Albania sends Arilena Ara with power ballad ‘Shaj’
Just like almost every year, Albania was the first to host their national final to select their representative for Eurovision. Last December, the 58th edition of Festivali I Këngës took place and was won by 21-year-old singer Arilena Ara. She will follow up Jonida Maliqi who reached a respectable 17th place in the final of last year’s Eurovision. She will do so with the power ballad ‘Fall From The Sky’ (an English version of her song ‘Shaj’). Will she be able to top last year’s result?
This year’s Festivali I Këngës was not without controversy. One of Albania’s biggest pop stars, Elvana Gjata, decided to participate and her swinging ethno-bop ‘Me Tana’ received the highest marks from all three international jury members. The two Albanian jury members however, marked her considerably lower which caused her to finish second and miss out on the ticket to Rotterdam, which in the end went to Arilena Ara.
Now let me start off nicely. Arilena Ara is an excellent vocalist with a powerful and emotive sound. She sings her lungs out over the loud chorus and did not miss a single note while performing the Albanian version live. Like almost every year, the Abanian entry received a little make-over and ‘Fall From The Sky’ has distinctly less violin drama going on. The middle-eight was completely changed around with new vocal melodies and before the last chorus, Ara strips things down for a quiet moment, only to explode into some larger than life notes to finish things off. The English version sure sounds more polished and international and the chorus is somewhat memorable and her impeccable vocals will definitely impress some.
Having said that, if those Albanian jury members would not have voted so ridiculously, I would be writing about Elvana Gjata here, who had the song, stage presence and voice to go all the way at Eurovision 2020. But what’s done is done and it was not Arilena’s fault to begin with. I still see chances for Albania to qualify for the final, but Ara and her team will need one hell of a performance to play any role of importance on Saturday night.
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