We are about to find out what our first eurovision song of the 2021 season will be. Albania is, as per usual, the first in line to host their national final. The first semi final is scheduled to take place this Monday, 21st of December, with the second one scheduled the day after. We don’t know yet how the semi-final’s are exactly going to happen but it is time to review all of the participating songs. So here is what our team thinks of the remaining 12 songs (in alphabetical order)!

 

Everything is still very much in the air whether all the dates can go on as planned or not. This year’s Fest will be organized in an open-air venue in Tirana. This is mainly done because of the current pandemic to make sure spreading of the virus will be lessened. However this also comes with some complications. The competition is very weather dependant and even though right now it is looking like the planned dates will be dry, nothing is as changeable as the weather so we can never be sure. Therefore they planned a full period in which they can hold the competition in case the weather turns out worse than expected. With all that being said, we have written the reviews on this year’s songs!

Before we get into them, a little disclaimer: 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.

Our panel this time consists of: Boris, Connor, James, Melanie, Roy and Sean!

 

Inis Neziri – Pendesë

Boris – 7 – “Even before the cast announcement, friends and I were joking about how Inis would show up and WIN the whole thing… and *oops* this happened. Okay, she hasn’t won *yet*, but come on. One doesn’t just bring back Inis Neziri with a vocal-heavy, three-minute long, easy-to-revamp (read: hard to fuck up) Disney Ballad to just have her be another also ran. This isn’t Eesti Laul babes, the faves tend to actually *win* in Albania. Adequate song, adequate possible FiK winner, brace yourselves for an equally adequate 17th place in the ESC Grand Final.”

Connor – 9.5 – “Could this be it? Could it finally be Inis’ time to go to Eurovision? Well based off this track I would say yes – it’s her time completely. This song has emotion, power, growth, and layering. It’s got everything I want in a Eurovision song, and it’s also catchy. I can got three days without listening to this song, and then start humming along to the chorus – which is good! This will need some help though, because I think the track needs to be more robust and dramatic, perhaps with a more distinctive bass beat and larger orchestra? I’m sure if they need to revamp it, they’ll fix these things. Overall A+.”

James – 9.5 – “Reminds me of an Albanian version of Kesha’s “Praying” both musically and lyrically. If they need a location scout for the video, I know where every shot of “Praying” was filmed in the Salton Sea area from Salvation Mountain to East Jesus to Bombay Beach. Kesha deliberately sought out this strange part of California as this is where sinners and seekers go to repent and to find salvation. And from Neziri’s lyrics and, similar to the antagonist in “Praying”, it is clear that someone who wronged Neziri needs to repent for what they’ve done. Either way, this song is simple, yet very effective and catchy. Eurovision attracts sinners and seekers of all kinds, and in “Pendese” Albania can provide a power ballad for them to cling to.”

Melanie – 6.5 – “Pendesë is the kind of song what we expect from Albania to bring to the Eurovision Stage. The melody is powerful and it really serves us drama in the chorus. It’s overall a well-produced song and it’s ready for the Eurovision stage. The song itself left me cold and that’s not a good thing when you’re singing a ballad. But I can see Inis when it all if she can nail that high note on the night.”

Roy – 8.5 – “This song desperately reminds me of another song, but I cannot figure out which one for the life of me… This song is a really good step from her last attempt ‘Piedestal’. It is a bit more focused on the performing aspect of Eurovison. We all know that Inis can sing really well and the song makes sure we build to all of these little vocal showcases. This will absolutely bang from your Eurovision TV-broadcast and could give Albania a really nice finish in Eurovision again. I think there is no doubt in me that this will win this year’s FiK! It just ticks all of the boxes that Albania likes and it may be their best/safest option. It is not my favourite song, that crown belongs to ‘Ty’, but I can’t deny how incredibly good this is!”

Sean – 5 – “A decentish ballad with nice if basic production, but not much else. Inis Neziri has deserved her chance at Festivali i Këngës but the song doesn’t do much other than showcase her vocals. Another one that may turn it up a few notches on the stage.”

