Review: “Festivali i Këngës 59” (Albania)

“Festivali i Këngës” is an Albanian music festival that is being held for almost 60 years. Since December 2003, it is the mechanism for selecting a song and an artist for Eurovision.

26 songs are included in the line-up of this year selection: “Festivali i Këngës 59″.

According to the Covid- 19 restrictions, the festival will take place in the open air: “Sheshi Italia” (“The Italian square) in Tirana.

The selection will include 2 semi-finals and a grand final. The grand final will be held on a day between the 17th-26th of December 2020 , depending on the weather and Covid-19 conditions.

In this post, I will review the 26 songs:

#1. Agim Poshka – Vendi im (Eng: My place)

It’s a Balkan ethnic ballad.
The song is starting with a guitar solo and with a female backing vocals. Afterwards, an ethnic sound of flute is attached to the melody. Agim is finally starts singing at 0:44 with a pretty constant melody. The first verse has a little bit dramatic vibe. However, the chorus is different it sounds more optimistic and includes more words. The backing vocalists are again in the chorus. After the chorus, we can hear an electric guitar. I don’t find something special in Agim‘s voice.
The song is dated and the majority of it isn’t catchy.

#2. Anxhela Peristeri – Karma

The song is starting with powerful a Capella by Anxhela. Afterwards, we can hear a strong combination of electric guitar and drums. The first verse, after the introduction, is being performed as a ballad with a basic violin and computer processed melody. The first verse is pretty slower considering the introduction. The chorus is similar to the introduction. but its even more exciting. The chorus is ending with bagpipes. The second verse is more energetic and contains more music instruments. It precedes a special section where Anxhela is singing powerfully while the backing vocalists support her. A lot of is happening in the song, in a good way. The song stands up for its complexity, the wise use of music instruments and a stable music production as well.
The audio version contains some echo effect, which can’t be used in a live performance. However, I’m sure that Anxhela will conquer us with her unique and powerful voice.
I see the song as a strong candidate for the winning.

#3. Devis Xherahu – Peng (Eng: Hostage)

The song is starting with a Latin sound of guitar playing. The production is simple , and the song is relying on the guitar playing and the singer voice. There is something nostalgic in the song. In the end of the chorus and during the third verse, we can hear flute paying the some traditional music. However, the song remains basic and too simple. I prefer it over Devis song in “Festivali i Këngës 58″. It seems to me that the most interesting element is the flute playing. Unfortunately, it isn’t sufficient.

#4. Enxhi Nasufi – Njësoj (Eng: Same)

This is a mid- tempo dance pop soul song. The introduction is computer processed. The general style reminds me on the 1980’s music. Enxhi voice is soft and she sings effortlessly. The first verse is being sung in a low voice. The chorus is rhythmic and catchy. In the chorus, her singing belongs to the soul genre. The chorus contains some words in English: “Baby, everyday, every night” .
The chorus and the verses the come after similar to other famous dance songs. However, it isn’t bothering it all: The combination between the singer voice, Albanian language and the production leads to a satisfying result.
The song stands out for me in a plenty of ballads in the line-up.

#5. Era Rusi – Zjarri im (Eng: My fire)

It’s an ethnic electro pop song. The introduction is relying on fretting on guitar stings. There are male backing vocals that lead the song to spiritual traditional vibes. The melody in the first part of the song is pretty simple. However, the section between the verses and the chorus is another music entity. It seems like the listeners are sitting near the bonfire in an African tribe. The chorus almost doesn’t contain words, it’s a party of music instruments: drums, guitar and keyboards. Era’s vocals are fully proceeded in the chorus. We can hear a male vocalist saying “Light My Fire”. There is a broken glass sound before the chorus starts. At some moments, the song sounds to me like a football anthem.
Era has the right energies to perform the song live. Nevertheless, the song doesn’t require any special vocal abilities. I must confess that I love her last year song “Eja Merre” more than this one.
In my opinion, it will end up high in the table, not sure if it can win.

#6. Erik Lloshi – Jo (Eng: No)

It’s a dark song. Starting with the introduction, we can notice a lot of effects. The majority of the effects are background vocals, to my ears is sounded like wild birds in the forest.
Erik has a gentle voice that fits the style of the song. The melody is based on keyboards and bass. While the first verse in mysterious, the chorus is powerful. The ending of the chorus and starting of the second verse contains a lot of drums playing. There are dominant backing vocals in the second verse (or shall we define them as massive breathing).Eric is singing from his soul. However, several comments in the production are overused and it make the song sound a little bit too blended.
The end of the song is based on violin playing which contribute a lot to the final product.
To sum up, it a good song, that just was drawn into massive production. With a proper revamp, it will deserve more.

