Albania are a nation that are hit or miss when it comes to Eurovision and for each successful entry, there seems to be two unsuccessful entries. Last year the nation returned to a national language entry for the first time since 2013, and with Eugent Bushpepa belting out his song Mall flawlessly, it was gratifying to see Albania finish in the top half of the table. This year we are also getting an Albanian language song, this time it will be Jonida Maliqi representing the nation with the song Ktheju tokës but will it reach the heights of last year’s entry?
Song + Vocals
With Eugent Bushpepa and his song Mall being one of my favourite Albanian entries in their Eurovision history, it was going to be a difficult task to try top that. Through their traditional national final format, Jonida Maliqi arose as the winner of the competition with her ethno inspired ballad, Ktheju tokës which she has chosen to keep in Albania – good move.
If I remember correctly, this was the first Eurovision 2019 song to actually be chosen and/or released, and from early on, it gained a lot of support among Eurovision fans, and still does have a dedicated group of fans who back this entry. I can confirm that I am not a part of this support group as this song still leaves me underwhelmed.
Looking back over Albania’s history at Eurovision, it’s very clear to see that the nation has such talented and strong vocalists. We have seen some big vocals at Eurovision from Albania, and even if the songs weren’t all that great, the artists always seem to sell the songs based on how impressive their vocals are, and this year I would argue is much the same. Jonida is a very talented vocalist who can definitely belt out a note or two, but there’s something about this song that stops me from connecting, but it’s not the language.
I’m all for an ethno ballad, and I think the message behind this song is moving but no matter how much I listen to this song, I can’t quite seem to get on board. I will say that I had the same feeling last year with Mall, but eventually it clicked and suddenly it was one of my favourite entries, but this year it just hasn’t clicked yet. I think it could come down to the melody which I find forgettable and hard to follow in both the verses and choruses. It could also come down to her tone of voice which I think is unique, but at times can be off-putting.
Act + Performance
When it comes to staging, Albania need to get this right in order to give themselves a chance of qualifying this year. Looking back at the national final, nothing seemed to match. You have a song with a serious message featuring neon style backing lights with Jonida in a sparkly dress. There was just no cohesion at all, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be the first time that Albania don’t quite grasp the importance of staging at Eurovision.
If we look at the music video for this song however, you can see that there’s a totally different feel to the song based on the visuals. It comes across as a bit more humble and moving, and you can feel more of the emotion. If they can capture that feeling and put it into the stage performance without creating too much stage clutter (i.e. props, people on stage etc) it has the potential to come across well for the television viewers.
There are so many factors in this that could make or break Albania’s chances of qualifying. Jonida has a strong voice, but I don’t know that it will appeal to everyone, and the same can certainly be said about the song. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but with a strong staging this could stand out, especially later in the running order. That said, staging is always a mystery with Albania and you never know what you will get – think about Suus, a big song but a Barbara Dex winning outfit. I don’t currently have this in my list of qualifiers, but will wait to see how this comes across on stage.