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: 2 | Second Half

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