Wiwibloggs continues our series looking at the countries currently competing in the Eurovision Song Contest and the reasons why we love them. Albania has graced the Eurovision stage on 15 occasions since their debut back in 2004. A country of contrasts, the land of the eagles has reached the heights and hit the lows.
They’ve mastered the art of getting the attention by (usually) being the first country to select their participant, and then being among the last to present the final version of their entry which may sound like a completely new song. Today, we give you 10 reasons to love Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest.
1. Festivali i Këngës
The one and only. Festivali i Këngës is Albania’s longest running music festival, predating the country’s participation at Eurovision by four decades. But ever since Albania’s debut at Eurovision, the festival has served as their selection as well. Albania’s Christmas gift for Europe is three or four shows packed with classic ballads, rock power and several bops a year. It’s usually the first selection of the year, and Eurovision fans crave for FiK to begin: it means the game is on.
2. They can hold the long notes
As Eugent Bushpepa proved this year, if there’s something Albanians don’t run short of, it’s vocal power. Usually. In fact, Albania has an impressive record: two of their Eurovision entrants held notes longer than 10 seconds: Rona Nishliu in 2012, and Lindita in 2017, who set the all-time record for the longest note at Eurovision: 20 seconds. Those lungs could inflate a hot air balloon!
3. Their selection process brings double excitement
Albanians know how to keep the buzz about their entry. For one, their song is the first one to be chosen most years. But then, three months later, BOOM! They bring their revamp. Some years there’s not much difference, like in 2013; other years it’s a very wise move, such as 2009, 2010 or 2015… and then there’s 2014 and 2016. Let’s just say those experiments didn’t live up to Hersi and Eneda‘s skills.
4. Their music videos are the most diverse thing ever
Albanian videos are hit or miss. Sometimes, they bring little pieces of audiovisual art, like in 2010, 2012, 2015 or 2018 to name a few; other years their videos are so crappy you have to love them. I’m looking at you, Aurela Gace. Remember those five flying Aurelas dressed like eagles? And what about Kejsi Tola dancing on a ’90s chroma? Or maybe the pink folds of Eneda‘s cape looking very feminine?
5. They give their singers extreme makeovers
It’s obvious that Festivali i Këngës is not a fashion show, but listen, most of the times the outfits are a bit too much. Which is weird because at Eurovision, the Albanian acts are usually on point in terms of clothing (let’s leave Elhaida’s dress for the Eurovision final out in this statement, shall we?) This creates WTF comparisons, for example, Olta Boka‘s radical change.
…or Juliana Pasha‘s. Yes, that’s the same person in both photos. And the left one was taken before the right one.
6. They’re not afraid to be authentic
Albania has displayed their rich heritage many times at Eurovision — they even sent a song called “Identitet”! We saw Albanian folk music in 2006 with Luiz Ejlli and at least some hints of it on their 2005
hot mess performance. We’ve seen many eagles, and even Hersi proudly had her country’s two-headed eagle ‘tattooed’ on her back.
7. Their backing vocalists and dancers also have their moments
Even though Albania has never sent a group to Eurovision, only one of their entrants — Rona Nishliu — has been alone on stage. To garnish their performances, Albanians have done absolutely everything: from a group of dancing accountants providing the backing vocals for Anjeza Shahini, to whatever it was that Ledina Celo‘s troupe was doing behind her. We’ve had dramatic guitar and violin solos, intense hand choreography, and the sassiest backing vocalists ever: Juliana Pasha‘s trio in 2010. They deserve their own show.
8. Guitar solos
If Albania is known for something, it is for their love of guitar solos. Year after year, we’re delighted with almost 20 FiK entries, out of which at least 15 contain a classic rock guitar solo. Some years, one of them even reaches Eurovision, and it gives glorious moments like Identitet’s pyro-guitar solo!
9. Rona Nishliu
Let’s be honest: most of the countries would not dare to send “Suus” to Eurovision. But Albania did it: they gave us a modern classic. And we gave them their best result ever and their first Barbara Dex Award. Më ler ni te qaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaj.
10. Kejsi Tola’s weird and wonderful staging
In 2009 Moldova went for a traditional folk style and so abandoned their status of having the craziest stagings at Eurovision. So Albania came by and said, “hold my beer”. They decided to send 16-year-old Kejsi Tola on a fantastical journey joined by twin elves and a man disguised as a turquoise disco ball. What a glorious three minutes of television.
Bonus fact! Albania has never sent a group to Eurovision
Albanians have done Eurovision solo or in a duo, but the land of the eagles has never taken a group to the Eurovision stage. Despite regularly having bands like Na or LYNX at their national final, the Albanian jury has never picked any of those. Will it be time for a group in 2019?