Eurovision 2020 Review: Albania – Arilena Ara – Shaj

Arilena Ara

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 ‘Shaj’ (which means something like curse). 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 of ‘Shaj’ and does not miss a single note. ‘Shaj’ is a power ballad that starts of quietly and builds to vocal explosion during the choruses, while the middle-eight serves a balkan ballad arrangement with dramatic strings. This is nothing we haven’t heard before at Eurovision and better, but I am sure that the Albanian delegation will give the tune a little polishing (like they do every year) and the end result will sound decent enough.

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. With an updated version of her ‘Shaj’ and a vocally perfect rendition at the Eurovision stage (like the one she did at FIK), we might still see Albania in the final on Saturday night.


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