The Albanian representative was chosen through Festivali i Këngës, the Albanian show has chosen Albania's Eurovision representative since they first entered the contest in 2004.
I'm personally partial to the format of Festivali i Këngës, where the contest is much more of a concert instead of a stadium show. The format puts the songs and the artists front and center, not the lights, dancers, or distracting video displays...like Eurovision seems to have become in the past few years.
It makes me wonder what the Albanians would come up with if they staged the contest:
Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko "Identitet"
I get why the song won the contest. Bledar Sejko's guitar work is extremely impressive, and the mix of the guitar work contrasted with the string and tympani arrangement is striking. The music, combined with Adrian Lulgjuraj strong vocals, made it an understandable winner, even if it left me a bit cold.
I must confess that I am a bit distracted by Bledar Sejko. He looks like an ex-boyfreind of mine, and when I showed a picture of the performers to my friend Janet S., her response was "Albania is pandering to you this year, aren't they?"
Perhaps they are, but sadly, unless I decided to go on a spur of the moment European vacation, I'm not going to be able to vote in the contest.
I just hope that Albania doesn't prerecord the track. The pull of the song is Sejko's guitar work, and if Sejko can perform as well as he did in this clip, I can see the song making the final easily by getting support from the national juries.
Should Have Won
Anjeza Shahini "Love"
Shahini was Albania's first representative in the Eurovision Song Contest, and she did quite well, coming in seventh in 2004. She's also the performer of my favorite Albanian Eurovision entrant. And I think that that filters over to my preference this entry, even though the song is admittedly weaker than "Identitet".
I'll admit that after listening to the song a few more times,"Love" would have needed a lot of work before going to Sweden and for that reason I can understand why Anjeza didn't win the contest. You can have a fantastic singer, but if the song is weak it's not likely to win.
"Identitet" didn't hook me, but I have to say the Albanians picked a stronger song with a strong performance, and I totally respect that.
Besides the two mentioned above, two other artists caught my attention during the finals of Festivali i Këngës and for two very different reasons:
Merland Kademi "Këtu fillon parajsa"
The song it a bit of a Frankenstein--take a bit of a James Bond theme song, mix in the drama of last years Albanian entry, and put that on top of the melody of the winner of the 2007 Contest and you have this song. Kademi sells this Balkan ballad like his life depended on it and it came in a respectable fifth.
Dr. Flori & Fabi "Jam ti!"
Albanian rap! With a string section! And bongo drums! Pretty freaking awesome, even though it does get a little sketchy towards the end. Rap is unlikely to go to Eurovision from Albania (that's Montenegro's job), but I'd love to listen to this while driving down the highway.
All in all, I enjoyed sitting down and watching another Albanian national final, and think they chose a really decent song and one that could do quite well... Here's hoping that it does...