Rating the Entries of Festivali i Këngës 60 – Albania’s Selection for Eurovision 2022

It is December 2021: Christmas Day has passed, and the time has come for Albania to select their representative for the Eurovision Song Contest 2022.

As usual, Albania are selecting their act through their music competition Festivali i Këngës, which this year is celebrating its 60th anniversary. There are two preliminary shows on the 27th and 28th of December, before the final on the 29th of December.

Prior to the Albanian act being selected, I have listened to all twenty competing songs and have compiled my thoughts below. All videos included are courtesy of the RTSH – Radio Televizioni Shqiptar YouTube channel.

Alban Ramosaj – “Theje”

This entry has been gaining a lot of traction on social media and is one of the favourites to represent Albania at Eurovision 2022. The quieter and more contemplative first minute contrasts very well with the tourtured shouts of “Theje”, assisted by a strong contemporary beat blended with traditional instruments and background chanting. The power and emotion is present throughout, and the recorded vocals are promising for the live performances. The largest issue I have with “Theje” is that it seems to plateau in power before the two minute mark and never quite exceeds this in its climax.

My Rating: 7/10

Denis Skura – “Pse nuk flet, mama?”

Too many clashing ingredients derail this operatic entry and the end result is a bit of a mess. There are a couple of small positives, mainly the vocal performance of Denis Skura which provides promise for a good live showing, and the chorus is easy to remember, if very cheesy in its execution. Unfortunately, the background elements are distracting, dated and dull. The electric guitars give off the vibe of a song from a B-side of a 70s hit, and the manufactured high-pitched beeping are irritating and distract from the best part of the song – Skura’s voice. A cleaner and less cluttered soundtrack would have been a better suit for this entry.

My Rating: 4/10

Eldis Arrnjeti – “Refuzoj”

Coming in at around 3min40, this will need to have a substantial amount cut should it be selected to enter Eurovision, with its 3 minute limit per song. However, it would be very difficult to cut things out of a song which is already lacking in energy or identity. The only thing memorable is another appearance of an electric guitar, and the melody is difficult to remember. If this was to come on the radio or a streaming playlist, it would be acceptable background music, but seems doomed in a competition with nineteen other songs.

My Rating: 4/10

Endri and Stefi Prifti – “Triumfi i jetës”

“Triumfi i jetës” delivers theatrical vibes from the outset, but one that is from the Albanian version of Broadway, rather than a local production. The vocals of both Endri & Stefi are well matched for this type of song, emphasing certain lines and phrases in a way that adds to the drama. The dramatic music combines with these vocals and cumulates in a powerful chorus that will be great to watch as a live performance. I am not sure whether this type of song will be selected for a Top-40 show like Eurovision though, and the song’s energy, whilst intense and interesting, does tail off in the last minute when it should be at its strongest.

My Rating: 7/10

Ester Zahiri – “Hiena”

For a pop song entered in the Albanian selection for Eurovision, this is slightly more modern fare than its competitors, which could help it to stand out. However, though updated, this still feels slightly dated in the way in which the backing music blends with its incidental sounds, and am not sure whether the lyrics and the length of lines fit the beat in the music. I am worried that the energy expressed in this entry will not translate that well live to Albania’s selection, where the emphasis is on live music.

My Rating: 5/10

Evi Reçi – “Më duaj”

Fun, toe-tapping and sure to get the audience clapping along in its live performance, the song uses a mixture of string and brass instruments as the musical base, transporting listeners to a perfect summer day. This stands out, not for the deep-rooted messages in its lyrics, nor for its powerful and dramatic chorus, but for creating a feelgood mood which is infectious. Songs not dissimilar to this have gone to Eurovision in the past and have received moderate success (Portugal 2009 springs to mind), but I have a concern that, with this potentially appealing to public votes more, this could struggle in such a jury-heavy selection.

My Rating: 8/10

Gjergj Kaçinari – “Në ëndërr mbete ti”

I expect to see plenty of pop-rock songs attempting to represent their countries at Eurovision 2022, in the wake of the successes of the Italian and Finnish songs in the previous year. This attempt from Gjergj Kaçinari is a decent listen and wouldn’t be out of place in an Albanian version of a moderately successful action movie. Therein lies the problem; whilst the chorus and its shouts of “je” are catchy, the remainder lacks punch. A pop-rock song that lacks punch is more suited to a soundtrack than a competition, and as a result I’m unsure that this will be the winner.

My Rating: 6/10

Janex – “Deluzional”

Probably the most contemporary sound to come out of an Albanian Eurovision selection for a while, this song is very effective when listening on YouTube or if it was to come on the radio. I have fears that, if the selection uses an orchestra again, this song will not be represented well with live instruments. For all of the futuristic and interesting elements in its composition, the build itself is small and then ends abruptly. Being three minutes of a singular vibe can help a song, but in this case, considering Eurovision as a live event, the worries of how it can be represented live may lead to it not being successful.

My Rating: 6/10

Kastro Zizo – “Kujë”

All at once theatrical, classical, rock, and attempting to be modern (but sadly dated in its composition), there is something unpleasant about listening to this song. The vocals sound angry and shouty instead of powerful, and the uneven mix of genres in the musical composition becomes a grating wall of sound. The theatrical elements could have been successful, but the onslaught of music prevents a connection between the listener and the artist. This will have fans, but would be too polarizing to do well in the selection, let alone Eurovision.

