This week, Albania kicked off the national final season with Festivali i Këngës 58. And with that, we have the first entry for Rotterdam. Arilena ara won the national final and will head to Rotterdam in May with her song “Shaj”.
The “Shaj” performance was followed by the audience enthusiastically chanting the star’s name, showing that it was one of the strongest performances in an already strong year.
Arilena got her start by winning the X Factor Albania in 2012. She has since gone on to establish herself as one of Albania’s leading music stars.
Second place went to Elvana Gjata, who had been a hot favourite to win the contest with her song “Me tana”. Third place went to Sara Bajraktari with her song “Ajër”.
The 12 competing acts performed their entries live, accompanied by the RTSH Symphony Orchestra. The finalists were assessed and voted on by an expert jury consisting of Greek Eurovision songwriter Dimitris Kontopoulos, Melodifestivalen producer Christer Björkman and Iceland’s Eurovision Head of Delegation Felix Bergsson, along with two Albanian jurors, ethnomusicologist Mikaela Minga and writer Pita Petro.
The Albanian-born Greek singer Eleni Foureira took to the FiK stage for a mid-show performance. She performed her singles “El ritmo psicodélico” and “Tómame”, reprised her Eurovision 2019 interval act over of “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” as well as a medley of “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”, “What is Love” and of course her Eurovision hit “Fuego”.
Sanremo star Giusy Ferreri also made an appearance during the interval act. She performed her new single, “Momenti perfetti”, her breakthrough hit “Non ti scordar mai di me” and a medley of her hits “Novembre”, “Roma-Bangkok”, “Amore e capoeira” and “Jambo”.
Also performing was Albanian musical legend Ema Qazimi, the winner of Festivali i Këngës 20, back in 1981.
The Festivali i Këngës version of “Shaj” is under three minutes, meaning it won’t need to be cut down for Eurovision. However, it is not known if any other changes will be made to the song ahead of Rotterdam.
Albania is known for Eurovision revamps of their FiK winners. While in the past, some songs have been given English lyrics and a different sound, the recent Eurovision success of “Mall” and “Ktheju tokës” has proved that what works at the national final can also work at Eurovision.
Festivali i Këngës 58 – grand final running order
- Valon Shehu – “Kutia e Pandorës”
- Sara Bajraktari – “Ajër” (third place)
- Robert Berisha – “Ajo nuk është unë”
- Tiri Gjoci – “Me gotën bosh”
- Bojken Lako – “Malaseen”
- Arilena Ara – “Shaj” (winner)
- Gena – “Shqiponja e lirë”
- Kamela Islamaj – “Më ngjyros”
- Albërie Hadërgjonaj – “Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua”
- Elvana Gjata – “Me tana” (second place)
- Olta Boka – “Botë për dy”
- Era Rusi – “Eja merre”
What do you think? Does Arilena have what it takes to give Albania its first Eurovision win? Tell us your thoughts below!