Review: “Festivali i Këngës 60” (Albania)

On 27th – 29th of December 2021, Albania will hold its traditional music festival – “Festivali i Këngës 60”.
The festival will be used (as always) as the national selection for Eurovision.
This year, 20 artists will compete in the festival: 14 established artists, alongside 6 new-comers.
The format is yet to be revealed.
In recent years, the results have been determined by jury votes.

This year, all participants will perform on each one of the 3 nights.
The format will be:

Night 1 (27th of December) – Contestants Night
Night 2 (28th of December) – Nostaligia Night
Night 3 (29th of December) – Eurovision Night

In this post, I will review the 20 competing songs

#1. Alban Ramosaj – “Theje” (Break it)

It is an acoustic ballad.
The song starts with acoustic guitar playing, alongside Alban’s deep voice.
We can hear gentle female backing vocals that accompany his singing and lead us to the spiritual vibe of the song.
The transition between the first verse and the chorus is quite smooth (and maybe too smooth?), as they are built on the same work “theje”.
Afterwards, we can hear violion playing which adds another dimension of drama to the whole package. Later on, Alban‘s singing becomes more powerful with the use of a husky voice.
From time to time, you can hear his outcry and tell they are real and from pure intention.
I loved the part of the chorus when he sings “Ti luj e luj me mu, hajde luj, se un të du” – it is very catchy and especially the playing with the leters d+t which make it easy to remember even for non-Albanian speakers.
Toward the second chorus we can hear some percussion instruments, together with an electric guitar. It transfers the song from acouric ballad to the region of rock ballads.
There is an instrumental part where we can hear some ethnic motives.
He sings in an even more “throat voice” to accelerate the excitement and power of the words.
The song ends with a choir singing together with Alban’s singing and bagpipe playing.
I think the song is one of the strongest songs in the line-up. It is very catchy, has character and can also be a refreshing choice for Albania that tends to send powerful women to Eurovision.

#2. Denis Skura – “Pse nuk flet, mama?” (Mother, Why Don’t you Speak?)

It is an opera hymn.
The general style reminds me of Luciano Pavarotti‘s music.
The song starts with a combination of keyboards and guitar playing. The atmosphere for some reason is like in children’s music.
Denis opens the song with tenor’s singing. The melody remains a little bit constant with some basic computer processed sounds.
In the chorus, he sings much more highly and powerfully. We can hear some orchestra music, as expected.
Towards the end, we can hear backing vocalists singing as orchestra.
Unfortunately, the song goes nowhere. The only “twist” is the combination of light sound by electric guitar in one of the instrumental parts

#3. Eldis Arrnjeti – “Refuzoj” (I Refuse)

It’s an ethnic ballad. The arrangement is based on guitar playing with a general structure of a Blakan ballad.
The song starts with an instrumental part of acoustic guitar. Eldis sings in a calming way and effortlessly. Sometimes, his voice sounds.
The chorus is more powerful with electric guitar dominating the introduction of it.
He sings longer notes as the melody changes a bit.
The second verse is a little bit faster, but remains on the same linear rate of the song.
The last minute starts with a long electric guitar solo.
The song ends in the same form as it started.
It isn’t bad, but the song is quite forgetable and basic.

#4. Evi Reci – “Me duaj” (Love me)

It’s a folk ballad. It seems like the classic guitar is the main motive in “Festivali i Këngës 60” this year.
The song opens with significant classical guitar playing, and thereafter Evi starts singing.
Her voice is pleasant as always.
Even without understanding the Albanian language, we can feel she is telling a story.
There’s something nostalgic and a little bit bad, but at the same time hopeful in the vibe of the chorus.
The chorus is richer than the first verse, if we compare them by melody.
After the chorus, we can hear trumpet playing which adds another layer to the melody.
The next verse is a little bit faster, and we can hear some motives of tango/Lativ music.
The song gets closer to the region of mid-tempo, but it is temporal, as the last part based on gentle wind instruments that are only joined by the familiar guitar from the beginning.
The song isn’t constant or uniform, in a good way.
Last year, Evi gave us one of the modern pieces of the festival with sassness, now it will be something more classy and traditional.
I love her voice and the way it combines with the melody, but the song isn’t strong enough.