My Rating: 3/10

Kejsi Rustja – “Vallëzoj me ty”

This entry has the bones of something good that would get Europe dancing. In its current version, though the beat and music is uplifting and keeps the song moving forward, the vocals are decent but never rising above that, and the song doesn’t break through and reach an explosion at its climax. It could do very well if it gets picked for Eurovision and revamped, but in its current guise, it is an average dance song.

Following the first night of Festivali i Këngës, this entry was eliminated.

My Rating: 6/10

Kelly – “Meteor”

Another song that could be heard on an Albanian film soundtrack, only in this case it would be for a mid 2000s romantic comedy. It is dated in its composition and melody, which is at least memorable, and the song does have a good structure to its verses and chorus. However, being middle-of-the-road and playing safe does not work for the Eurovision Song Contest, and it will not work for this Albanian selection.

My Rating: 5/10

Mirud – “Për dreq”

Two things stand out to me in this entry. Firstly, the composition is contemporary, layered and interesting – that the music, beat and accompanying sounds are ever-changing makes this easy to listen to. Secondly, Mirud’s voice manages to strike cleanly through this interesting music. The only minor comment is that the song is maybe missing that special something in the final third, but this could easily be found live. This has all the ingredients and potential of a terrific live performance.

My Rating: 8/10

Olimpia Smajlaj – “Dua”

In terms of composition, this song is all over the place. There are some Christina Aguilera-like pop swing sections, backed up by Olimpia’s strong vocals; if the song has stuck to this, it may have done well. Instead, the sound and tempo keeps switching – it is almost as though they had samples for three different songs and decided to combine them. As it doesn’t stick to one type of sound, it makes the song very tough to access for listeners and I can imagine it would be very difficult to sing.

My Rating: 4/10

Rezarta Smaja – “E jemja nuse”

Rezarta Smaja is a veteran of Festivali i Këngës, which makes this entry seem slightly underwhelming. The instrumental sections are enjoyable to listen to, especially those which utilise the accordion, and it is these parts which could pop the best live. However, the verses and chorus are not interesting or unique enough to make much of an impact.

My Rating: 5/10

Ronela Hajati – “Sekret”

The production values of this entry is expensive from start to finish. The opening section, featuring both Ronela and her backing singers in an almost chanting fashion, really captures the attention. Though the remainder of the song passes by in a more standard fashion, there is plenty to enjoy here, from the modern yet ethnic beats, to a rap section. My sole main concern with this entry is how well this will translate live, there are several long music-only sections that will depend on how interesting the staging can be, and it could be in trouble if an orchestra is again chosen to play all songs in this selection.

My Rating: 8/10

Sajmir Çili – “Nën maskë”

This is another song which flies under the radar, but in this case because the song is unmemorable, full of lyrics but lacking in musicality or a particular element listeners can grab on to. On the other hand, the vocals are well and should be a classy affair when performed live. Ultimately, for 2021, this is a dated attempt rather than a throwback sound, and is yet another song to have an electric guitar crammed in unnecessarily. I cannot see this doing well sadly.

My Rating: 4/10

Shega – “Një”

This entry is a breezy affair which makes for easy listening – this is encompassed by whistling in the first few bars of the song. You can’t help but sway along to this kind of music, as the flow is done well and the vibes are positive and relaxing throughout. This kind of song, though it will make for great background music, may lack the punch to succeed against 19 other songs in a competition. Nonetheless, this is a sweet and feelgood entry.

My Rating: 7/10

Urban Band – “Padrejtësi”

Albania has done well in the last couple of decades at Eurovision with rock-inspired songs, however this sadly has no hope of following in the footsteps of those acts. For a rock song, this is severely lacking in bite and impact, and the song itself does not really build in its three minutes. Compared to other songs in this competition, this is not on the same level. I will say that it does have some potential to create an atmosphere live, but I do not think this will be enough to go to Eurovision.

My Rating: 4/10

Viola Xhemali – “Eja si erë”

A contemporary and breezy song that seems to go by much quicker than its 3 minute length, this brings positive vibes when listening to this. Viola’s vocals are suitably light and fun, and this could be a nice performance live. However, this type of song is over-populated in the industry, particularly on streaming services, and I don’t believe that this will be remembered too long after listening.

Following the first night of Festivali i Këngës, this entry was eliminated.

My Rating: 6/10

Xhuli Pjetraj – “Baladë”

This is a song with promise that sadly fails to take it to the next level. Xhuli’s vocals are very good, and her voice is clearly the best thing about this package. On the other hand, whilst there are some nice use of string instruments in the music, the song feels like it spends three minutes on the same level, and, for all of the positives, the three minutes feels like five.

Following the first night of Festivali i Këngës, this entry was eliminated.

My Rating: 5/10

Overall, this is a fairly weak National Selection – many songs fall into the same trap of playing too safe. However, there are a couple of songs in this selection that could do well at Eurovision, if revamped and given considerate and effective staging.

We will see who Albania picks to represent them at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 at the final night of Festivali i Këngës on Wednesday the 29th of December. You can follow the show live through RTSH 1’s online broadcast.

Which song is your favourite at Festivali i Këngës 60, and which do you think Albania will choose to select them at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, and if you enjoyed reading this post, please do like, and subscribe to the blog to get notified when new posts are released.

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