#7. Evi Reçi – Tjerr (Eng: Spin)

The song was composed by Olsa Toqi, the composer behind “Fairy-tale” (Albania song for Eurovision 2016). It’s a radio – friendly jazz song. The beginning of the song is strongly based on guitar playing and echo effects. There is a male backing vocalist who is saying “Love”. In the chorus, he is just supporting Evi. The last minute of the song is opened with a cello/ violin playing.
There is an American – Latin motive in the song. The production of the song wraps it perfectly. The genre and the style of the song isn’t a “Festivali i Këngës” typical, in a good way.
There is something in the song that resemble to the music from “The Pink Panther Show”.
I’m sure if the Albanian jury would like to embrace it, but I think it could be a surprising direction for Albania at Eurovision.

#8. Fatos Shabani – Ty (Eng: You)

It’s a typical singer – song writer song. The melody is fully based on classic guitar. However, the production is based on sting instruments which give the song an orchestra dimension.
Fatos shows versatile vocal abilities during his performance.
I’d classify the song as a gentle Rock ballad from the 1990’s. We could have listened to it 30 years ago on the radio. I’ve enjoyed listening to it, but I must mention that the song isn’t competitive enough.

#9. Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri (Eng: Who is the one you love)

It’s a Balkan ballad. The arrangement is simple and acoustic. The melody is relying on guitar and keyboards. The chorus includes several female backing vocalists. After the chorus, we can pay attention to an electric guitar solo. I love the sound of the electric guitar but it makes no sense in the contest of the song. As the song progresses, the drama is slowly being built. However, I find the song a little bit dated and lacking of uniqueness.

#10. Florent Abrashi – Vajzë (Eng: Girl)

It’s a dreamy Disney ballad in casing of “singer song writer song”. The song is starting with a piano and guitar playing. There are repetitive backing vocals along the song which become the main motive of the song. The song has a romantic atmosphere in it . Florent has a raspy voice which fits the song.
However I have an issue with the song: there is something generic and quite predictable.

# 11. Franc Koruni – E morën botën (Eng: They took the world)

Franc Koruni - Te gjithe genjejne (Official Video 4K) - YouTube

It’s an uptempo electro pop song. The melody is based on electro keyboards and trumpet playing.
Unfortunately, Franc isn’t singing – he is actually talking during the song. The melody is too simple and sometimes it seems that it was composed by a 8 years old child.
It seems like the production is trying cover on the unoriginal melody. The only thing I could remember from the song is the trumpet playing.

# 12. Gigliola Haveriku – E lirë (Eng: Free)

It’s a lyrical pop ballad. Gigliola is singing with a low voice. The first verse is based on a slow piano playing. The chorus is more interesting melodically and her singing becomes more powerful. The verse that come after the chorus has a electric smoothing effect which sometimes overlaps her singing. The chorus has a foundations of dance music, even though its’n a uplifting song.
The final product is OK, but something is the different parts of the song don’t combine as it should be. In addition, I must say that Gigliola must have a powerful voice in order to prevent from drowning in the massive production of the song.

#13. Gjergj Kaçinari – Më jep jetë (Eng: Give me life)

Gjergj opens the song with extremely low and raspy voice. It a singer song writer ballad. The introduction of the song is solely based on piano playing. There is something effortless in his singing and I see it as an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The chorus focuses on his voice, rather than the melody. The string instruments and the drums increase the value of the song.
The second chorus of the song is the most interesting part of the song and it should come earlier.
It seems that Gjergj is faithful to himself as an artist. However, it is still not competitive enough.

#14 . Inis Neziri – Pendesë (Eng: penance answer)

It’s a power pop soul ballad. The song is starting with a piano playing alongside with the angelic voice of Inis. Afterwards, we can hear some sting instruments. The chorus is powerful and catchy. Inis shows her vocal abilities in the chorus. The production in the verses is barely felt. After the second chorus, Inis has some vocal improvisations. The song is ending is a typical way for power ballads.
The melody and production of the song reminds me of the song Linda Teodosiu – “Renegades”.
If honesty is the key word, I will expect something better and more unique from Inis Neziri.
However, the final outcome is good.