Total = 46 (Avg. 7.7)

 

Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë

Boris – 6 – “Honestly just reading “Kamela Islamaj” engulfs me with memories of the infamously ugly outfits (infamously ugly even by Albanian standards) she wore last year and it made my lockdown frown curl up into a smile. She has standards to live up to!! Fortunately those standards do not extend to her song. I say “fortunately” because her song’s kind of a big whatnever, no expectations lost thee. So coat yourselves in cornflakes, woman! Dress up like a giant vampire squid! Provide the visual humour you are meant to deliver! Cuz ur song definitely won’t…x”

Connor – 8 – “This is such an easy song to listen to, it has mad chill vibes and is perfect for my lounge playlist. Strangely enough this song really sticks out because it feels radio ready. Like Kamela and her managers decided to say “we have this amazing song for you but we want to save it just for FiK.” While I don’t think that this song would get a qualification at Eurovision, it is extremely beautiful and wonderful to listen to. I also love how simple the track and melody are. They really made something great here.”

James – 6 – “A pleasant enough jazz ballad, though somewhat forgettable. Allegedly this song is about a break-up, but it sounds like one of those break-ups where the biggest item of contention is who gets the tax breaks for the joint NPR / PBS memberships over the years or who gets to see live tapings of “Wait wait… don’t tell me.” If only all break ups could be this civilized.”

Melanie – 5.5 – “Okay so when this song started to play, I actually thought that my computer was playing “Heartbeat” of Petar Anicic (JESC 2020 Serbia). Kujtimet s’kanë fromë is very interesting. I really loved the built to the chorus and the vibe they created. Only the chorus is such a letdown in this song. It just doesn’t seem to fit well with the ambiance that was created in the first verse. Can we just completely cut out the chorus and replace it please for one that fits better with the song? Many thanks!”

Roy – 4.5 – “This sounds like a title track to some show based a bit around nature or animals. For a contest like this, it is just a tad bit too underwhelming for me. This is one of those songs that you would find enjoyable, but it wouldn’t end up high enough to give it any points. Also, if there was 1 song that I could have some fear about whether it can be done well vocally live, it would be this one. Cool song, just not really competitive I guess!”

Sean – 6.5 – “This really felt like it was building up to something with the chorus, yet I feel underwhelmed when it finally hits. The verses have the making of an atmospheric piano ballad but this is lifted into a lighter feeling chorus which negates the effect. Kamela has a nice voice though, and maybe I’m nitpicking at what is overall a decent track.”

Total = 36.5 (Avg. 6.1)

 

Kastro Zizo – Vallja e jetës

Boris – 8 –“Yesssss Albanian hard rock to shake this nobfest on its very foundations <3 If Kastro possesses even half the energy of his studio song it would be a blessing. So jarring, so esotheric, so zero percent chance of winning, so delightfully Albanian <3”

Connor – 6.5 – “I love this for all of the wrong reasons, but mainly because I know this will be a massive stage show, likely involving fire. The track is really jarring and keeps your attention, especially with the guitar (or is a citar? Not sure) ostinato motif. That said – the chorus is a massive let down…because it’s the same lyric repeated over and over again. I really wish that they had changed that before submitting, because everything else is so great!”

James – 6.5 – “Albanian rap on top of some rock guitar that doesn’t really add up to much even with the many Albanian folk flourishes tacked on. This also feels like something from the early 2000s when nu-metal and world music were in the ascendancy with the likes of Soulfly, Puya and Skindred. And likes most of those bands from that time, despite the many influences in their music, they did not have much to say and the results sound like Frankensongs. Same problem plagues this one. Kastro could be on to a winner if he blends the Albanian folk and the modern rock better or crafts something unique – Albanian or not – like rock-god Eugent Bushpepa.” J

Melanie – 7 – “Sometime I make some weird comparisons, but I really have the feeling that Vallja e Jetës is in some way a more rock version of the song “Tradition” from one of my favorite musicals Fiddler on the Roof/Anatevka. Now back to the song, this is completely what I love to see at Festival I Kenges! Albanian Rock at its purest form. The hook is maybe a little bit repetitive, but it just got stuck in my head. This is just amazing and I can’t wait see this live.”

Roy – 7.5 – “This song grew so much on me after the first listen. At first it confused me slightly, but after giving it another try or two I massively turned a corner and now I think I am in love. Is it completely done and ready for Eurovision? No! But every time I hear this song I just imagine myself going into some deserted bar in the middle of nowhere where we all drink a nice pint. Everyone collectively gets up and just bounces around to this chorus, arms in arms. I don’t know, this song just kind of screams comradery to me! Cool song, love that it is here!”

