Mirëmbrëma Evropë dhe mirëmëngjesi Australia! Tonight is the final of Festivali i Këngës 59, meaning we will soon find out who will be Albania’s representative at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021!
Sit back and relax, and let Eurovision Ireland’s own James Scanlan entertain and inform you. As always, let me what you’re thinking and give your opinions about tonight’s contestants and songs – I’ll shout out to you if you do!
Tonight’s show comes to us live from Albania’s capital city Tirana, courtesy of RTSH. This year Festivali i Këngës is taking place at an open air stage at Sheshi Italia rather than the festival’s usual home at Pallati i Kongreseve. Our hosts will be Jonida Vokshi and Blendi Salaj, and a total of 18 songs will be vying for that ticket to Eurovision in Rotterdam.
You know the drill: Just refresh this page to get the unfiltered comments, quips and points of view!
You can watch the live show HERE from 21:00 CET.
Tonight’s 18 hopefuls are as follows:
- Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt
- Xhesika Polo – Më mbron
- Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve
- Wendi Mancaku – Ves I shpirtit im
- Era Rusi – Zjarri im
- Gjergj Kaçinari – Më jep jetë
- Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo
- Devis Xherahu – Peng
- Mirud – Nëse vdes
- Gigliola Haveriku – E lirë
- Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë
- Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë
- Florent Abrashi – Vajzë
- Inis Neziri – Pendesë
- Evi Reçi – Tjerr
- Anxhela Peristeri – Karma
- Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri
- Kastro Zizo – Vallja e jetës
LIVE BLOG STARTS HERE!!
There’s still a few hours till showtime, but you can check out the running order of tonight’s show above – Who do you think has drawn a good slot?
Almost show time! Are you ready?
Here we go!
Wow!! That was quite an atmospheric opening!! Very apt for this year!!
Our hosts, who have just arrived by limo – it’s alright for some! Love the fact they’re wearing the Albanian colours ❤
They’re now reeling off the names of all 18 acts and their songs – who is your favourite? I’ve got mine!
Wow, we’re not hanging about tonight, we’re already starting with the first act! Nothing like Turkvision last week…
Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt
And what a start we’re off too! Sardi is giving off that Matrix vibes with trenchcoat… does he think he’ll be Albania’s Chosen One? I love the staging of this one, very dark and angry, which combines well with Sardi’s vocals. The whole woman in the cage thing is quite striking… I believe I read somewhere Arilena had something similar planned for her staging last year. It’s a powerful opening, I’ll give it that! Well done!
Xhesika Polo – Më mbron
A very simple and powerful ballad from Xhesika, this is the kind of thing Albania does very well at the contest. It’s simple, heartfelt and sung with conviction – check check check for me! I really enjoyed that, my one hope is if it went to Eurovision it would stay in Albanian… Albanian sounds so melodic and suits ballads like this perfectly!
Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve
They’re really not hanging about tonight! My poor fingers are going to be so sore typing so quickly to keep you all entertained!! What can I say about Orgesa? She looks like she’s dressed both for the boardroom and the funeral parlour in a striking black and white number, and delivers us quite an upbeat jazzy number. It’s something Albania haven’t really tried at Eurovision before, and I’d be curious to see how the rest of Europe would respond to it. I enjoyed it though, brava Orgesa!
A brief interlude telling you to check out FiK on Instagram…. just enough time to plunge my fingers into a bucket of ice…
Wow that was brief…
Wendi Mancaku – Ves I shpirtit im
Wendi has certainly come dressed for Christmas with a sparkly silver number! Is she going to jump atop Tirana’s tree when she’s done? Joking aside, she sings very well and has good connection with the camera. Musically, it’s a bit slow for me, but this kind of smoky number always has its fans. I’m really impressed by the quality in Albania this year!
Era Rusi – Zjarri im
Now this one I know is the favourite amongst you out there on the internet and I can see why! Era owns that stage, the song has a great throbbing beat and who doesn’t love a chorus of “hey hey hey” with ethnic music and pyro? It’s like a Eurovision bop by numbers!! I enjoyed that and think sending that to Rotterdam would be a sure fire (pun intended retrospectively!) way to get Albania into the final! Awesome!
