Albania traditionally open the national final season with their extremely long running song festival, Festivali i Këngës, modelled on Italy’s Sanremo, and similarly used as the selection method for their entry for Eurovision. The winning song often doesn’t stay intact and by the time it reaches Eurovision it can have undergone significant revamps (as well as a change of language). Known among the fandom as Fikmas, due to the proximity to Christmas, the selection consists of two semi-finals (on 21 and 22 December) and the final on 23 December.
Covid means that some changes are in place – apparently the show will be taking place outdoors (!) – one hopes they’ve got some decent outdoor heating. In addition, for the first time in the contest’s history, there will be no live orchestra. 26 acts and their songs were revealed though one artist has withdrawn. It’s a lof of songs to preview just from studio/demo versions so I would take my own preview here as just a little flavour rather than a prediction!
The (possible fan) favourite
The name that stands out most from the long list of artists is Era Rusi, a 35 year old singer and veteran of several FiK contests, including as runner up in 2006. She’s back with a bit of a fierce ethnobanger (which obviously means I like it!). These sort of songs don’t always get the votes in the FiK though so don’t count on this being the favourite.
The female solo big ballad
Albania has a tradition of sending female solo big ballads, often with very long soaring notes and powerful vocals, and this year, I think it is Inis Neziri with Pendesë that fits that bill the best. It’s got the most views on the broadcaster’s YouTube channel in advance of the contest, so I think this has got to be in with a shout of winning – and would fit very well with the type of entries Albania usually sends.
A (rare) male (fairly) uptempo entry
Albania rarely goes for a male solo entry (though Eugent Bushpepa in 2018 is my favourite Albanian entry to date) and I quite liked the sound of this one – it’s a male singer, fairly uptempo and uses a lot of ethnic sounds in – I think it might need a little more oomph but perhaps that will come in the live version. It’s one of the most viewed of the entries on YouTube so perhaps that bodes well. Sadly Mirud has faced a lot of homophobic attacks in the days running up to the contest – it would pretty special if Albania could send an openly LGBT singer to Eurovision though.
I hope I haven’t cursed these three and that they do navigate through the semi-finals to the final on Wednesday 23 December. From what I have heard, I wouldn’t be unhappy if one of these three were to win and go to Rotterdam in May.
Interested in previous Albanian entries? Take a look at my top 5 Eurovision songs from Albania.