Sean – 9 – “This is awesome! It sounds like something out of an epic Soul Calibur game to me, or a pirate movie, or something… The instrumentation is sublime, the Albanian passion is there in Kastro’s voice and this really stands out from the rest of the pack. Fantastic!”

Total = 44.5 (Avg. 7.4)

 

Klint Çollaku – Do t’ja dal

Boris – 5 – “You know when you hear a song and initually feel like it has all the makings of a song you may really enjoy and instead of going there it narrowly misses before going in the opposite direction? It’s like one of those “Five Unsatisfying Ways to Cut a Cake” vids that Five Minute Crafts terrorizes your facebook feed with every morning. Hard to pinpoint why I don’t care for this one, but I’m not wasting my wit on it. Not for me.”

Connor – 5 – “Another chill listening song which I appreciate, but this is the weaker of the simple tracks – mainly because it’s a tad too simple. I feel like this needs either more backing vocals behind it or a different melody all together. Something just isn’t meshing between the vocal line and the instrumental line. I do like the tone of his voice though, I bet with a different song he’s be able to make a real mark on the festival.”

James – 6 – “I am still not sure what Klint’s point of view is after all these years. He always sounds out of time, like a musical cross between Marty McFly and Percival Dunwoody, Idiot Time Traveler from 1909. He’s too old-fashioned for the kids, but he’d better get off the old folks’ lawn as well. He’s got one foot in the modern and one foot in the classical Albanian, but I am not sure he achieves a coherent sound. Klint’s no doubt talented, but there is an issue of his identity as an artist not being fully realized that muddies his end result.”

Melanie – 5 – “It’s okay. I’m not hating it, I’m not loving it, it’s just middling in between. It sounds as a very safe pop song but lacks that extra dimension to be special. It’s not doing anything for me.”

Roy – 3.5 – “It is really unfortunate, but this song kind of feels like competition filler to me.. It just doesn’t stand out and I have trouble remembering it. There was a lot of potential and you mandatory Electrical guitar is also there, but there is just some sort of energy missing. Both vocally and instrumentically. It just passes me by and doesn’t do anything with me. I’m sorry, it’s okay, but it won’t go anywhere.”

Sean – 6 – “The light feeling production in the beginning of “Do t’ja dal” is unlike anything I’ve really heard in a song like this so that’s at least something, although in parts it feels like a demo. The song doesn’t live up to the early promise unfortunately, and rather than building on a strong start, this effort fizzles to nothing much at all. Dissapointing, but it’s a respectable effort overall.”

Total = 30.5 (Avg. 5.1)

 

Manjola Nallbani – Ora e jetës

Unfortunately, Manjola withdrew from the competition because she was infected by the Covid-19 virus.. The video was therefore deleted by RTSH and therefore not the entire team had the chance to properly review this entry…

 

Mirud – Nëse vdes

Boris – 6 – “It’s always awkward when critcs around “X is a clone of Y” arguments hither and yon, but what if your entry is so close to a previous fan favourite you can be accused of smuggly contraband? Yes, there’s an ocean of gays rushing to Mirud’s defences because we, gay men, only have standards when it suits us, so let me set the record straight: no matter what u do, he’s *never* gonna be with you…x — Dream, me. I’d like this if it weren’t such a blatant grab at Gjata glory. You don’t need to be an Elvana to be liked, Mirud. Love yourself. Be *YOU*.”

Connor – 6.5 – “I was very excited when Mirud was announced as returning to the contest, and the introduction really gets you excited, but the rest of the song is just…okay. I don’t know, maybe it’s because the track lacks some type of power or passion in the studio and that’ll be fixed live? I don’t know, I just had hoped for me. Overall it’s not bad by any means, but not what I expected when he revealed he had the “Me Tana” entry of 2020.”

James – 8.5 – “Of the artists looking to blend the sound of the Balkans with the modernity of hip hop, “Nese vdes” is perhaps the most successful. This could only come from Albania, but it is accessible enough for a foreigner to get behind. It’s dead simple, admittedly, but in an era where every producer throws 57 tracks of bass drops and synthesized vocals at a song the simplicity is refreshing. It’s a cool, chill club song anyone can get behind, and stands out from the crowd in Tirana, let alone Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 7.5 – “Mirud is bringing us Me Tana 2.0. I really love the built to the chorus and the instrumentals used in it. I’m just slightly confused because the instruments want me to dance, but somehow the melody is too slow to really dance on it. They need to spice it up a little bit. But a great song and can’t wait to see the choreography on it.”