#5. Endri & Stefi – “Triumfi i jetës” (The triumph of life)

This is an old fashioned power ballad.
Endri and Stefi are brothers and both are considered veterans of “Festivali i Këngës“.
The song starts with a deep sound of piano playing and then classical violin sound is attached.
One of them sings the first part with a shaky but strong voice that fits the mysterious atmosphere of the song.
Afterwards, the other brother sings a solo part. He has a lower voice but tends to deliver long impressive notes.
The song continues with both of them singing together with electronic guitar wrapping everything. Their voices sound good together – each one strengthens the other.
When we reach the peak of the chorus, we can hear beautiful piano playing as well.
As the song advances, the more dramatic it becomes. We are able to hear some drums in part of it.
It looks like a lot of effort has been invested in making the song.
However, the song feels old-fashioned and heavy in parts of it.
It would be appreciated as an Albanian classic song, but not as a contender for Eurovision.

#6. Ester Zahiri – “Hijena” (Hyena)

It’s a modern pop ballad with a non-constant structure.
The song starts with an instrumental part that’s composed by piano.
Ester has a young and soft voice, you can tell how young she is just by listening to her.
In the pre-chorus, we can hear wind instruments as well as violin.
Starting the pre-chorus, the melody is more tense. It explodes as the drums are present.
Ester shows off her vocal abilities. The melody in the chorus is based on guitar playing. We hear some fading backing vocals accompanying her singing.
Towards the end of the chorus, she moves to half-speaking singing.
The second verse of the song brings unpredictable change – from a decent ballad, it transforms into a catchy pop song. The melody of the second part of the song is based on drums, uplifting beat and electronic keyboards.
As the second occurrence of the chorus arrives, we return to the previous character of the song.
The transition between the second verse and the second chorus is made by vocal improvisations and powerful short electronic beat.
Afterwards, we get the instrumental part with some ethnic vibes. She uses some vocal decorations.
Again, we have proof of her excellence as a singer.
This song is all about development, it has a complicated structure but it is still magical enough to be catchy and memorable, especially the chorus.

#7. Gjergj Kaçinari – “Në ëndërr mbete ti” (You Remain in Dreams)

It’s a rock-pop song with blues elements.
The song starts with a short instrumental section that’s composed of drums playing. The atmosphere is dark and it feels like sitting in a pub.
Gjergj uses the soft side of his voice which strokes the listeners’s ears gently.
The melody of the first part is based on keyboards and drums.
The pre-chorus is attached in a quite random way. The drums overcome the keyboards with the singer using half-speaking singing.
The chorus is short and is built on the “je” word. It is very catchy, radio-friendly and can be described as hymn in some concepts.
The second verse is a little bit faster: the melody is based on a combination of guitar, keyboards and drums. There is a female backing vocalist that accopmanying him.
Once again, we get the chorus which is catchy and basic.
Towards the end of the second chorus, there is a melody change. The song is almost a lullaby.
Gjergj carries it solely in his voice, until the additional guitar is included.
The song ends with his acapella singing.
The style is like in the early 2000’s male rock songs.
I find this one basic, but magical at the same time. It is effortless, but faithful to the artist.
With the right staging, it can be wonderful and yet not a winner.

#8. Janex – “Deluzional” (Delusional)

This is what I call a praised female rock song!
It is an Indie rock song. The style reminds of rock songs from the 1990’s, but there is something more contemporary in the production. The song starts with an instrumental strong beat that loses some of its volume as Janex enters. She has a raspy voice with a unique stamp. Between the pre chorus and the chorus, we can hear some sound effects. In the chorus, she sings with a higher tone. There is something sassy and flirty about the way she brings out the text. It shows different faces of hardness and softness. There are backing vocals that support her. Towards the closure of the chorus, we can hear guitar playing. The second verse starts with a high and thin voice that can almost be defined as falsetto singing. In the second chorus, we can hear a trumpet playing as well. It combines very well with the whole package. This part is performed with a higher tone. The bridge includes a different melody. It starts with a longer and mysterious electro-house beat that precedes keyboards and violin playing. The last chorus is performed with the main husky voice. It ends with a cyclic instrumental beat that slowly vanishes. It is one of the unique songs in the festival’s line up. I find it modern, convincing and catchy. In my vision, it is also a song that can easily be fitted to live performance

#9. Kastro Zizo – “Kujë” (Where are you?)

