Arilena Ara was due to represent Albania at the 2020 Eurovision song contest in Rotterdam with her song “Fall From The Sky”.
Arilena won the 58th edition of Festivali i Këngës, thereby earning the right to represent Albania at Eurovision. She beat out twenty other contenders to win the Albanian music contest with her big dramatic ballad “Shaj”. The song was revamped and translated to English — a strategy that Albania has done in the past to mixed results. This year, the revamp of the newly-named “Fall From The Sky” was well-received.
With model looks and a massive voice, Arilena definitely has a lot to offer. We’ve compiled 10 facts you need to know about Arilena Ara. Let’s do this!
Albania at Eurovision 2020: Facts about Arilena Ara
1. She hails from Shkodër
Arilena Ara was born in the northern Albanian city of Shkodër. It is the country’s fourth-most populous city and one of the most ancient urban settlements in the Balkans. The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and the city itself has been documented since the fourth century BC. It’s known as a kind-of cultural hub of the country, being situated close to the former Yugoslav countries and having a mixture of music from rural and urban Albania. Arilena Ara is part of a long list of famous musicians from the city.
2. She’s competed in music competitions from a very young age
As a young girl, Arilena became very interested in singing. Despite her family not being especially wealthy, they developed her talent and enrolled her in a music school when she was six. Soon, Arilena was competing in all kinds of competitions. Aged twelve, she was a finalist on the third edition of Gjeniu i Vogël (Little Genius) in 2010. She ultimately finished third and gained some much-needed experience for what was to come.
3. She won The X Factor when she was only 14
Just two years later, aged only 14, Arilena auditioned for the second series of The X Factor Albania. She sang Ana Johnsson’s “We Are” in the audition and earned a wildcard spot in the “girls” category. Mentored by Tuna, Arilena survived sixteen weeks without ever landing in the bottom two. In the final, she performed a memorable mashup of Rihanna’s “Man Down” and “S&M” with her mentor. Ultimately, she won, defeating Aldo Bardhi, and dedicated her win to her late father. She vowed to refute the idea that winners of talent contests are destined for mediocrity.
4. She developed a musical partnership with Darko Dimitrov
Arilena’s first single “Aeroplan” was released in September 2014, a year after her X Factor win. It was produced by famous North Macedonian music producer Darko Dimitrov. As well as producing hits for many artists, he’s also the brains behind a lot of Eurovision songs, including Tamara Todevska’s “Proud”. To date, “Aeroplan” has well over three million views on YouTube. Arilena followed this up with “Business Class” and “Vegim”, which was written about her late father.
5. She won an award for Best Ballad at the Kënga Magjike Festival
In late 2016, Arilena released “Nëntori” (November), the song that would go on to become one of her biggest hits. It was written by Lindon Berisha and produced by Darko Dimitrov. Soon after she revealed that she would enter it in the 18th edition of Kënga Magjike. She qualified for the grand final, finishing third in a field of 21. Despite missing out on the main prize, Arilena took home the award for the Best Ballad. But the single’s success didn’t end there.
6. She’s enjoyed success across Europe
“Nëntori” was a massive launchpad for Arilena. It was translated into English as “I’m Sorry”, and promoted all throughout Eastern Europe. She performed on The Voice of Romania and at Russia’s Europa Plus festival alongside Bebe Rexha and Era Istrefi. She also won Best Song of the Year at Astana Dauysy in Kazakhstan. Overall, the song has accumulated over 154 million views on YouTube. And this was all before Ara reached the age of 20. Also, we’d like to point out the outfit she wore at Europa Plus — OMG.
7. She mentored young Albanian stars on The Voice Kids
In December 2018, it was announced that Arilena would replace Eneda Tarifa as a coach on The Voice Kids Albania. She joined Miriam Cani and Aleksander & Renis Gjoka. She was the first former TV talent show winner to become a judge on another talent show in Albania. She was actually asked in 2017, but professional engagements and concerts meant she couldn’t take up the offer. In 2018, she decided to cancel those. She saw it as a way of honouring her own talent show roots.
8. She defeated Albania’s biggest homegrown popstar at Festivali i Këngës
Despite her clear success and popularity, Arilena faced some fierce competition at Festivali i Këngës. This was mainly due to the participation of the much more experienced star Elvana Gjata. Elvana’s fiery “Me Tana” was extremely well-received. The three international jurors all gave it top marks. However, the two Albanian jurors – Mikaela Minga and Rita Petro – ranked Arilena high and Elvana incredibly low.
This was a source of much consternation in the Eurosphere. Even the host Alketa Vejsiu was left “speechless” at Mikaela Minga’s mere two points to Elvana. However, the results were final, and Arilena was the clear winner. Elvana herself made a statement which expressed disappointment at the low points she received from the Albanian jurors, but love and support for Arilena.
9. She’s a Michael Jackson fan
Arilena cites Michael Jackson as her main musical and artistic inspiration. While visiting America earlier in 2020, she posed for a photo next to the famous singer’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She used the caption “My forever inspiration”. She also posted a photo of him on 30 August – what would be his birthday – to honour the legacy of the performer.
My forever Inspiration! M.J pic.twitter.com/Nozi4isy3U
— Arilena Ara (@Arilena_Ara) February 25, 2020
10. She can’t wait for Christmas
Having gone through her social media in research for this article, we have to say – she’s frickin’ adorable. And there’s nothing more adorable than someone in November who can’t even wait until December to set up their Christmas tree. Something this writer can truly relate to!
?I couldn’t wait any longer.. Christmas is hereeee!
My Favorite time of Year???? pic.twitter.com/NLuMm1XnZm
— Arilena Ara (@Arilena_Ara) November 21, 2019
Eurovision 2021 update
Will we see Arilena represent Albania at Eurovision in 2021? As of 30 March, we don’t know.
Festivali i Këngës is massively popular in Albania and has been a big part of the music scene since well before Albania made its debut in 2004. Since then, it has been the selection for Eurovision every year. If this trend continues, then the Albanian representative will have to win the contest this December and Arilena won’t be automatically selected. However, given this is very much uncharted waters, we can’t be certain without a confirmation from RTSH.
Would you like to see Arilena perform at Eurovision next year? What is your favourite song from the Albanian star? Let us know below!