Roy – 7.5 – “This is another really cool upbeat bop that will always try to lift your spirit. We all know Mirud can sing and therefore the vocals won’t be an issue, but we haven’t really seen him dance. The drop is cool, it is bouncy, but it is also maybe a bit empty for my liking. It has this lovely ethnic flavour and it opens to some Elvana Gjata-esque staging. I also feel like the lyrics before the drop have been chosen really well. ‘Pak nga pak, ky shpirt po vdes’ has a really nice rhythm and sound to it that contrasts lovely with the drop. This makes the entire piece so much more enjoyable and it makes the Albanian language shine in it as well! Good job!”

Sean – 7 – “Mirud was absolutely ROBBED a few years back with the wonderful “Nënë”, so it surprises me that he has come back with some ethnopop in 2021. But you know what? It works. The drop is interesting and his vocal is ethereal as ever, but I just wish it went a little bit harder.”

Total = 43 (Avg. 7.2)

 

Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve

Boris – 7.5 – “I like this! FiK’s resident beatnik babe always delivers! Thank you on dressing a genre I absolutely don’t care about (Jazz) into a catchy freshy pop jacket. A bit outclassed by other songs, but solid on its own.”

Connor – 6.5 – “Orgesa really is a versatile singer, because this is completely different from the two songs she’s sent to FiK in the past, this one feels a bit showtune. And I don’t mean that as a read, it’s mainly because of the horn instrumental behind her and the jazz style. I like it for sure, but I don’t think this is the winner of the contest. But as we learned last time, Orgesa probably has a killer live performance up her sleeve to really light up this track.”

James – 7 – “The piano riff reminds me somewhat of Labi Siffre’s classic “It must be love” before the horns kick in and we get a cabaret-esque number. I don’t mind this, personally, though I don’t think this is an ideal entry for Eurovision. It’s not idiosyncratic enough, it doesn’t really leave a lasting impression, and it doesn’t sound like it belongs in 2021. Considering her talent and her name recognition, she may have a shot, but this would be a lamb to the slaughter in the Semi-Finals should it make it to Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 5.5 – “To be honest, I was always a big fan of the songs that Orgesa sent to Festivali I Kenges. Sadly, Valixhja e Kujtimeve is for me her weakest entry to date. It’s like she kind of gave up on her more modern music and now tried to fit in. It’s just doesn’t worked for me and even gives me a little bit broadway vibes. I hope that Orgesa will come back again next year with a bolder song that fits her more”

Roy – 7 – “Orgesa is back and I couldn’t be happier! Her entries are always so quirky and unique. So is this one, but to a lesser extend then her previous attempts. Yet I feel like this has a better shot at doing well. It shows off her vocal capabilities more and it is more accessible to a wider audience. If you don’t feel like swaying back and forth to this song, then there is definitely something up. Another strong attempt by Orgesa in my books. If it were to win and to go to Eurovison however, I don’t know if it would do too well…”

Sean – 5 – “A pleasant jazzy number with a glimmer of Bond-theme feeling added for good measure, but unfortunately it doesn’t do much for me at all. I’m just not the target audience for this type of song I think…”

Total = 38.5 (Avg. 6.4)

 

Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo

Boris – 8.5 – “Omg epic folkdance anthem. Sounds like a Bollywood, is actually a Hora. Is unabashedly fun, will be rejected by the snobs for not being ‘profound’ (“happiness isn’t an emotion”, self-proclaimed ‘objective’ eurovision experts). Should be a contender to win, but if it even makes it past the semfinal it’s a small miracle <3 Can’t wait to NOT be bored by this.”

Connor – 4 – “Okay, so I find myself dancing to this track often, mostly because of the beat and violin part happening behind her. I don’t think there’s enough here to stand out though, because the melody is a bit sad and doesn’t really match how cool the instrumentation is. This really needed some more time in the writing room I think. But Rosela has a killer voice, especially on those low alto notes!”

James – 6.5 – “The spoken word by some random dude at the halfway point is an unwelcome plug to the flow of this track. There are some clashing percussive elements that work against each other, like the horns and Rosela’s vocals are being played over a recorded track of milk being poured over Rice Krispies. Production missteps aside, her performance with the FiK orchestra should be one to watch for, and should she win FiK the producers should take cues from the orchestra on how to properly record what could potentially be a great Albanian pop banger.”

