All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

It’s 7 days to go until Junior Eurovision 2022, and we are counting down the 16 nations who are participating in Yerevan, Armenia on Sunday, December 11, 2022.

Every day we will do an overview of a participating nation in alphabetical order, recapping how they got to Junior Eurovision, a brief history of the nation’s participation, a brief biography of the artist, and finally, our “expert” panel of editors give the entries a score out of 10 and a brief review.

First up, we begin with Albania, a country that is not afraid to send a unique entry to both junior and senior versions of the contest, despite not being rewarded for their efforts.

Albania’s history at Junior Eurovision:

Albania is something of a cult nation at Eurovision, but the same vibe has yet to catch on for the Balkan nation at the Junior version of the competition since their debut in 2012.

Albania has only been in the top half once with Mishela Rapo’s “Dambaje” placing 5th in 2015. After their debut effort in 2012 came in last (Igzidora Gjeta’s “”Kam një këngë vetëm për ju”), they skipped 2013 and 2014. Gjeta’s song title translated to “I’ve got a song just for you,” but sadly there were not many takers. Since 2016, it’s been 13th, 13th, 17th, and 17th.

After Isea Çili’s “Mikja ime fëmijëri” in 2019, Albania was one of the many countries that withdrew from Junior Eurovision 2020 due to concerns over COVID-19.

Albania returned in 2021 with Anna Gjebrea’s “Stand By You,” which placed 14th.

Before Junior Eurovision 2022:

Albania’s preparation for Eurovision, Festivali i Këngës, is a much-beloved institution in European music that dates back to 1962. As national finals go, it is much watched due to its unique multi-day format (well, unique in that it comes off as an oddly-organized version of the Sanremo Music Festival it more-or-less emulates). For the children, we get a similar though single day and condensed version that this year is called Junior Fest 2022, but has been called Festivali i Këngës for Kids or some variant thereof.

Junior Fest 2022 took place on October 25, 2022, featuring 18 young acts hoping to impress the jury of Albanian music professionals who determine 100% of the scores. The jury was comprised of Kejsi Tola (Eurovision 2009), Efi Gjika (Junior Eurovision 2018) and Anna Gjebrea (Junior Eurovision 2021).

Kejtlin Gjata emerged victorious with “Pakëz diell,” with Dea Amoniku coming in second with “Nuk jemi lodër per asnjëri” and Erta Jonuzi coming in third with “Premtim.”

The Artist:

Kejtlin Gjata hails from the seaside town of Durrës, Albania. The 11 year old is a huge fan of Adele, Paloma Faith and Josh Groban, and wishes to travel the world.

She has a cat named Kiki, and given Groban’s well-known love of animals and contributions to animal charities, we can easily understand how such a young soul would want to aspire to be such a classic figure.

The Song:

As this is 2022, it is appropriate that a young performer offers a ray of sunshine in the darkness. “Pakëz diell” translates to “A little bit of sunshine.”

Lyrically, she means it almost literally, as this is a song where she sees a downtrodden fellow kid and wants to offer up some of her own sunshine to get them back up and running.

Gjata is credited with the lyrics, whilst Endri Muca is credited with the composition.

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Albania’s entry for Junior Eurovision 2022.

Providing their thoughts for Junior Eurovision this season: Alice Christine (Washington, D.C.), Boris Meersman (Belgium), Gianluca D’Elia (New York City, New York), James Maude (Los Angeles, California), Roy Postema (The Netherlands), William Carter (Dallas, Texas), and Zephaniah Gabriel (The Philippines).

The Verdict:

Alice – 6 – “This song is quiet and uncertain in the verses, but builds to an impressive chorus that I’m excited to hear performed live.”

Boris – 3 – “Three minutes of… music? singing? ambient noise? You pick here. I’m not mincing words on the insipid.”

Gianluca – 6 –The song sounds very pretty and has some of the most well-written lyrics of this year’s contest. There were better ballads in this year’s lineup, but it still makes for a beautiful and special moment.”

James – 7.5 – “Albania’s weakness at JESC relative to their performance at ESC is their unwillingness to provide a kid performer with a track that is something more than a nothing burger. Lyrically, Kejtlin is an angel delivering light to someone mired in the dark, and as she is perhaps the best vocalist on offer at JESC 2022, she deserves something better than the ho-hum composition she is saddled with here. She’s an angel deserving of a Bugatti who is stuck with a Fiat 500.”

Roy – 6 – “The biggest selling point about this ballad is Kejtlin’s intriguing and unique voice. From moment one she grabbed my attention and she didn’t let go until the first chorus. After the chorus is the point where things go wrong. The production team could have really done a better job orchestrating the song to enhance her voice. Imagine beautiful violin’s, some cello and some piano. Could have been an absolutely amazing song. Now it is just her amazing voice accompanied by a meh backing-track.”

William – 7 – “I mean, Kejtlin isn’t messing around with these vocals. She put us all on notice. The song itself is maybe a little … expected (?), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. I’m not blown away, necessarily, but the live performance is really going to be the deciding factor with this one. If Kejtlin can deliver vocally, this performance is going to be a moment. Fans might be sleeping on Albania a little bit this year. We shall see.”

Zephaniah – 7 –It’s very ethereal with the strings, synths, and vocals in the background. My main issue is how the instrumental kinda drowns the vocals but hopefully in the live version, it’s not going to be a huge worry. I can see this benefitting how the lighting on the stage is set up.”

Total: 42.5 points (Average = 6.071)

We have 15 more entries to go, but Albania kicks off with a respectable average of 6.071. Discussion online suggests this may be an odd year, so don’t write anybody off yet, especially a young artist who does not have many negatives against her entry.

What do #YOU think of “Pakëz diell”? How do #YOU feel this stacks up against the competition? Let us know in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media!

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