The Wiwi Jury reveals their favourites in Albania’s Festivali i Këngës 56

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On Thursday, the 2018 Eurovision national final season kicks off with the first semi-final of Albania‘s Festivali i Këngës 56, leading to the grand final on Saturday. And that can mean only one thing: it’s time for the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals — to go to work!

This year, we’re doipng things a little differently with the FiK 56 jury. The songs were only released two weeks ago and there are 22 songs competing. Sadly, that wouldn’t give us enough time to listen to and review all 22 songs to the usual Wiwi Jury standard (we have day jobs, y’all!).

Instead, our 13 jury members have listened to all the songs but are just listing their personal top-five favourites along with a review of their absolute FiK favourite. So, which were the songs we’d like to see at Eurovision? Read on to find out!

Chris

1. Mariza Ikonomi – “Unë”

Whilst the Albanian female ballad is a trope that has been well played out in recent years, Mariza brings something new. The piano is a nice touch and Mariza avoids some of the overtly diva-esque notes that we saw in 2017. There’s a lot of good decisions made with “Unë”, which puts it just ahead of a fairly strong top group of songs.

2. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”
3. Inis Neiziri – “Piedestal”
4. Lynx – “Vonë”
5. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

Edd

1. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

This entry stands miles above the rest. Whilst the “French librarian has her first clubbing experience” look doesn’t quite work with drum and bass, there is great potential. With powerful backing vocals to lift the chorus and some epic staging, this could be Eurovision gold. The song could easily be a Rita Ora UK No.1, and Albania would be absolutely crazy to throw it away for yet another dated ballad. I just hope the live orchestra doesn’t kill it.

2. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
3. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”
4. Tiri – “Orë e ndaluar”
5. NA & Festina Mezini – “Tjetër jetë”

William

1. NA & Festina Mezini – “Tjetër jetë”

In a competition known for divas shrieking in pain, this pair takes a step back and turn down the volume. She sounds like a smouldering angel, he like an indie folk star. Together they set my heart alight and make me see unicorns running through fields of gold. A simple, feel-good song with an anthemic chorus, it comes with toe-tapping production that’s part rainforest, part tribal gathering and totally infectious. It’s not likely to win, but it deserves to be the next charity single for an Albanian NGO. It’s nothing but love from me.

2. Bojken Lako – “Sytë e shpirtit”
3. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”
4. LYNX – “Vonë”
5. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”

Erdi

1. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

“Mall” is so different, something that we haven’t heard in the festival. Eugent’s voice is no doubt the best Albanian male vocal here. Its melody soars between the Nordics and the Balkans, the best of both worlds. The only bad thing — the FiK version is over four minutes, which could mean a difficult Eurovision edit. But as it is, “Mall” is all but ready to hit the Eurovision stage.

2. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”
3. Mariza Ikonomi – “Unë”
4. Artemisa Mithi – “E dua botën”
5. Manjola Nallbani – “I njëjti qiell”

Robyn

1. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

FiK 56 is dominated by older male performers, which just makes the few solo female acts stand out. Orgesa brings a cool beatnik image but delivers a slick pop track with drum and bass styles. It wouldn’t even need the traditional FiK translation — the song is catchy enough that it holds up with the Albanian lyrics. But ultimately, it’s the only song in Fik 56 that I want to hear again.

2. LYNX – “Vonë”
3. Tiri – “Orë e ndaluar”
4. AkullThyesit – “Divorci”
5. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

Jonathan

1. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

Most of the FiK56 acts are far removed from contemporary, upbeat music, but then along comes Orgesa. “Ngrije zërin” is a clear stand-out track. It could easily be heard on European radio stations, and it’s telling that Orgesa is a radio presenter herself. The music video suggests Orgesa possesses the bundles of attitude this song needs to work live. Having been to Eurovision 2009 as Kejsi Tola’s backing vocalist, performing on a big stage should be no problem for her.

2. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”
3. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
4. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”
5. Lorela Sejdini – “Pritëm edhe pak”

Cinan

1. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”

“Piedestal” is one of the best FiK songs ever! It’s not a typical ballad. “Piedestal” is absolutely memorable, which is important to stand out at Eurovision. It is easy to imagine Inis performing her song on the stage in Lisbon, filling the arena with that powerful voice. Best of all, “Piedestal” has sections that trigger goosebumps — love when that happens! Slay them, honey!

2. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”
3. Luiz Ejlli & Rezarta Smaja – “Ra një yll”
4. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
5. Mariza Ikonomi – “Unë”

Antranig

1. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

Naturally, my favourite FiK entry is the one that sounds the least like a FiK entry. “Ngrije zërin” sounds like a song that you might expect to hear from Norway or Sweden but certainly not Albania. It has the production value, a very catchy hook and a great beat. Albania has the ingredients for success with Orgesa Zaimi and she could definitely get them back to the Eurovision Grand Final.

2. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”
3. Lorela Sejdini – “Pritëm edhe pak”
4. Manjola Nallbani – “I njëjti qiell”
5. LYNX – “Vonë”

Sebastian

1. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

The days of solo female power ballads from Albania is over — rock is in the house! “Mall” transforms the tired old soft rock style often wheeled out in Festivali i Këngës into something powerful and anthemic. Passionately delivered by Eugent Bushpepa, “Mall” is a definite grower and a true standout this year amongst old rockers and diva powerhouses.

2. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”
3. Manjola Nallbani – “I njëjti qiell”
4. Denisa Gjezo – “Zemër ku je”
5. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”

Marek

1. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

In recent years, Albania has revamped slay-worthy Albanian-language ballads and turned them into cheap English-language pop. But now they have a song that will actually work as English pop. “Ngrije zërin” is a wonderful humpy dumpy song that could easily be switched to English and sound just as good as the original Albanian. I know I’m treating Orgesa like a winner but let’s be honest, she is. Congratulations!

2. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”
3. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”/Tiri – “Orë e ndaluar”
4. Lorela Sejdini – “Pritëm edhe pak”
5. Ergi Bregu – “Bum bum”

Jovana

1. Ergi Bregu – “Bum bum”

There’s something about “Bum bum” that’s strangely captivating. Is it the catchy rhythm? Is it the ’90s vibe that grooves with nostalgia? Or is it Ergi’s sweet yet powerful vocals? Quite possibly it’s the combination of all of that. Good luck, Ergi! I hope you make Lisbon go bum-bum!

2. Lorela Sejdini – “Pritëm edhe pak”
3. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
4. Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”
5. NA & Festina Mezini – “Tjetër jetë”

Luis

1.  Orgesa Zaimi – “Ngrije zërin”

This woman knows she’s got a great song and you can tell by her attitude. “Ngrije zërin” is catchy, memorable and uplifting, and Orgesa garnishes it with power and self-confidence. It is, by far, the most contemporary entry in FiK 56 and it’s one of the very few songs that is “Eurovision aware”. In the sea of screaming women, which the Eurovision semifinals have become lately, a random balladeer won’t survive. But Amélie Poulain’s dark sister might do it.

2. LYNX – “Vonë”
3. Bojken Lako – “Sytë ë shpirtit”
4. Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
5. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”

Deban

1. Manjola Nallbani – “I njëjti qiell”

Manjola Nalbani serves drama at the right temperature and works the wind machine like no other act. Her divalicious personality is EVERYTHING, yet she isn’t relying on this asset alone. “I njëjti qiell” as an entry is dynamite! A pop-opera tune with Eurodance stripes. Although it’s in Albanian, it resounds beyond Tirana.

2 .NA & Festina Mezini – “Tjetër jetë”
3. Genc & David Tukiçi – “Të pandarë”
4. Xhesika Polo – “Përjetë”
5. Inis Neziri – “Piedestal”

What are your favourite FiK 56 songs? Who do you think should represent Albania at Eurovision? Share your thoughts below!

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