Melanie – 7 – “O we have a Dark Horse coming in! This sounds amazing! I think if we would fuse Vashëzo with Nëse Vdes we actually would have a great up-tempo entry for Albania. I’m just a little bit confused about the male voice that saying: “let’s rap, this is my rap”?!?! part. What’s that all about? But it brings a lot of sassiness and catchiness I’m really loving it!”

Roy – 5 – “This chorus confuses me so much. The song built nicely and then you have a nice chorus and an opportunity to have a nice memorable chorus or drop. And then there is some voice with an effect on it just saying something? I don’t know what they tried, but it just doesn’t work.. It just feels like an unfinished piece now and you can’t help but wonder what could have been here..”

Sean – 7.5 – “Now this one is interesting! The RnB touch in the breakdown after the chorus is unique and I can see this whole song having a real vibe when performed live – and that ending, wow! This has a similar feel to “Me tana” from last year, just less upbeat. Could be a surprise package?”

Total = 38.5 (Avg. 6.4)

 

Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt

Boris – 4 – “As I am reaching the end of my listening spree (in alphabetical order, natch), I had yet to reach a song I have no real opinion on. With Sardi, I now have… gratz? Being able to draw out three minutes like that must be so sort of talent, yo.”

Connor – 3 – “I have to give it up to these artists, because they are all giving us something unique and different this year, and it’s keeping everything interesting! I feel like this is a song that sounds okay in the studio, but on the live stage could get very drab very quick. There’s not a lot happening to keep your attention, and this would be the refill or bathroom break song of the bunch. Sardi’s belt is powerful though. Give him a different song that allows him to go all out and he could surprise a lot of people. Just saying!”

James – 5.5 –  “The guitars ruin it, with both the generic riff and the high pitched plucking drowning out the rest of the track. As a rock ballad, this one doesn’t really work. It remains flat for the duration and doesn’t really go anywhere. Some proper guitar work and a less clunky drum track would be immediate improvements as Sardi does clearly have the pipes for a great rock ballad. It’s just a pity that he was not given a great rock composition to work with.”

Melanie – 6.5 – “I’m digging the slow built to the chorus. It immediately gives me chills and make me curious how this will go. The chorus is sadly a little bit a loud mess. I have the feeling that the drums aren’t blending well in the beat as they should be. But this is something what could be fixed in a revamp”

Roy – 5.5 – “Sardi’s voice is soo unique and I don’t even mind the direction they took for this song. What they should have done however is amp everything up by about 500%. Have it go full mental instead of just kind of staying where it is now in the chorus. There is a whole lot of potential here that wasn’t ever made use of unfortunately.. Right now it just feels a bit processional and it never really truly excites me, but who knows, maybe they can amp everything up and I would love it!”

Sean – 6 – “I like the drums in this one, but the guitars are a bit washy and get lost in the instrumentation. Sardi’s rasping vocals are nice for me to listen to and you can feel a meaning to the song but I just feel the overall execution could’ve been better.”

Total = 30.5 (Avg. 5.1)

 

Stefan Marena – Meteor

Boris – 6.5 – “omfg gay-friendly disco trash I can’t believe it’s not Mirud <3 Entertaining, sure, but in this selection it’s trash factor stands out more and I’m not sure whether that speaks in its favour or not.”

Connor – 5 – “The only song that has an English title, and feels like it’s from a different country. I have to say that I like the verses quite a bit, there’s some cool elements in there, but once the chorus hits and we go San Marino ancient disco, the song loses me. If they had left that part out I might have been able to score it a bit higher. Sorry Stefan but it’s a great try!”

James – 6 – “The xylophone-esque plonking at the beginning gives me a headache and when the bass kicks in at the first chorus and the song morphs into a cool club track I still struggle to get that incessant pinging out of my head. This one feels a little phoned in as well, to be honest, like it should be the B-side of the song Stefan actually intended to send to FiK. There are some cool elements such as the bass and Stefan’s performance in the chorus, but there’s some editorial decisions and superfluous production tricks that clutter up and ruin the track.”

Melanie – 4.5 – “When an up-tempo song doesn’t make me wanna dance, then there’s a problem. The verse is very promising and is building to an epic dance moment, that we never got. It felt kinda like someone promise me candy but instead decides to eat it in front of my face. There are some great elements in it, but it just doesn’t deliver”

Roy – 3.5 – “They try groovy and disco, but his voice just doesn’t fully fit the aesthetic in my eyes. If his voice was warmer it would have worked better. The beat itself is also not super outspoken and in your face, which could have helped and was maybe even necessary, right now I am very ‘meh’ about this..”

