Robert Berisha – “Ajo nuk është unë”
This song has some stunning musical moments in it, but doesn’t really work for me as a whole. Whilst the backing singers do a lovely job of introducing the song, creating a mysterious vibe, they take valuable time away for musical development later on. Robert has a lovely voice, but we don’t hear a lot of its range, and it feels a little caged and like he’s holding back. This song’s jewel is its instrumental, which is absolutely gorgeous. The interplay of the ethnic instruments throughout works very well, and the break for the violins- if a little basic melodically- is a nice moment. The key change does seem a little jarring, as there is no lead into it, but the effect of it is wonderful- all of a sudden we have the same sweet chorus, but this time it doesn’t sound mournful, but hopeful. The key change thus serves a purpose, and the effect is wonderful. Nonetheless, the song’s brevity, combined with the long sections of instrumental, prevent any real musical development, and the song seems unresolved and slightly less deep as a result. However, it has some lovely moments, and the chorus is emotive and memorable.
This song has potential, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to it. The introduction suggests that we are in for something epic, and Gena’s husky vocals in the first verse work well to bring us into the mood of the song. The instrumentation is loud and the constant beat keeps the pace moving along, and we think we’re in for something truly amazing. Then the chorus comes in, and we’re left feeling a little underwhelmed. The held ‘oh’ notes are nothing really very special, and they overshadow the rest of the chorus. The use of the folk string instrument is nice, but I can’t help but feel it was only used as filler, and it goes on for a little too long. It would have been nice for it to interplay with the heavier rock instruments, but we don’t get this. The final chorus goes on for far too long, and it’s a bit too same old to really engage me. The verses are strong, but unfortunately, the rest of the song feels a little too dated for me.
I have mixed feelings about this song. When the introduction came in with the beautiful folk instruments, I was ready for a Balkan ballad, and Eli’s vocals- soft and expressive- lead the first verse nicely. The guitar riffs were delicate, the mood was serene, I was waiting for the vocals to build…and then the rapping started. Don’t get me wrong- Stresi sounds nice enough. But I just feel like the rapping is massively out of place in such a traditional, folk song. There’s not even a strong drum beat for him to lock onto- which makes it seem all the more strange in the setting. I do like the chorus, and the motifs we’ve got going on there, but I just feel like the song is trying to mish-mash two genres that just don’t work against each other. It feels a little too restrained on Eli’s part, and lacking in passion on Stresi’s. It’s a shame, because the instrumental is very pretty, and there is real potential for this as a standalone folk ballad.
Now this is a power ballad! Arilena’s voice may not be the most polished tonight, but this means that she conveys so much emotion in her singing, and it’s impossible not to feel the pain in her story. The song builds and builds, and Arilena raises the stakes every time, but the true beauty comes with the instrumental break at the end. After so much vocal build, Arilena lets go and everything is stripped back for the melancholic strings to take centre stage. The energy remains high, and then Arilena starts singing with absolutely everything she has, and it’s impossible not to feel the song’s power deep within. It’s so raw and vulnerable, yet so heartbreakingly beautiful, and this is why it’s so amazing. Bravo, Arilena. This is sensational.
Valon Shehu – “Kutia e Pandorës”
Now this rock song oozes potential! The opening instrumental is discordant, harsh, and dark. It’s daring, and not everyone will like it, but it sets the tone from the get-go- this is Valon’s song, and he’s not going to follow the rules of music. The verses are quite subdued in comparison, but this allows for a build into the chorus. We get build with the instrumental, but we don’t get it vocally as much as we could, and this is my main worry. This is a rock song- it seems too tame. Even in the final minute when the instrumental ramps it up even further, Valon doesn’t sing at all, and the emotion that has been building up to this point is lost. It needs so much more vocal, but the rest of the song is strong. With work, this could be truly epic. But right now, it’s not enough for me.