01 January 2019

2019: Albania | Jonida Maliqi | Ktheju Tokës

Eurovision Albania: Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës
Jonida Maliqi to represent Albania in Tel Aviv

The Eurovision season has officially kicked off with Albania providing the first of the competition's 42 entries for 2019 courtesy of the country's annual songfest, Festivali i Këngës.

FiK saw some changes to its evergreen setup this year with the lucky semi-finalists presenting their songs on the second night in a more Eurovision-friendly format, having otherwise performed with the traditional orchestra.

For a nation with a rather modest Eurovision track record, Albania has had an admirable run of dynamic songs - albeit voters do not consistently rate them. Whether this year's winner will find favour is up for debate but Jonida Maliqi will take her entry Ktheju Tokës to Israel with high hopes.

Flag Albania
Jonida is something of a FiK pro, having taken part in the festival at an early age on several occasions during the 1990s. Her previous best result came in 1999, placing second with Do jetoj pa ty (I'll Live Without You). Her influences seem to be folk-inspired pop, though with ethnic flourishes and the usual wailing over a prominent back beat.

In some ways, Albania feels as if it has taken a step backwards with this entry. After the more contemporary rock offering from Eugent Bushpepa earlier in the year, the nation has reverted to type by delivering yet another anguished solo female singer as its representative.

That's not to say that all is grim in the Albanian camp. Jonida has an obviously imposing stage presence - particularly in the presentation of this song - along with an impressive vocal ability.

The problem is that Ktheju Tokës is unlikely to have wide appeal outside of its target audience i.e. the Balkan region. It is reported that the song will not be given an English makeover (good thing), so the impact of its lyrical content about emigration and the difficulties with leaving one's homeland will presumably be lost to most listeners. 

It remains to be seen whether Ktheju Tokës will receive a (usual) revamp into a more accessible arrangement for Eurovision. Whatever happens, Jonida will have to rely on the strength of the melody - as well as the staging which looks to be based on a contemporary dance routine. For me, there's just a little too much angst and howling in its present form.

Consequently, its capacity for success is difficult to really judge – it is early days and the song could well sound somewhat different by the time it reaches Tel Aviv. While it’s a provocative composition, I suspect it does not possess that killer hook to attract a broad spectrum of voters. However, it will surely stand out against the host of dance tunes and more predictable ballads contending for the title in May.

As much as it would be great to see Albania win the crown at some point, my hunch is that 2019 is unlikely to be their year.

Can Albania qualify again?

Artist: Jonida Maliqi
Song:  Ktheju Tokës
Semi-Final: TBA

20 May 2018

Eurovision 1980: And The UK's 12 Points Go to...Ireland!

Johnny Logan wins Eurovision 1980
Johnny Logan celebrates his 1980 Eurovision win

Single -  What's Another Year / Johnny Logan
Single: Johnny Logan - What's Anther Year?
Having won the Contest in 1979, it was expected that Israel would host Eurovision in 1980. However, the cost of hosting two consecutive major productions proved prohibitive for the Israelis who eventually passed the baton to the Dutch; the Spanish and the British reportedly having already refused to do the honours.

So, the Contest returned to the Nederlands Congresgebouw (now the World Forum) in The Hague - the venue for the 1976 competition. Sadly, Israel did not participate due to April 19 being the country's Day of Remembrance.

It was here that Ireland registered its second win (following Dana's victory in The Netherlands in 1970) with Johnny Logan singing What's Another Year? The song scored remarkably consistently, eventually securing seven sets of top marks - including 12 points from The United Kingdom.

In fact, this wasn't the first time that Logan had attempted to represent Ireland. He had tried in 1979 with the song Angie, but could only manage third place at the Irish National Final. Actually, he wasn't even the first choice to sing What's Another Year? That honour had fallen to Irish showband singer Glen Curtin who had declined to do it. Nevertheless, having won his national vote, Logan travelled to The Hague and drew to perform seventeenth (out of 19) on the night.

Once the voting began, his entry had secured its first set of 12 points from the Greeks - the third nation to announce its scores. However, at this point, it looked as if the host nation may run away with the victory. When Luxembourg, the fourth nation to reveal its points, gave their top marks to the Netherlands, Maggie MacNeal's Amsterdam had now received three sets of top marks.

Johnny Logan 1980
Johnny Logan in 1980
Still, it wasn't to last. MacNeal's popularity waned while Logan began to secure points from all dozen or so of the remaining nations to vote beginning with Denmark (12 points) and ending with Belgium (12 points). In fact, the UK's top marks for Ireland came off the back of two previous maximum scores for Logan - those from Norway and Germany.

At this point in the proceedings, only Germany appeared to be scoring consistently enough to possibly catch him. However, not even Katja Ebstein's Theater could narrow the gap sufficiently, leaving Logan to secure 143 points for the win - a clear fifteen points ahead of Germany.

As a close neighbour of Ireland, it was probably unsurprising that What's Another Year? would benefit from a high UK score. What was possibly more surprising was its commercial success in the UK, given that the British Number 1 spot had become an infrequent home for Eurovision winners.

Proving that assumption incorrect, Logan spent two weeks at the top of the UK charts as well as enjoying great chart success with the song across Western Europe.

The UK's Top 3 in 1980

Images by Hans van Dijk / Anefo [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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