Sean – 5.5 – ““Meteor” has that late 90s/early 00s sound in its production that can be very much on-trend at the moment, but it does just sound a little bit dated rather than retro. If the beats were beefed up and the energy of the whole song was just brought up a little I might like it more, but as it is this is a pretty generic effort for me.”

Total = 31 (Avg. 5.2)

 

Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë

Boris – 5 – “2021 is almost upon us. Time to drop the fedora, mate.”

Connor – 8.5 – “So usually I’m not a big fan of the male ballads in FiK, but I think this year has been so different because it’s a more fresh set of faces competing in the contest. This ballad by definition is actually really good, and showcases the very unique vocal tone that Viktor has. It reminds me a bit of the songs I listen to from the Middle East where there’s a lot of vibrato and vocal slides happening on a long note. Overall I think they found the perfect balance between Viktor, the track, and making this interesting. Truly this could be cool to watch live, and I think this will do in the contest overall!”

James – 7.5 – “I am probably going to be the only one at ESC United who likes this rock ballad, but I have to give credit to a rock song with a proper guitar solo. There’s no way in Hell this is going to Rotterdam, but every year there’s a couple of these older school Balkan rock gentlemen who come along and you have to appreciate them. I am guessing from his Google results he is something of a big deal in Albania or at least been around for 30 years, and though it’s unlikely he’ll ever represent Albania at Eurovision, it is interesting to discover a celebrated artist with a long discography you can come back to listen to after the lights of FiK 59 have gone down.”

Melanie – 3.5 – “Nënë is just your typical drama song – with a guitar solo – that you could expect at Festivali I Kenges I appreciate the fact that these songs get the chance to shine at this national final, but I’m getting a little bit tired of it.”

Roy – 5 – “This is another one of those FiK entries that people don’t talk about and then qualifies for the final and does decently well in it as well. Viktor’s voice sounds interesting and with the backing vocals it could be a decent performance. The random Electric guitar out of nowhere makes another appearance which is another point for out FiK bingo card. Should it go outside of FiK? Definitely not! Will it do well? Most likely!”

Sean – 7 – “Another rocky ballad with more than liberal use of electric guitars in an Albanian selection, I’ll take it. It’s probably not the best example of the genre but Viktor is experienced at his craft and “Nënë” is a pleasant listen.”

Total = 36.5 (Avg. 6.1)

 

Wendi Mancaku – Vesi i shpirti tim

Boris – 5 – “I remember Wendi! Wasn’t she that washed-up band-geek type introvert with a dream ballad who was unfairly shafted last year? or was that another Wendi? Either way, tragic because I liked Wendi’s song last year and this does nothing to me. :drysobs:. Why do artists treat their own music like beschamel sauce (ie: putting out all the basic building blocks of a good song out there and then doing jack squat with them). A question for the snobs who like this sterile approach to music.”

Connor – 7.5 – “This sounds like a song that was ripped straight out of a film soundtrack, specifically the emotive credit song that everyone remembers because it summarizes the movie perfectly. Wendi has a beautiful voice, and every time she’s in FiK I get happy because she delivers. I know that this won’t win, because no one will vote for it on the jury but my goodness it’s a beautiful ballad. 10/10 for Wendi, but sadly 7.5/10 for the song.”

James – 4 – “Sorry, this is just flat out boring. Nothing really happens until the bridge and even with the introduction of the strings, the track just fizzles out. Instead of ending on a big bang which, granted, can be an ESC cliché, this song just winds down. I guess Wendi is going for soulful and introspective, but that’s not going to win FiK or gain purchase at ESC.”

Melanie – 8 – “I think that Wendi and I are listening a lot of the same 24/7 lo-fi hiphop livestreams on YouTube this quarantine period. The beat sounds exactly as the playlist I have on the background when I’m working from home. The melodic and mellow beat from Vesi I shpirti Tim is fantastic and exactly what I need in these hard times. Combine it with her calming voice and you got me! This is definitely one of my personal fave and I hope Albania will embrace this masterpiece.”

