I can imagine last year’s contestant, Ronela, feeling a little embittered about Eurovision this year – she missed out on representing San Marino this year (having reached their final selection) and also, had the semi-finals last year been televote only, she would have made the final instead of finishing 12th. But it’s Kosovan-Albanian Albina that will get the chance to make the final in 2023, along with her family, the Familja Kelmendi and their song “Duje”.
Albania’s national final, Festivali i Këngës, is actually a long-running music festival that long pre-dates Albania’s first entry to Eurovision, but has been used as the vehicle to select their entry. For the first time though, the Eurovision entry was directly voted for by the public, separate to the main festival vote which remains in the hands of a jury. So Albina has the Albanian public vote behind her, something she has had experience of, having finished as runner up in the 2014 edition of The Voice of Albania when she was just 16.
“Duje” is in some ways a classic example of the Albanian folk pop ballad, something I’ve often liked. Albanian vocalists seem to be invariably extremely strong, and I think that holds for Albina as well. It’s not a happy song by any means, given it seems to be about a family falling apart – though perhaps a little incongruously she is joined on stage by her family. I’m just not connecting to this song though, the melancholic folk wail (I don’t mean that as an insult) isn’t doing it for me this time. I also recall it was a bit of a mess on stage – though that of course could well be long gone by the time we get to the Liverpool stage.
Contrary to what you might expect, Albania does not get a big diaspora vote (last year’s top 10 in the semi-final televote was because it was female uptempo ethno banger) so qualifying is not going to be a straightforward ask. Greece is about the only reliable diaspora-vote provider from Albania’s fellow semi-finalists, though I’m expecting some votes to come from the UK as the Albanian diaspora has grown a lot since the pandemic/Brexit in the UK. At the moment, neither the betting nor the scoreboard app suggests Albina and her family will make the final. Maybe some dramatic and memorable staging could assist – though her family members are not, at least so far, naturals on the stage…
Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest
First entered: 2004
Appearances (excluding this year): 18
Best result: 5th in 2012
Last year’s result: 12th in semi-final (did not qualify)