As we continue our reviews for the 2020 season, it’s time for five more acts from Albania’s FiK ahead of tonight’s first show. Will any of these five entries impress our panel of Boris, Daniel, James, Roy and Sean?

Robert Berisha – Ajo nuk është unë

Boris – 7 – “Robert brings a sound which is a very common Balkanic sound, that is rather unheard of in the other parts of Europe. I personally like it for those reasons, but “Ajo nuk është unë” is somewhat outclassed by the other ethnic anthems in this selection, most notably “Me tana”.”

Daniel – 3 – “I think Robert is extremely talented but I did find this song slightly jumbled, it has an ethnic sound that transitions into a ballad phase and ends with a jazz wrap up, it seemed like a lot was being thrown to the wall and not much has sticked. I am also not sure how the staging would be in Tirana or in Rotterdam. I am also not a huge fan of the harmony between his voice and the backing chorus.”

James – 6 – “This starts off a plodding hip hop number with some Albanian instrumentation, but it only gets interesting at the bridge as some strings come in and give it a kick up the rear. The first two minutes are stiflingly dull, but the strings and key change arrive a little too late. A refresh in the first verses will do this track wonders.”

Roy – 5 – “I feel like I just stepped inside of a portal to the streets and squares of urban Albania. This is Balkan music done right! It actually has quite a modern feeling to it and it makes me bob my head back and forth and it makes the rest of my body sway from left to right. This is definitely an interesting thing. However, I do feel like after we get past the midway-point the song gets rather dull. And I wouldn’t mind it ending. It is still a good song as background music, just not for Eurovision. I also think the staging would be tough here!”

Sean – 4 – “I don’t know why, but this feels like something I’d hear somewhere on a summer holiday, maybe in a restaurant, maybe in a café… I’m not sure that was the intention of the writers! It’s not exactly a good thing either for me, as it feels very background music to me and not something to make Albania stand out in Rotterdam. It’s pretty, but not much more.”

Total = 25 (avg 5)

Tiri Gjoci – Me gotën bosh

Boris – 5 – “Like many FiK ballads, “Me gotën bosh” hinges on the usual “slowly build up to a strong climax” strategy. Like most of these type of entries, he fails to retain interest throughout and the dramatic pay-off isn’t nearly enough to justify the slow start.”

Daniel – 6 – “An upward power ballad that does carry a lot of weight (as compared to some of the other ballads this year). I do find the chorus a bit repetitive and the song is rather predictable, something that is not necessarily bad for a ballad. I really appreciated the electric guitar solo. My biggest critique was that I felt the song had quite an abrupt ending that leaves you wondering what happened, I had to confirm it was in fact three minutes long.”

James – 7 – “It’s been a while since we’ve heard the Balkan and Slavic glass metaphor for love in a ballad. That Gjoci’s is empty gives you a sense of the feel and the mood here. However, this one builds like all the others and he belts out triumphantly at the end that he’s either moved on or rekindled lost love or whatever reason the glass is empty. Yeah, the creative glass was more on the half-empty side, but it is a well done ballad nonetheless.”

Roy – 3 – “A few things are certain in life. We all die, we all pay taxes and Albania will always deliver us with a selection full of incredible singers. I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point, but Tiri is another one of those incredible singers. The song doesn’t do it justice though. The progression is very lacklustre and the overall instrumentation could have been a bit more prevalent. I hope Tiri comes back another year with a better song!”

Sean – 5 – “This puts me in mind of another Eurovision entry but I can’t quite put my finger on it – it might be “The Dream” from Tel Aviv? Anyway, without knowing Tiri’s vocal in a live setting, this is a fairly ordinary ballad that could be totally transformed on the stage. Will have to wait and see on this one…”

Total = 26 (avg 5.2)

Sara Bajraktari – Ajër

Boris – 6 – “A serviceable guitar ballad that needs a strong live to really shine. Until then, it’s a mild like from me!”

Daniel – 5 – “Similar boat with this song, a perfectly good ballad that I believe does not stand with some of Albania’s recent entries so it would be hard to really see this follow last years performance by Jonida. Nevertheless the vocals are mesmerizing and the rhythm and emphasis on the guitar gives me some Iberian vibes and that I will say might work in its favor. She does carry some powerful notes, I hope the presentation will be as equally as captivating as the smooth melody. Sadly it does feel very repetitive and predictable which makes it not as impactful.”

James – 9 – “Has a Latin American vibe with a soulful young woman coming in solemnly over an acoustic guitar, then slowly the emotions charge, the instrumentation is added, and it gradually builds to an impactful ending. Great example of word painting going on here with the ascending scales matching her “Ajër” vocals in the outro in two ways suggesting she’s running out of air and a lot of other great musical techniques to make this power ballad stand out from the crowd.”

Roy – 5 – “I have been thinking a lot about how to write this review, because it is honestly really hard. The build-up to the first chorus had me very much hooked, but then… Look, I was raised in a small town in the north of The Netherlands in the province of Groningen. I talked in dialect a lot when I was with my grandparents. The way “Ajer” is pronounced is exactly the same way as we pronounced the dialect word for eggs. I am really sorry for Sara, but I just can’t take the image of eggs out of my head with this. It just prevents me from getting into the magical vibes that this song probably gives to a lot of people. It is quite the good song, but it isn’t you, it’s me…”

Sean – 4 – “”Ajër” puts me in mind of the traditional pretty Balkan entries like “Rijeka bez imena”, “Verjamem” or “Korake ti znam” but isn’t quite as strong or emotive as its predecessors. That may be a poor read of the song, and I’m sure this will have a great performance but the song just passes me by.”

