A last trip to the Balkans (if you exclude Greece), and it’s Albania that come up trumps in my rankings. Their song in 2018 was one that grew on me in the weeks after it won the Albanian national final, eventually reaching top 20 in my own rankings, and it’s been the same this year. Albania achieved their third best result to date in the contest in 2018, can Jonida Maliqi repeat that success?
Jonida certainly seems well placed to do it. She’s very well known in the Albanian speaking world, and as well as being a singer, has been a TV host, performed in musical theatre, engaged in philanthropy and recognised as a style icon. She won the 57th edition of Festivali i Këngës, Albania’s annual song contest that since 2003 has been used to select the Albanian entry for Eurovision.
Now last year’s Albanian entry was a welcome break from previous years – a male rock pop solo from Eugent Bushpepa with truly soaring vocals that deservedly did well at the contest. I was concerned they had returned to their usual female solo with massive wall-of-sound vocals in a mediocre song but I was wrong – this is much more impressive. Her vocals are great of course, but it’s their haunting and emotional nature that make them stand out – and befitting given that the song (in English: “Return to the land”) is on the subject of Albanian emigration and the Kosovo War. I really love the Albanian folk instrumentation in this song too that really seems to drive this forward.
It’s in the (arguably) tougher semi-final, placed in what would usually be a reasonably good place in running order but it is surrounded by big beasts/favourites. I’d like to think though that juries will appreciate this an that it gets enough of a televote from both an audience who could respect this, plus the Albanian diaspora (such as Macedonia and Switzerland who both vote in this semi). It certainly deserves a place in the final and I have a feeling the staging will be both impressive an really connect and tell the story of the song.
Official music video:
Live at London Eurovision Party:
My preview video:
Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest
First entered: 2004
Appearances (excluding this year): 15
Best result: 5th in 2012
Last year’s result: 11th