The song starts with an instrumental part composed of piano and electric guitar playing.
The melody sounds like a part of “The Pink Panther” soundtrack.
As it comes to its end, the music becomes more romantic – calming and less mysterious.
Kastro sings the first part in a smokey voice, or shall we say recites.
The melody is uniform and repetitive, but it has as impact if the aim is story telling.
The chorus has a slightly faster rate, the electric guitar takes the main role.
His singing becomes more and more aggressive as the peak of the chorus arrives.
Thereafter, there is a fight of power and volume between Kasto and the electric guitar.
He keeps on singing until the lack of air limits him. Backing vocalists join him as an orchestra in a musical. They communicate together, and then their part becomes the more dominant one.
The song ends with a long instrumental part that’s built on piano and string instruments.
Personally, I think the song has a lot of potential, but the singing and interpretation damages it.
I must admit that I prefer Kastro Zizo as a composer and not as a singer.

#10. Kelly – “Meteor”

It’s a rock-pop song.
The song starts with a guitar playing. Kelly enters with a mid-high voice.
He sings with some mannerism. The first verse has a “raw” character, it leans on a lean and simple production. The first verse stays on a uniform level and layers.
However, when the chorus arrives things change. The song gets a more rocky vibe. There is a wide use of electric guitar, accompanied by keyboards and string instruments.
The second verse has a similar structure to the first one, but it has a little bit more guitar playing.
The bridge closes as Kelly sings a long note with his husky voice.
Then, we get an instrumental part that its first part is composed of guitars. In the middle it becomes more silent and so on.
The song isn’t bad at all, I’m just not sure how remarkable it is.

#11. Kejsi Rustja – “Vallëzoj me ty” (I dance with you)

It’s a pop song.
The song starts with an instrumental part that’s built on string instruments, pop beats and some studio effects. The vibes are of a summer night party.
She starts singing the song with a soft and a little bit immature voice.
There is an interesting contrast between her soft singing and the full of energy melody.
The pre-chorus is uplifting, including some backing vocalists and trumpet playing.
In the chorus, the trumpet plays a significant role. Kejsi gives us a more powerful version of her voice.
The second verse has a fater rate, it is more similar to the introduction rather than the first verse.
It feels like something in her singing is more relaxed, and at the same time more captivating.
Then, we have the pre-chorus again with some vocal decorations.
The second part of the song is composed of the chorus, pre-chorus and again the chorus.
The second to last chorus ends with a form that’s more related to ballads, rather than mid-tempo or uptempo songs.
In my opinion, the song is good but could be improved. I will put some unpredictable changes in the second part of the melody, to make it less flat.
For me, the song sounds like a radio-hit we could have heard 20 years ago.
However, blending in this line-up there’s nothing similar to this one.
Unfortunately, this is a song of the kind that the festival’s jury used to mock down.

#12. Mirud – “Për dreq” (To hell)

It is a ballad with ethnic elements. The song starts with a short instrumental section of keyboards playing. As Mirud starts singing, we can hear violin playing and pre-recorded and produced. As the verse progresses, the tension is well built by the violin playing. His voice is stable, you can tell he delivers a message. In the pre chorus, he uses some vocal decoration. His singing is powerful in the chorus. As the chorus ends, we can hear an instrumental part of simple guitar playing. The second verse includes a modern production of the melody. We can hear electric keyboards playing. Mirud sings it with a slightly higher tune. The second chorus has a faster rate. Afterwards, we can hear another instrumental part that is based on classic guitar, electric guitar and a cyclic soft beat. The song ends with the last occurrence of the chorus. I think the song has some impact on the listener. It has a simple but good melody. The secret will be to stage it simply.