#15 .Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë (Eng: Memories have no form)

It’s a lyrical jazz soul ballad. The song is opened with violin and piano playing. The first verse in being sung in a gentle and soft voice, accompanied by the piano playing and electric production.
Kamela uses her high impressive voice with even Falsetto. The third part of the song has the wishful “wow factor” with the classical motives in melody. The closure with the backing vocals is a significant component of the song.
The song is simple but you can observe that is was written and composed in a sophisticate way. Something in the whole arrangement is very impressive and exciting. I can just close my eyes and reminisce sad moments of life.
I actually felt like I’m in a live performance of appraised singer song writer.
The “secret” of the song is its vulnerability, simplicity and softness. Albania is well known at Eurovision as a country that tend to send powerful female vocalists who sometimes endeavor too much. Sending an act like this will be a refreshing change.

#16. Kastro Zizo – Vallja e jetës (Eng: Dance of life)

The song is opened with a dramatic instrumental introduction. The melody is pretty good ethnic rock melody. The main components of the songs are the electric guitar and the ethnic production.
However, something is really aggressive in the singer attitude. I don’t see the rapping blending well in the melody. In addition, several parts of the melody are really familiar for me.
The song has Arab – Asian influences.
In my opinion, the song has the potential to do well with the right singer which isn’t Kastro Zizo.

#17. Klinti Çollaku – Do t’ja dal (Eng: I will do it)

It’s a mid-tempo soul pop ballad. The song is starting with the singer voice accompanied by a soft electric production. The second verse includes some string instruments as well which convert the song to be more interesting. I waited for something surprising to happen in the chorus and it didn’t happen. The last part of the song has different and quiet vibe in it . However, at some point the singer performs with high notes alongside backing vocalists. I suggest that those powerful moment would have come earlier.
Klinti is a good singer but it seems like he is focusing on his singing and thinking about it.
In other words, his singing is just by book but it doesn’t excite me.

#18. Manjola Nallbani – Ora e jetës (Hour of Life)

Manjola Nallbani is one the familiar faces and names of “Festivali i Këngës“. She participated in the festival 8 times! The first time was in 1989, and the last time was in 2017.
At the first time I’ve heard it, it just reminded me “Ktheju tokës” by Jonida Maliqi. It should be a surprise since the 2 songs share the same writer and composer: Eriona Rushiti.
The song is starting with “dabadam” singing. Afterwards, a dramatic atmosphere is taking over the production. Manjola is singing powerfully alongside with ethnic melody. However, i consider her singing to less successive comparing to Jonida. The drums effect increase the excepted drama in the song. The chorus is a direct continue to the verses. The backing vocals should be more used.
Sometimes, it seems that the main aim of the song is pretesting us Manjola‘s excellent vocal abilities.
Nevertheless, the final product is impressive but too heavy.
It took me several times to hear song before bring able to appreciate it. I see it as negative sign, since the first impression is critical.

#19. Mirud – Nëse vdes (Eng: If I die)

After being fans favorite in “Festivali i Këngës 57“, Durim Morina  (better known as Mirud) returns for another trying. It’s a ethnic pop song. The song is opened with powerful trill singing. There is a dominant rhythm in the verses with a pretty simple but effective production. The chorus is an extension of the introduction. Furthermore, there is an instrumental section that is following the chorus. The verses that come after are more rhythmic and catchy.
However, although the song is different from the others in the lineup and even though Mirud has strong vocals abilities, the song is a little bit repetitive for me.
I could easily imagine the song representing Azerbaijan or Turkey.

#20. Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve (The suitcase of memories)

Orgesa will try her luck in the 4th time in the festival. She participated in the festival in the years: 2015, 2017, 2018.
The song starts in a piano solo which reminds me of “The Devil” by PJ Harvey.
Orgesa is singing alongside the piano in what seems like a simple ballad. Thereafter, it changes into a mid-tempo song. The gentle beat of the song blends with the piano to a jazz song that can be heard in bars. It has vibes of the 1980’s music. Orgesa proves she is a good vocalist and the peak arrives in the beginning of each chorus. However, I expected something iconic or modern from her, regarding her previous efforts in the festival. In my opinion, the song will be more effective than we may think, however I don’t see it as a contender for winning.

#21. Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo

It’s an uptempo pop song. The song is opened in an ethnic atmosphere and have influences of Indian and Middle East music. There are drums and beat that playing the main role in the song.
I find the ending of the song quite effective.
Rosela doesn’t make an effort it singing ant it may be against the song. There is an atmosphere of African tribe dancing in the melody.
The rap part (“Rap, rap, this is my rap”) in the song in so unnecessary and doesn’t have nothing to do in the whole package.
It can impress us in the live version, but i think there are stronger acts than this one.

