Festivali i Këngës 58- First 5 Reviews

Tungjatjeta! Happy start of Eurovision Season everyone! The first national final is well and truly underway, and by tomorrow, we will know the first song of ESC 2020. The Albanian selection show began on Thursday night, and the first 10 artists competed.

The reviews will be fairly short, and my initial reaction is what I’m hoping to get across in them. Whichever song wins will be reviewed in much greater detail later on (and potentially other entries if they strike a chord with me) as I reveal my top 41. I have waited to watch the live shows to do my review, and have managed to resist the temptation to listen beforehand. What this means is that these reviews will be 100% authentic based on the very first listen, and that everyone has an equal chance to impress, as I have had no chance to pick favourites just yet. Finally, my top 20 will be revealed after I have watched and reviewed all the songs.

Without further ado, here are the first 5!

Ju flet Tirana- Nadia & Genc Tukiçi

This is a pretty, likeable-enough ballad, but unfortunately it feels a little too dated and doesn’t build enough to move me. The voices are very pretty together- although Nadia wobbled slightly sometimes, her gentle soprano blends beautifully with Genc’s tenor vocals. The instrumentation is absolutely lush with the pianos and strings giving the song a theatrical touch, but the drums cause problems- they lead us to think the song is building up to something which never really comes. It’s a shame, because the song does have a slightly ‘timeless’ feel to it, but something is missing to give the song the power-ballad status it is clearly aiming for. Nonetheless, it is very pretty and with a worked revamp, could be something truly beautiful.

Sara Bajraktari – Ajër

Now this is a song with some potential to do well- the dark intro sets a mysterious tone, and Sara’s haunting vocals convey a sense of mystery and wonder. The moment in the first verse where the strings come in for the held note before suddenly cutting out is magical, and the resulting vulnerability is powerful. The sudden drop to chest voice for the chorus brings strength to the song, and the moment where the backing vocals come in builds the song higher. However, the chorus feels weak against this backdrop, and Sara singing Ajër repeatedly over it in the final moments of the song adds nothing, in my opinion. She has beautiful vocals, and I so wanted a goosebumps moment at the end, but felt that the song fizzled out and left me feeling that something was missing. Nonetheless, with work, this could be something truly spectacular- it’s just the end that needs fixed and this could be a masterpiece of a ballad.

Devis Xherahu – Bisedoj me serenatën

When watching this, two words came to mind: BALKAN. BALLAD. I won’t pretend that this isn’t my favourite genre in Eurovision- I found this song truly magical. It was nostalgic, ethnic, emotive, and hauntingly beautiful. The guitar riffs throughout are a constant reminder of this song’s ethnic roots, and the interloping with the piano throughout the piece adds a level of sophistication, while the strings bring wonder whenever they come in. I have no idea what Devis is singing about, but the angst in his voice is truly palpable, and the simplicity of the vocals centres our focus on the gorgeous instrumentation. The key change allows build, and the final part of the song with just the simple ‘la’ as the lyrics brings the song home, as Devis exudes vulnerability and lets the instrumentation take the helm. While it may not win over the masses at Eurovision, this is truly beautiful. I didn’t have a goosebumps moment, but I was overcome by the authenticity of this little folk song. It’s stunning. I just worry about the fact that over a minute will have to be cut if this song wins, but that is a concern for later on.

Kanita – Ankth

I think it’s fair to say that so far, Kanita has the strongest vocals. Her voice is spellbinding, but also so raw and so weighted with emotion, it is impossible not to be moved by her singing. This song’s chorus is memorable and immensely powerful, but I worry that overall the song seems a little too shouty. After the second chorus, we’ve peaked, and there is no real bridge, just a moment of silence (albeit a very effective moment) before the chorus is repeated once again. The instrumentation gives the song a Disney princess-esque feel, which is offset by the rawness of the vocals, but the song needs some more quiet to make the loud work. It is stunning, and powerful, but it needs some more depth from somewhere. Nonetheless, this performance was spectacular.

Kamela Islamaj – Më ngjyros

This song is sassy and sultry, and could be the theme for a Bond movie any day. The instrumentation seems very Adele, but Kamela’s vocals make the song her own, and add an unexpected jazz feel in the chorus. Her vocal control is astounding, but I feel like she’s holding back sometimes. She often makes like she’s about to hit an amazing high note but instead backs down and avoids it. Furthermore, there is the worry that the song sounds too much like songs before it to seem truly original- the bridge into the final chorus avoids this somewhat, but more is needed to make it seem truly original. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful number that stands out from the rest, and has the potential to be truly epic.

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