It’s time for the final part of our reviews of this year’s hopefuls from Albania. Will any of the final five entries from this year’s Festivali i Këngës impress our panel of Boris, Daniel, James, Roy and Sean?

Albërie Hadërgjonaj – Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua

Boris – 5 – “Oh a slow ballad – I AM SLEEP – until it finally picks up near the two minute mark. It’s decent from that moment onwards, but it’s too much set up for a song that clocks at only 2 minutes and 48 seconds.”

Daniel – 6 – “A ballad. Expected. A good ballad, not a revolutionary one but not a boring one. I mean how boring can you be if your build includes bagpipes. It is a strong ballad, relatively given the other ballads this year, but it still somewhat predictable. I will admit that I see Alberie delivering a beautiful performance and that will definitely boost her performance. If she can hit those notes then she could still even be in the running to win but this is still is a very standard ballad.”

James – 8 – “A Balkan power ballad with piano, a backing orchestra and Albanian bagpipes? Yes, please. Now power ballads at FiK are a dime a dozen, but the bagpipes coming in the last third and her vocals going into overdrive a little earlier than expected makes this one stand out a little.”

Roy – 3 – “Look, the biggest issue for this entry is that it has some fierce competition with a lot of strong female ballads. This song is definitely okay, but it misses some `oumpf`. It takes about one and a half minutes to finally get interesting and for Eurovision that is just not good enough. You need to grab the attention immediately and that can be achieved in a mysterious and low-key way, but I don’t think this song does this well enough. The second half is okay, but this song just doesn’t wow me.”

Sean – 5 – “Albërie’s entry follows the formula well – a hushed first verse to set up the emotional weight of the song, a more direct second phase and the introduction of local instrumentation to accompany a strong vocal during the last minute. Is it something we’ve heard before? Absolutely, but it doesn’t stop this ticking the boxes!”

Total = 27 (avg 5.4)

Wendi Mankacu – Ende

Boris – 6 – “I like this song, but the decision to strip it down really hurts it in my opinion. Imagine how catchy and fun it would have been if it had… actual orchestration, you know?”

Daniel – 8 – “Wendi might have one of the most delicate voices in this years edition and I really feel like it will play well to her. While I have criticized many of the ballads for being slightly toned down versions of years prior, this song innovates and adds strong synthesizers towards a modernist dimension to the song. I could have done without the key change but we all know that is standard fare in Eurovision. I do think this song could be successful and I personally have enjoyed listening to it constantly.”

James – 8 – “FiK 58 has something for everyone, and here is a soulful ballad obviously aimed at someone under 40. The obvious weakness for this contest is that most ballads are granny friendly, but “Ende” is one by a very talented young singer that the youth can relate to and sing along with. Personally, I prefer the ballads sung by a guy who looks like he’s stolen a truck load of VCRs, put on a suit and will seduce you softly with his warm crooning at Balkan night at TGI Fridays, but you can’t knock the quality of “Ende” even if I am not her intended audience.”

Roy – 7 – “Wendi has an angelic voice, it may even be my favourite of the competition. That says a lot for Albania. She has me completely hooked for about the first minute, after that it waters down a bit too much for my likings. I would have liked a better and more epic progression than this. I feel like the drums in this songs were not the correct choice, it takes me out of the song more often than it gets me into it. I like the song, but I feel like Wendi should come back a different year with an even better songs so that her voice doesn’t go to waste by a potential non-qualifier at Eurovision.”

Sean – 6 – “This was veering dangerously into the territory of being ‘just another FiK ballad’ but the build into the electronic sounds during the second chorus give this an extra layer of interest for me. In my humble option this is something that should be exploited a bit more and beefed up to make this song more powerful.”

Total = 35 (avg 7)

Nadia & Genk Tukiçi – Ju flet Tirana

Boris – 5 – “You would expect that a song which starts with parlando, and then evolves into an OTT, jingoistic opera duet would interest me more than it did, but nope, this one stays pretty paint-by-numbers and my interest remains at an all-time low. I’m sure the lyrics are very pretty though!”

Daniel – 7 – “This song has a Disney-esque vibe for the beautiful melody and angelic voices. It is a love anthem to Albania and Tirana which given the recent earthquake is quite touching. While a bit dramatic for a competition like Eurovision, I have seen similar comparable ballads do relatively well like Romania 2008 and Georgia 2013. This is also on the heels of the success of Kazakhstan’s entry at this years JESC the sounded like a collage of Disney songs so if they can keep the magic alive and really deliver vocally then they stand a chance to win.”

James – 8 – “This sounds like a promo track for a musical. I am not sure what it means to speak Tirana, as the song title suggests and especially since it seems we’re dealing with a father and daughter duet here, but I’d like to check out the rest of the musical to find out. Two great vocalists and some nice percussive elements throughout, though some may find this a little too much on the Il Volo or Mark Vincent side of popera to care.”

Roy – 1 – “I always listen to the songs while writing these reviews. It brings me into the mood of the song and I feel like I can write the reviews more easily. I just can’t listen to this song. It just sounds a bit like funeral music sung by some old people. I am sorry if you like this, I definitely don’t! Sorry, not sorry!”

Sean – 6 – “Hmm. This is an odd one to judge. It seems very suited to this time of year in particular but will it feel the same in the early summer heat of May? It’s objectively a beautiful composition and carries an emotion that I’m sure many Albanians will resonate with in the country’s difficult times, but I think this song is more designed for FiK and FiK alone than onward travel to Eurovision.”