Gjergj Kaçinari – Më jep jetë
Brooding in his cloak-like coat, Gjergj oozes presence, darkness and mood. Perhaps it’s coming after such a riotous stomping fest like Zjarr Im, but it feels a bit flat. That being said, I like how the song builds and he connects well with the audience watching at home. Not a bad song at all, I think had it come somewhere else in the running order he would have got more of a chance to shine. But a valiant effort nonetheless.
And we’re back!
Not sure who this is, but they’re having a good chat. I’m guessing ‘pandeme’ is Albanian for ‘pandemic’ #winningatmultilingual
So 6 songs in and we’re having an opera break… because… not sure… but he has a fantastic voice and a bit of high culture is always a nice touch!
Back to the songs!
Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo
Oooh now!! As soon as it started with that low strings sound, it grabbed my attention! I love songs like this, very folky and with traditional flourishes, but also quite modern. I like the fact it’s a song being driven by its vocalist, no bizarre gimmicks, just letting Rosela’s clear and strong vocals take centre stage. I do have reservations about the chainmail duvet she seems to be wearing, but as I love the song, I’ll overlook dubious fashion choices… I really that, faleminderit Rosela!
Devis Xherahu – Peng
Devis is singing with a lit candle in his hand as his backing dancer wheels around freely behind him… because that’s safe… I love the feeling of that traditional Balkan ballad that permeates the song, but wish it was kicked up just a notch… no sooner had I finished typing that, the string section kicks in, as does a flute ❤ Don’t you love it when people on TV do what you tell them too? Understated, but beautiful. I enjoyed that a lot! Well done Devis!
Mirud – Nëse vdes
Mirud has been grabbing headlines across the Eurovision web for his costume choices and tonight is another memorable and flamboyant choice. Mirud performs like he’s in his element and the song is very traditional but with a hearty dose of modern on top. I think it’s great! This is easily one of my favourites of the night and Albania could do a lot worse than sending this to Rotterdam!
Another interval of sorts now, including modern dancers moving to Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’ – I had to double take as it’s one of my favourite songs but I didn’t expect to hear it at Festivali i Këngës!!
And on with the show!
Gigliola Haveriku – E lirë
Gigliola has the slight look of Albania’s answer to Lily Allen… despite the fact she is connecting very erratically with the camera and is attempting a choreography of sorts, the lights and music blend with her voice and there is something very captivating about this performance. The song is very modern, which clashes somewhat with her 1920s lounge getup, but overall I think this could be a dark horse. Indeed, with a bit of tweaking, this could do well in Rotterdam!
Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë
Loving the surf of the sea motif lapping at his feet! Viktor commands the stage like a veteran performer, only occasionally let down when he stands there as though he doesn’t know what to do next during instrumentals. Like many rock performers on television shows, he’s looking at his audience and around, but not very often at the camera, which would harm his chances at Eurovision. This being said, there is something incredibly likeable about Viktor and I enjoyed the song. Bravo!
Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë
I’m not sure whether it’s Kamela’s dark eye make up or not, but she seems to be performing most of the song with her eyes closed… televote no-no 101! The song itself is pleasant enough, easy listening kind of radio jingle, but being dressed all in black and not connecting is making it all feel a bit drab. Shame, as some points she really looks like she’s enjoying herself!
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While you’re waiting for the show to start up again, why not take a look around the Festivali i Këngës host city Tirana with Europe in a Day! You might like to plan a visit for the future when we can travel again!
And we’re back! Only 6 songs left songs left and up first it’s Florent!
Florent Abrashi – Vajzë
I jump back to the screen just in time to see Florent is joined by someone signing the performance… that would be a nice touch, we don’t often see sign language being used at Eurovision! Florent looks a touch uneasy, but that may be the cold – they are performing outside and you can see their breath! The song itself has a slight 90s rock edge to it that really suits the tones of Florent’s voice. With a bit of tweaking, it could be anthemic, but it’s a good start. I enjoyed that!