#13. Olimpia Smajlaj – “Dua” (I want)

It’s a cabaret-pop song with some 1980’s music elements.
The song starts with some ethnic drums playing and a roar made by a male backing singer.
So, we have a short introduction that is based on wind instruments.
Olimpia starts singing with an easy interpretation while we can hear a monotonous trumpet playing.
The rhyme becomes one of the main elements of the first verse.
Pre-chorus is faster, her singing has more soul vibe. The melody is based on a longer beat that ends with some African tribal drums playing.
The chorus is the natural continuation of the pre-chorus. We can hear the trumpet, as well as some keyboards playing. In the end, there is a use of electric guitar. In fact, we get quite a long instrumental part after the chorus.
Afterwards, we get another verse with the same structure as the first one.
The bridge relies on fast singing that limits with rap. It has some mixed and messy melody.
The last part includes her singing, alongside same lines performed by backing singers.
The song ends with the drum playing from the start.
In my opinion, it is an appreciated effort that feels like an unfinished demo.
I think it is one of the cases where the singer is much better than the song.

#14. Rezarta Smaja – “E jemja nuse” (I am a bride)

The song starts with a traditional accordion playing.
After the introduction, the song changes unpredictably. It still has a theatrical character.
The melody of the first verse is based on quick keyboards playing.
Pre-chorus makes us face another meldoy change – now the melody has a dark and captiviting side. Her singing becomes mysterious and fast. From a theatrical song it becomes a song that will make you think about things. At this point, it sounds more like a female pop-rock song from 1990 – 1995.
The chorus continues the pre-chorus but it is less dark. Her singing shade another light on the song.
She uses some vocal decorations while we can hear violion playing.
In the instrumental bridge, she sings the melody from the start.
Thereafter, we can hear again the pre-chorus and chorus but with richer melody. For example: Wind instruments get wider space.
The chorus and pre-chorus are very catchy and it is one of the advantages of this song.
My only issue here is the introduction that feels disconnected to the rest of the song.

#15. Ronela Hajati – “Sekret” (Secret)

The song starts with an acoustic choir singing, alongside piano playing. One can think it will be a soul ballad. Ronela starts on her own, but thereafter she is joined by others. We can hear some string instruments as well.
Thereafter, the melody is taken in a completely different direction. It seems like there’s Bulbul tarang playing. The song transforms from a soul balaad to ethnic pop. A cyclic beat with the sound of drums is added as well. Afterwards, we can hear Ronela saying “Ej, ej, ej, ej, ej, ej, ej” while an ethnic beat wraps the melody.
In the pre-chorus, Ronela sings in an aggressive way, something that can be classified as rap singing. The melody is upbeat and festive.
The ethnic beat decays until the chorus arrives again. The song turns again to its soul blaad falvor.
The change this time is that some remain of the upbeat part, present in the chorus.
Once again, we return to the direction of upbeat ethnic-pop with rap. At this time, the lyrics are different and their intention is to make the listener move its body.
towards the end, we have another chorus and then an instrumental part.
To sum up, the song is one of the strongest in the line-up. One of its disadvantages is the complexity – some of the parts sound like they are not related.
Watching “Festivali i Këngës” for years makes me a little bit worried, since we know these kind of songs never win: Soni Malaj (2019), Elvana (2020), Era (2021) and more

#16. Sajmir Çili – “Nën maskë” (Under the mask)

It’s a Blakan ballad with doundations of rock music.
The song starts with an instrumental part that is composed of acoustic guitar playing.
Sajmir opens the song with a deep and low voice. The melody of the first verse is quite simple.
When the pre-chorus arrives, the melody is based on keyboards playing as well.
The tension is well built with the kind of dramatic piano playing.
The chorus starts with a soft drum playing that disappears immediately.
The chorus is quite linear, the melody is casual and sounds like something we could have found in all Balkan selections in recent years.
As expected, there is a solo of electric guitar as an instrumental part towards the end of the song.
My problem is that the song might be forgotten.

