Road to Denmark 2014: Looking Back at Albania
Welcome to the first in my series “Road to Denmark 2014: A Retrospective” in which I am looking back at all the entries between when I first started following the Contest in 2007 to now as I prepare to see the Contest live in Denmark next year. I’m going through each of the 46 countries that have competed over the past seven years alphabetically starting with Albania!
As you can see, I rate the Albanian entries fairly high. Given that I am American, we generally view 75% as “average” and that is the mentality that I am bringing to these ratings. Elements that I generally view as generic received a “7” with songs that I consider strong or weak having their scores adjusted accordingly. A brief look at seven Albanian entries, then I’ll provide a deeper focus on a few select entries.
2007 – Hear My Plea – I actually really liked this song, it was so unique and stood out for everything else in the field. You could feel the longing in Ndoci’s voice. I think that these entry suffered from being a bit too different without being memorably so.
2008 – Zemrën E Lamë Peng – An understated song that was aptly sung by one of the youngest artists to be on the ESC stage. While I think the song is artistically valuable, it’s not really my cup of tea – it doesn’t really go anywhere musically.
2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams – A fun song that is easy to sing along to. This song seems to have a bit of a cult following, but RTSH seems to have clamped down on this song more than any other and it’s hard to find online (and the 80’s style music video has essentially disappeared from the internet). I like it and can’t wait for Kejsi Tola to make it back to the ESC stage.
2010 – It’s All About You – As you can see, this is my favorite Albanian entry thus far. It is one I sing in the shower on a regular basis. It’s fun, modern, and sung beautifully. It’s a great, up-tempo love song.
2011 – Feel the Passion – Another personal favorite, despite the fact that the performance could have been stronger. I like being able to shout at the top of my lungs when singing along with a song and this definitely provides those opportunities, not to mention the vaguely religious undertones of the lyrics.
2012 – Suus -The most successful Albanian entry to date. Rona Nishliu is an amazing singer, though, I still maintain that her vocals were a bit off on the night of the Grand Final. Whether I am listening to the original or the jazzed up English version, this song gets me every time.
2013 – Identitet – It’s always nice to see a genuine rock number at ESC; they add a bit of spice to the disco/ballad melange that the Contest typically is. I am not a big fan of this particular song, but think it’s a valiant effort.
With that said, I do want to focus on one particular Albanian entry – 2012’s Suus. The reason that the Contest utterly captured me from the very first time that I watched it was the fact that I could understand the exact sentiments of the singers without knowing their language. I could feel the heartbreak, I could celebrate the joy, I could lose myself in the frenzied state induced by certain entries. Rona Nishliu exemplifies this. This song is pure art, which does not have the best record at ESC. But she was able to secure Albania’s best placing to date because her vocal performance transcended style and language. During her semi-final performance, tears were brought to my eyes; I could feel my heart break when she kicked it up a notch in the Final. Many casual viewers complain that the ESC lacks artistic merit and doesn’t make valuable contributions to culture (I vehemently disagree, of course) this song, and entries like it, strengthen the argument that ESC is a valuable aspect of pan-European culture. Thank you Albania for sending Suus!