Roy – 4.5 – “This started off with some jazzy vibes, but then they kind of decide to abolish it all and make it more of a standard ballad that you could copy and paste in any other national final. It is just too minimalistic to stand out and do anything with a random person. I can definitely see people really loving this, but the group that would, would be relatively small. It definitely isn’t my cup of tea.”

Sean – 8 – “I like this one a lot! The verses reminds me a little of the slow indie stylings of bands like Cigarettes After Sex, and while the chorus is more traditional in a pop sense, there is a strong vibe that hits a strange spot between soothing and angsty. Will be interesting to see how this one is staged in the end!”

Total = 37 (Avg. 6.2)

 

Xhesika Polo – Më mbron

Boris – 5 – “That’s a creative way to spell ‘Jessica’. It almost sounds like an ANTM name that Tyra would (deliberately, as she’s a narcissistic sow) butcher at every panel for comic reasons. Anyway, the fact that I’m not even addressing the song should tell that my level of investment is, to put it mildly, not very high.”

Connor – 8.5 “I remember when Xhesika first participated in FiK and how captivated I was with her voice, because she’s got this very cool tonal quality to her voice, and also has a tendency to growl on notes naturally. This song shows off her ability to sing perfectly with a simple piano track, and makes her the star for 3.5 minutes. Can it win FiK? Probably not. Has it won my honorable mention slot? Most definitely. This girl deserves to be more well-known and celebrated because she’s come a long way vocally since X Factor 2012! 8.5/10 Conor

James – 5 – “A little too much of a dirge for my liking. And it doesn’t really go anywhere. Xhesika is the most hard done by in the sense that she’s one of the best singers paired with one of the contest’s most generic orchestral tracks. There’s no drama, despite Xhesika being a singer perfectly capable of delivering drama. The ending is flat, despite Xhesika being capable of delivering fireworks at the end (which is highly sought after at ESC).”

Melanie – 6.5 – “This ballad sounds the most honest of the bunch. It’s quite a stunning ballad that’s brought to a next level with her heavenly voice. If she can convey the emotions during her live performance and bring it with the same calmness as the studio cut, this could be a strong contender for the win. It’s a little bit too slow for my personal taste, but nevertheless a tasteful song from Xhesika.”

Roy – 2.5 – “Oooh what could have been… Xhesika’s voice is promising and the song even starts off interesting. It just never really builds to anything that would really excite me. The ‘Adi-hi-di-ah-u-hi’ also starts to annoy me after listening to it a bit too much. This song desperately tries to be memorable and outstanding. Yet it stays very much in the middle throughout..”

Sean – 6 – “The production just seems a little off-beat in a few places on “Më mbron”, which is offputting, but Xhesika has a great colour to her voice and the track builds well in all the right places. I just wish it was offering me something a little more exciting.”

Total = 33.5 (Avg. 5.6)

 

So what does this do the scoreboard according to us? Let’s find out:

Era Russi – Zjarri Im  – 47 

Inis Neziri – Pendesë – 46

Fatos Shabani – Ty – 45.5

Kastro Zizo – Vallja e jetës – 44.5

Mirud – Nëse vdes – 43

Gigliola Haveriku – E Lirë – 42.5

Enxhi Nasufi – Njësoj – 42

Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 41

Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo – 38.5

Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve – 38.5

Wendi Mancaku – Vesi i shpirti tim – 37

Franc Koruni – E morën botën – 37

Evi Reçi – Tjerr – 37

Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë – 36.5

Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë – 36.5

Agim Poshka – Vendi im – 36

Gjergj Kacinari – Më jep jetë – 34.5

Xhesika Polo – Më mbron – 33.5

Erik Lloshi – Jo – 32.5

Devis Xherahu – Peng – 32.5

Florent Abrashi – Vajzë – 31.5

Stefan Marena – Meteor – 31

Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt – 30.5

Klint Çollaku – Do t’ja dal – 30.5

Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri – 26

 

Inis Neziri came ooh so close to becoming out favourite for Festival I Kengës 59, but in the end, Era Russi managed to hold on to her lead!! “Zjarri Im” is our collective winner with “Ty” rounding off our podium!

What do #YOU think of the first half of Albania’s selection this year? Is “Zjarri Im” indeed the favourite, or do you think another song will snatch the crown? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Roy Postema
Load More In 2021
Comments are closed.

Check Also

Team Reviews: Our Thoughts on Festivali i Kengës 59 (part 1)

We are about to find out what our first eurovision song of the 2021 season will be. Albani…