#17. Shega – “Një” (One)

It’s a song performed in the Arbëresh, a variety of Albanian spoken by the Arbëreshë in Southern Italy.
The song starts with some whistling and acoustic guitar. The lead singer opened the song with a charm and a pleasant voice.
The vibe of the song is chill and for some moments it sounds like a cute theme song for commercials.
The melody goes in the predictable direction of each semi-country ballad.
Towards the beginning of the third part of the song, the melody and tone changes, and the lead singer sings it well. But then again, the song goes nowhere.
We can hear some backing vocals (probably other band members) joining in the last part.
i see the reason why a song like this is included in the line-up, but it isn’t competitive enough

#18. Urban Band – “Padrejtësi” (Injustice)

It’s a rock song in the style of 1990’s rock bands.
The song starts with an electric guitar and drums. A few seconds later, we can hear the lead singer with his husky voice. The guitar continues to be the main component of the melody.
We can hear electric and bass guitar together. The lead singer sings it with self-confidence, intention and virtuosity.
In the chorus, his voice becomes a little bit more powerful. In the chorus he pronounces the words in a different way, to make the musical measure longer.
In the second half of the chorus, we can hear other band members sing as well.
The song continues with its funky-rock attitude.
The last part opens with a solo of bass guitar, as expected.
The song ends with the lead singer shouting the title of the song.
I think this kind of song has some similarities with the Italian song for Eurovision 2021.
It has a character, it sounds good, but it isn’t that original or gives something new.

#19. Viola Zhemali – “Eja si erë” (Come as the wind)

It’s a modern mid-tempo pop song, compared to the other songs in the line-up.
The song starts with an instrumental part of piano playing.
Viola starts singing with a sweet and soft voice. We can hear some guitar playing and a gentle light beat. As the first verse gets closer to its end, she sings faster and “prepares” us for more rhythmic part of the song. In the chorus, the same 2 lines repeat 4 times in a row.
It is catchy, but on the other hand it makes it a little bit too basic.
The chorus ends with some beautiful vocal decorations. In fact, the second verse is much more similar to the chorus rather than the first verse.
Out of the blue, comes the second chorus and afterwards an instrumental part that is composed of the sexophone playing. It is one of the beast parts of the song, since it broke the structure we’ve heard so far in this song.
The last part of the song is the chorus which sounds like a faded version of itself with some backing vocals.

#20. Xhuliana Pjetra – “Baladë” (Ballad)

It’s a ballad, as promised in the title.
It opens with an acoustic guitar and some vocal improvisations.
The first verse is being performed in a low voice and mannerism.
The melody is very simple and basic. You can hear additional string instruments in the pre-chorus that continue into the chorus itself as well.
The wrod “Baladë keeps on repeating in the chorus.
After the chorus, there is an instrumental part with the same musical instruments as before.
At this point, the song sounds like an ancient Latin ballad as well as a traditional Balkan song.
In the second verse, the singer is accompanied by some backing vocalists.
In the following pre-chorus, she sings in a higher tone.
The song ends as the third chorus ends.
It was a nice effort, but the song stays flat and basic.

My Personal Ranking

  1. Janex (Xhejn Kumrija) – Deluzional
  2. Alban Ramosaj – Theje
  3. Ronela Hajati – Sekret
  4. Gjerj Kaçinari – Në ëndërr mbete ti
  5. Rezarta Smaja – E jemja nuse
  6. Ester Zahiri – Hiena
  7. Mirud – Për dreq
  8. Kejsi Rrustja – Vallëzoj me ty
  9. Urban Band – Padrejtësi
  10. Kelly – Meteor
  11. Evi Reçi – Më duaj
  12. Viola Xhemali – Eja si erë
  13. Shega – Një
  14. Olimpia Smajlaj – Dua
  15. Xhuli Pjetraj – Baladë
  16. Saimir Çili – Nën maskë
  17. Kastro Zizo – Kujë
  18. Eldis Arrnejti – Refuzoj
  19. Endri Prifti & Stefi – Triumfi i jetës
  20. Denis Skura – Pse nuk flet, mama?

My Prediction

At the moment, I can only see 2 contenders for the trophy: Alban Ramosaj and Ronela Hajati.

What do you think about our review?
Who is your personal winner in the festival?
What’s your prediction for the winner?

Doron Lahav is 30-year-old, who lives in Israel. Doron has been watching the Eurovision Song Contest since early 2000s. Doron works as a Data Scientist and shows interest in singing and writing.

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