Total = 29 (avg 5.8)

Kamela Islamaj – Më ngjyros

Boris – 6 – “A dramatic jazz ballad, which sounds pretty good on paper… but it also gives me flashbacks to Franka Batelić who went on to fulfill exactly zero of her promises, so I don’t dare to get excited.”

Daniel – 10 – “Initial reaction was this has some of the buildup of Skyfall by Adele and the jazzy undertones of Amy Winehouse. This is one of my favorite ballads because it also incorporates the jazz and cabaret elements which elevates the song and gives automatic appeal to the staging. If this song does not work out at the festival then they can use it for the upcoming James Bond film. A hugely powerful voice and what I expect to be a successful delivery of this song makes me honestly excited to see it succeed and I feel as though it would not need a revamp if it were to win.”

James – 7 – “Sennek v 2.0. This sort of soul ballad still has a lot to offer Eurovision in 2020 and beyond, and even with some sultry sax and electric organ touches, Kamela could be onto something. This is one song where I’d like to see how it plays out at FiK 58 first. This has the potential to do very well, but we don’t want to be Senneked again.”

Roy – 5 – “I could see this song doing a lot better than a whole lot of people think. Heck, I think this will even do better than my score reflects. Kamela’s voice is really strong and it has a bit of a bond-esque sound to me. I feel like this stands out somehow and judges may fall in love with this. If it were to go into Eurovision I wouldn’t give it very high chances. It is just a bit too slow and uninteresting as a whole for me, but I would definitely keep my eye out on this, I have the feeling that this could surprise a lot of people.”

Sean – 4 – “Kamela’s entry is a little jazzy and a pleasant listen, but not much else. It’s not really my cup of tea and I suspect may not make many people crazy but it’s by no means a bad song, and could lend itself to an interesting performance.”

Total = 32 (avg 6.4)

Elvana Gjata – Me tana

Boris – 8 – “So, the big contender… well, it’s very good! “Me tana” could use a bit more polish, but the hit potential is clear. It is just delightfully ethnic and if Elvana is any good live (she should be, she is one of Albania’s biggest pop singers, after all), she will win FiK and take the South-East European televote by STORM.”

Daniel – 9 – “Touted as one of the favorites for the year, it definitely would be a different rhythm to what Albania typically sends. I believe the last time they sent something comparable was 2009, so it has been a while. I think the song has a lot of promise and a strong beat. While at times repetitive, it still manages to keep you engaged, but that will also depend on what they do to keep you visually stimulated. A lot of the hype surrounds this so called Fuego phenomenon and while there are certain similarities, this song does hold its own in the unique department. Overall a great impression.”

James – 8 – “I did not expect the blast of modernity that comes in after one minute. But therein lies the problem as the song builds slow, then bucks wild like a bronco but is then held in place. There’s a potential for a really great Balkan dance club banger if they let loose in a refresh.”

Roy – 9 – “This is honestly incredibly good! Especially from a country that isn’t known for it’s up-tempo songs in their selection. This is a major contender for getting the Albanian ticket for Eurovision. The biggest danger with these kind of songs is that it loses its energy when performed live. The performance in general has to be energetic and Elvana will have to be dancing too and I am not sure if she could pull off this combination. Albania always goes with a very strong vocalist, so she will have to perform amazingly if she wants to take the win. Win or not, I found a good song for on my playlist!”

Sean – 7 – “Here we go! I love the stuttering intro to this one, and from Twitter I can see I’m not the only one thrown off guard with this. And that’s what the best entries often need to do; Elvana’s track is certainly atypical of the type that win Festivali i Kenges, but still has enough elements to make me feel it could pull it off and promises a memorable performance. It might not quite be strong enough to wow people at Eurovision, but it’s always tricky to predict how people will react at this early stage.”

Total = 41 (avg 8.2)

How does this affect our rankings? Let’s find out…

  1. Elvana Gjata – Me tana – 41
  2. Aldo Bardhi – Melodi – 38
  3. Renis Gjoka – Loja – 38
  4. Kanita Suma – Ankth – 35
  5. Era Russi – Eja Merre – 33
  6. Gena – Shqiponja e lirë – 33
  7. Kamela Islamaj – Më ngjyros – 32
  8. Sara Bajraktari – Ajër – 29
  9. Bojken Lako – Malaseen – 28
  10. Kastro Zizo – Asaj – 28
  11. Devis Xherahu – Bisedoj me serenatën – 26
  12. Olta Boka – Botë për dy – 26
  13. Tiri Gjoci – Me goten bosh – 26
  14. Eli Fara & Stresi – Bohemë – 25
  15. Robert Berisha – Ajo nuk është unë – 25

So Elvana Gjata takes the lead with our panel, but will any of the last five entries overtake her? Come back to escYOUnited before tonight’s first show and we will reveal all!

How do #YOU feel about our Albania reviews? Click HERE to vote in our poll and tell us who #YOU want to represent Albania in Eurovision 2020, or let us know below in the comments section and on our forum!

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