#22. Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt (Eng: “I’ll make you cry”)

It’s an R&B rock song. The song is opened in backing vocalists singing in an choir style.
The verse has a slow pace, considering the continue of the song. There is an electric instrumental break between the verse and the chorus. I find the chorus way better than the verses.
The production of song is good, but something in the verses must be changed.
Sardi‘s voice is low ans stable. The chorus is powerful and can totally be classified as a typical rock song from the 1990’s.

#23. Stefan Marena – Meteor

It’s a house – disco song. The song is opened with a special electric production to keyboards and percussion instruments. There is something convincing ans catchy in the chorus.
the combination of a female back vocalists elevates the song. The second verse is even more rhythmic.
Stefan voice is dominant and can’t be ignored. Together with the song, we get a satisfying effort.
However, the song is a little bit dated and will have to contain good enough staging.
It is a song from the kind that works perfect as an audio, but might fail in a live version.

#24. Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë (Eng: Mother)

Viktor returns the festival after 27 years of non – participation.
The song is starting with a faded voice. The melody is based on piano and drums. To be honest, I find the song too dated and predictable. There is something poor in the production.
One of the positive things is the electric guitar solo, but off course it has nothing to do with the song. The second part of the song allowing the singer to show his vocal abilities.
It is one the most forgettable songs in the line up.

#25. Wendi Mancaku – Si ajo (Eng: Like Her)

Wendi competed in last year’s festival with the song “Ende“. In addition, she was one of the 3 backing vocalists behind Jonida Maliqi at Eurovision 2019.
It’s a pop rock ballad. The song is starting with a solo of bass. Wendi is singing with her gentle and angelic voice. In the chorus, she is combining between high and low voice.
The production contributes to the structure of the song. She is ending the song with a solo singing that hasn’t the support of music instruments behind it.
The song is catchy and radio-friendly. Wendi doesn’t try to show all her vocal abilities in the song and it is a big advantage.
I think it may stand out among some dated acts in the line-up. I can actually see it as a dark horse of the evening.

#26. Xhesika Polo – Më mbron (Eng: Protect me)

Xhesika Polo participated twice in the festival, in the years 2016+2017.
The song is starting with a trill singing. The introduction is ethnic and unique.
Xhesika‘s voice is stable and exciting. The first verse’s melody is based on piano playing, as well as violin playing. The chorus is powerful and is relying basically on her beautiful song. The verses are simple but the classical motives in the production wrap it perfectly.
I find the song exciting and effective.
Xhesika shows impressive versatile abilities in the song.

My Full Ranking
1. Kamela Islamaj – Kujtimet s’kanë formë
2. Anxhela Peristeri – Karma
3. Wendi Mancaku – Si ajo (Like Her)
4. Giliola Haveriku – E lirë (Free)
5. Enxhi Nasufi – Njësoj (Same)
6. Inis Neziri – Pendesë (Reprentance)
7. Orgesa Zaimi – Valixhja e kujtimeve (The suitcase of memories)
8. Xhesika Polo – Më mbron (Protect me)
9. Evi Reçi – Tjerr (Spin)
10. Era Rusi – Zjarri im (My fire)
11. Fatos Shabani – Ty (You)
12. Florent Abrashi – Vajzë (Girl)
13. Sardi Strugaj – Kam me t’ba me kajt (“I’ll make you cry”)
14. Durim Morina (Mirud) – Nëse vdes (If I die)
15. Rosela Gjylbegu – Vashëzo
16. Stefan Marena – Meteor
17. Manjola Nallbani – Ora e jetës (Hour of Life)
18. Gjergj Kaçinari – Më jep jetë (Give me life)
19. Erikson Lloshi – Jo (No)
20. Klinti Çollaku – Do t’ja dal (I will do it)
21. Klevis Bega (Kastro Ziso) – Vallja e jetës (Dance of life)
22. Festina Mejzini – Kush je ti dashuri (Who is the one you love)
23. Devis Xherahu – Peng (Hostage)
24. Franc Koruni – E morën botën (They took the world)
25. Agim Poshka – Vendi im (My place)
26. Viktor Tahiraj – Nënë (Mother)

Possible Winners?
I think that the winner of the festival this year isn’t predictable. It will be decided by the performances. However, I can mention the following to be possible winners:

Anxhela Peristeri – Karma
Era Rusi – Zjarri im (My fire)
Inis Neziri – Pendesë (Reprentance)
Wendi Mancaku – Si ajo (Like Her)

Doron Lahav is 28 years old guy who lives in Israel. Doron watches Eurovision Song Contest since early 2000s. Doron works as a Data Scientist and also shows interest in singing and writing.

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