The advantage of being first in the (Eurovision) alphabet is that Albania was both my first top 5 written, and it is also the first of my top 5s to get an update. A beautiful but relatively unknown (as yet) to tourists, their Eurovision history is perhaps a little less beautiful, though they are still one of the newer countries to the contest (having only entered in 2004).
I originally put together this top 5 back in January 2017 and at that moment they had just chosen a similar artist and song to their previous three years – solo female singing mid tempo ballad, none of which were inspiring, and none and made his list. 2018’s entry though proved a very welcome break from this recent trend and you’ll soon see exactly what I thought of it…
5. Luiz Ejlli “Zjarr E Ftohtë” (2006, 14th place in semi-final, 58 points)
A full blast of ethnopop and traditional instruments and sung in Albanian – makes for a classic Eurovision combination. Uniquely amongst Albanian entries, it’s sung by a cute guy! Didn’t perform so well but this was in the days of a single mega semi-final so wasn’t as far from the cut as it might appear.
4. Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko “Identitet” (2013, 15th in semi-final, 31 points)
Something a bit different now – a rock-y number that has a distinct Balkan sound. I can imagine this blasting out from a car stereo while driving through the twisting roads of Albania’s stunning mountain scenery.
3. Ledina Çelo “Tomorrow I Go” (2005, 16th place, 53 points)
Classic Eurovision! Not exactly original maybe, but I enjoy this one a lot. Sounds similar to Greek entries of the time (not surprising given Albania are close to Greece both geographically and culturally).
2. Kejsi Tola “Carry Me In Your Dreams” (2009, 17th place, 48 points)
Another classic Eurovision sounding song but it’s catchy, big chorus, uptempo, it’s got some ethnopop elements in it, and most of all it has a dancer wearing a glittery green cloth gimp mask….
1. Eugent Bushpepa “Mall” (2018, 11th place, 184 points)
Going straight in as my new favourite Albanian Eurovision entry is 2018’s entry – and what a singer he is! Initially I didn’t pay much attention to this when it won the Albanian national final at the start of the national final season but it certainly grew on me, especially when I saw live performances in the run up to Eurovision. By the time I saw Eugent’s amazing performances live for myself at Eurovision itself in Lisbon, this had worked its way into being one of my overall 2018 favourites and easily my favourite Albanian entry.
So what did you think? Enough gems there from a limited choice or did I miss out on any? Did I get it right with my update? And yes, I know “Suus” still isn’t in here (Albania’s best performing song, finishing 5th in 2012) but I value my eardrums and anything made of glass in my flat…