Total = 27 (avg 5.4)

Arilena Ara – Shaj

Boris – 5 – “A mid-tempo pop void.”

Daniel – 6 – “Those strings! I think that was a strong song that was not a full-on Albanian ballad because it also contained some more modern aspects. The song has some staging potential but I fear that a country that is known for its power ballads, this might seem like a regression from the last few years. While I did love the stringed bridge, I believe the song might struggle to impress in Rotterdam.”

James – 9 – “Darko Dimitrov, the co-writer of North Macedonian Tamara Todesvka’s “Proud” comes to FiK with something a little less restrained and more dynamic. I was surprised to read that Ara is only 21 years old, as she has a maturity in voice of someone much more seasoned. The note she hits at the bridge just as the violins cut out is something special. This is by no means a “Proud” knock off or sound-alike, as there is a lot more going on with the composition here, but if Eurovision juries raved about “Proud,” I could see them giving “Shaj” similarly rave reviews.”

Roy – 8 – “This song starts off nice and small and it builds gradually. If Arilena can capture us on the stage, this could do really well. I feel like this is also one of those songs that the FiK judges usually send a lot of points towards. I also have the feeling that this song was written to possibly be translated. With a bit of a revamp, this could get really interesting in the overall Eurovision field. Definitely a song to keep your eye on!”

Sean – 7 – “Arilena’s soulful, raspy qualities in her voice make this an interesting listen for sure, and the composition of this guitar-backed ballad is pleasing. It’s nothing ground-breaking but a very solid addition to this year’s competition and perhaps one of the more modern and well-produced compositions here. This could do well in Eurovision if everything goes right!”

Total = 35 (avg 7)

Valon Shehu – Kutia e pandorës

Boris – 9 – “Oh MY GOD. Wading through these fun slow anthems, I didn’t expect a sudden SYMPHONIC METAL ANTHEM to blast through my earphones. Instantly hooked, would listen to again, again and again. If “Me tana” somehow lost and “Kutia e Pandorës” won instead, I wouldn’t even be half sad, to be honest.”

Daniel – 8 – “I will admit I usually do not like rock too much in Eurovision but I cannot deny that this song has an undeniably charm from the moment the strings begin to play. Turkey use to be the nation the dominated the rock scene in Eurovision and since their absence, it has only been sprinkled here and there. That is all to say that Albania can take up this often successful niche. I do like how the rough and tumble rock composition plays with the elegant strings. I do believe this song, in just impact, will make a huge splash.”

James – 10 – “Eugent Bushpepa goes hard rock with some slick symphonic elements thrown in. In the battle of the dueling rockers at FiK 58, my winner is Valon’s. I was worried the Pandora’s Box for 2020 would be the unleashing of hordes of mediocre indie acts, but could it be we may get a rush of energetic hard rock and up tempo pop (as signaled by Austria’s choice) to counteract them? Anyway, Valon’s a great rock singer, there’s quite a few obvious cues (“Hey!”) throughout to promote audience interaction and memorable guitar and violin riffs that get the air instrumentalists rowdy. \m/”

Roy – 8 – “Uggh, my ears love some good rock music! You just can’t sit still listening to this song. It makes me rock it out every time. Writing this is probably the first time where I didn’t stand up to dance and rock it out. This is a really good sign! I would have liked to give this even higher, but I would have liked a bit more of a fitting vocal. It fits the song, but it could have packed a bit more of a punch. I am not sure if this has a shot at winning.. Eugent Bushpepa had an astonishing voice that probably took him all the way and I am not sure if Valon carries this same trait.”

Sean – 8 – “Earlier this year I identified “Identitet” and “Mall” as my two absolute favourite Albanian entries, so you might not be shocked to hear that I’m fully behind this as well. Albania seems to ‘get’ rock a lot more than its near neighbours, but the orchestral elements in this one really set it apart from the rest of the pack. Valon, give this some power in the performance and you have my vote! (After reviewing this, I found out Eugent actually wrote this song – figures, really)”

Total = 43 (avg 8.6)

So, who did we pick as our overall winner for this year’s Albanian selection? Let’s find out!

  1. Valon Shehu – Kutia e pandorës – 43
  2. Elvana Gjata – Me tana – 41
  3. Aldo Bardhi – Melodi – 38
  4. Renis Gjoka – Loja – 38
  5. Arilena Ara – Shaj – 35
  6. Kanita Suma – Ankth – 35
  7. Wendi Mankacu – Ende – 35
  8. Era Russi – Eja Merre – 33
  9. Gena – Shqiponja e lirë – 33
  10. Kamela Islamaj – Më ngjyros – 32
  11. Sara Bajraktari – Ajër – 29
  12. Bojken Lako – Malaseen – 28
  13. Kastro Zizo – Asaj – 28
  14. Albërie Hadërgjonaj – Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua – 27
  15. Nadia & Genk Tukiçi – Ju flet Tirana – 27
  16. Devis Xherahu – Bisedoj me serenatën – 26
  17. Olta Boka – Botë për dy – 26
  18. Tiri Gjoci – Me goten bosh – 26
  19. Eli Fara & Stresi – Bohemë – 25
  20. Robert Berisha – Ajo nuk është unë – 25

Right at the end, it seems that Valon Sheha has nicked it for our panel, and is our pick to represent Albania in Eurovision 2020! But, will the overall favourite Elvana Gjata win through, or will there be a completely different winner?

Do #YOU agree with our verdict for Albania? 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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