Inis Neziri – Pendesë
If the rumours are to be believed, this is the one we need to watch for the win tonight! I can see why… Inis has a very powerful voice and a commanding presence on stage for sure. The song however feels a touch tame for me – it’s good, the vocals are polished and Inis does a great job belting them out, in terms of Albania Eurovision entries, it feels like well trodden ground. If she goes to Rotterdam, she’ll do an amazing job though – I mean wow! Listen to that bridge! Easily one of the most effortless performances of the night so far.
Evi Reçi – Tjerr
Coming after the hot favourite is always going to be a tough act to follow, but Evi is giving it a damn good go! One of the most colourful costumes seen tonight (bar Mirud), the song is quite contemporary, has a good beat… I think again this may be seeming a little insipid due to the running order. The two men tied back-to-back is bit disconcerting too… they’re definitely keeping to an appropriate social distance! Well done Evi, that was a solid performance. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Now a quick chat with an American band who were touring and are now trapped in Albania thanks to COVID… umm… of all the stories you think you’re going to hear in a Eurovision national selection, that isn’t one of them! 0__0
They’re now playing “The Winds of Change”… a song about the Eastern Bloc as a whole, wonder if Scorpions ever imagined it would be played in Albania? Isn’t history amazing?
These guys seem like a lot of fun – wonder if they’d ever consider going to Eurovision?
But before they go some day, we have to find out who is going for Albania in May!
Anxhela Peristeri – Karma
This song starts with plenty of promise. A strong Balkan sound, good vocals… and then the Albanian synchronised swimming teach swagger in dressed in gold and it all goes a bit like an avant garde arts film as they crawl around, thrown Anxhela about… it’s all completely unnecessary and instead of enjoying what’s not actualy a bad song, I’m laughing at what a spectacle that turned out to be… sorry Anxhela, that staging detracted so much for me…
Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri
Our penultimate song comes from Festina, and after that golden cavalcade of madness, she looks much more muted and serious in black. It’s a solid ballad, very heartfelt and performed well. This is staged to its strengths, Festina standing there, letting her vocals do the work with a guitarist backing her up. I like it, but I wonder if this will get lost in Rotterdam. Shame, as it’s a pretty little song and I enjoyed it.
Kastro Zizo – Vallja e jetës
Oh wow… Kastro is decked out like a Viking warrior, war paint/scars across his face, growling some very angry sounding Albanian into his mic. If you love this kind of thing, it’s amazing!! Those of a nervous disposition might want to look away now, but I think it’s a fantastic way to end the show! Please send this to Rotterdam, I just want to see how everyone would react to it!! Brilliant way to end the show!
So those are the 18 acts – but who gets the ticket to Rotterdam? Hopefully soon we’ll find out!
But while we wait, he’s Eugent Bushpepa, Albania’s 2018 entrant singing Hallelujah against a back drop of Skanderbeg Square and falling snow… it’s actually really magical and festive ❤
More adverts – if you want to do any last minute Christmas shopping, now would be a good time!!
Wooooah… is it me or did that advert make a Eugent Bushpepa concert looks INTENSE!!!
And we’re back! Are results incoming?
The contestants are all on stage… so maybe we’re getting an answer soon! Social distancing doesn’t seem to be a major concern in Albania…
Someone is about to get a trophy!! Or are they?
Evi Reçi has just been given a trophy, but don’t think she’s won the whole thing… times like this I wish I spoke more Albanian…
Festina Mejzini has also just been given an award, as has Sardi Strugaj
And judging by that fanfare and fireworks, Anxhela Peristeri has won Festivali i Këngës 59 with Karma!
Well, must say I wasn’t expecting that result! Congratulations Anxhela, we’ll see you at Eurovision in Rotterdam!
Thank you to everyone who’s been reading along tonight, hope you’ve enjoyed the blog – EUROVISION 2021 HAS OFFICIALLY BEGUN!
Merry Christmas, thank you Europe and good night!
Author: James Scanlan