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 12 days to go until Junior Eurovision 2023, and we are counting down the 16 nations who are participating in Nice, France on Sunday, November 26, 2023.

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 that is appreciated in a cult status way, despite not being particularly rewarded for their efforts in terms of final placement.

Albania’s history at Junior Eurovision:

Albania is something of a cult nation at both junior and senior Eurovision, with Albania having 5th place as their best result in both versions despite a vocal cult fanbase championing their efforts online.

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, and followed it with Kejtlin Gjata’s “Pakëz diell” in 2022, which finished 12th, Albania’s second best ever result.

Before Junior Eurovision 2023:

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 2023, but has been called Festivali i Këngës for Kids or some variant thereof in the past.

Junior Fest 2023 took place on September 22, 2023, in front of the Pyramid of Tirana. Junior Fest 2023 featured 15 young acts hoping to impress the jury of Albanian music professionals who determine 100% of the scores, with composer and Festivali i Këngës director Bojken Lako as the festival’s creative director and organizer.

Viola Gjyzeli won Junior Fest 2023 with “Bota ime.”

The Artist:

This is not Viola Gjyzeli’s first attempt to try out for Junior Eurovision: she has competed in the last three editions of Junior Fest, being disqualified in 2022 for unknown reasons.

Being competitive is in Viola’s DNA as she is also an avid basketball player, having played for the past seven years.

Born in Italy to Albanian parents, Viola has been performing in song contests since the age of seven.

The Song:

“Bota Ime” translates to “My World” (and it thankfully sounds nothing like the Axl Rose penned travesty of the same name from Use Your Illusion II).

The lyrics to “Bota Ime” were penned by Eriona Rushiti, who penned “Ktheju Tokës” and “Duje” for Jonida Maliqi and Albina Kelmendi and the Familja Kelmendi at Eurovision 2019 and Eurovision 2023, respectively.

“Bota Ime” effectively represents a reunion of the team behind “Duje” at Eurovision 2023, as the track was also composed by Enis Mullaj.

With the background out of the way, here is what we at ESC United think of Albania’s entry for Junior Eurovision 2023.

Providing their thoughts for Junior Eurovision this season: Alexandros (Greece), Yehonatan Cohen (Israel), Boris Meersman (Belgium), James Maude (Los Angeles, California), and William Carter (Dallas, Texas).

The Verdict:

Alexandros – 7 – The song exhibits a pleasing ballad style, though it bears resemblance to “Creep” in the chorus, which is not necessarily a detriment. The vocalist’s performance is notably impressive, showcasing a remarkable vocal prowess. My appreciation for the song grew substantially as it progressed from the middle section onward.”

Boris – 6 – “One could argue that this JESC has far too many ballads, but at least Albania’s is a rock one, and that’s fairly unique for JESC. The main problem though, is that its genre is the only thing “Bota ime” has going for it. For a song with such a distinctive sound, it is quite repetitive and by the end of it, you feel you have aged three days rather than three minutes. It is too slow in its current form. Albania needs to look for a way to break the monotony, ideally with fresh and eye-catching staging, but the potential is to stand out is definitely there.”

James – 7.5 – “Of course Albania sends a child with lyrics about struggling to hang onto childhood while they are growing into the difficulties of being a teen set to an alternative rock ballad. But Viola delivers it well, and a seasoned pro such as her should pull the grand choruses off in Nice. She should score well with the jury, but will the song’s universal themes strike a chord with Europe at large and the televote? Yes, if Albania can transmit the simple idea behind its lyrics in the staging while delivering uniquely Albanian flair, a balance this delegation has had trouble with for some time.”

William – 7.5 – “This entry isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely hits a sweet spot for me. No other country can regularly pull off this kind of alt rock, ethnic power ballad quite like Albania does it. This song is musically very bombastic, but Viola is more than up to the task. She has a huge voice and never once sounds overpowered or adrift. She sells it from beginning to end.”

Yehonatan – 5.5 – “This is not your typical JESC power ballad, which is very interesting. It takes some unexpected turns, and I have to give it credit for that, however, I’m afraid this might fall between all the other songs and get overlooked.”

Total: 33.5 points (Average = 6.700)

We have 15 more entries to go, but Albania kicks off with a respectable average of 6.700. 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 “Bota ime”? Do #YOU think this is a potential JESC winner, or a horror show that is best forgotten like the infamous Guns ‘N Roses “song” of the same name? 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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