what you think.
Author: John Stanton
Source: Eurovision Ireland, RTSH