December 22nd 2018 - the night that RTSH Albania selected its song for Eurovision 2019 in Israel.
22 songs had started on a 3 day journey to success with all songs sung on the preceding Thursday and Friday nights in differing guises, some with guest artists joining in. A respected expert jury then decided 14 of the 22 that would go to the Final on live TV on Saturday night.
The 14 finalists, listed below, were ably assisted by the RTSH Orchestra and included ethnic, rap, pop, ballad, dance and traditional elements providing an interesting and enjoyable evening's entertainment available worldwide online. The show was presented by Ana Golja, who at just 22 is a Canadian-Albanian actress and singer, together with an old hand at this Festival lark, Mr Viktor Zhusti.
Mirud was a big fan favourite who did not make the final cut. For this viewer I was also shcoked that Kelly did not make the final. That said, you can't change Eurovision results, so how did the show pan out?
Songs 1 and 4 were performed again after all 14 had been completed, due to technical issues on their first showing. This was particularly evident for Eranda Libohova who probably had 100 questions of her own after the first attempt (her song is called "100 Questions"). Apart from these two, the other performances went without a hitch. he 2 big fan favouites left in the show (Jonida Maliqi and Soni Malaj) both reverted to their Thursday night performers, preferring to leave out the Friday night dancers. This certainly improved things for Jonida, but I'm not sure it did Soni any favours, with her Beyoncé-styled dance number begging for a dance troupe.
These were the 14 Contenders
- 2 duos, 1 group and 11 solo artists.
One of the performers who entertained us prior to the results being announced was the incomparable Eugent Bushpepa who propelled Albania into 11th place at the Eurovision final of 2018 with the rock number MALL. Once again he knocked it out of the park with another amazing vocal performance that rouses audiences and impresses anyone that hears it. Amazing and to my mind, Albania's best song to date at Eurovision.
The outcome tonight was again down to the expert jury of 9 (including Albania's 2012 representative, Miss Rona Nishliu) whose votes were revealed one by one over an excruciating 45 minute period, with the odd technical hitch. That said, the voting was exciting with Jonida Maliqi and Lidia Lufi fighting for the top spot. Eranda Libohova also fared well throughout the voting. It came down to the final set of votes, but with 30 points as the top mark from each juror, anything was possible. The final number 1 spot went though to Jonida Maliqi with her haunting ethnic pop number finshing just ahead of Lidia Lufi and Eranda Libohova. Albania certainly has another strong entry for Eurovision in 2019. Check out the results and Jonida's song below, together with some images from the show.
Just to note also, I was proud to be a member of the #TeamJonida good luck message sent to the artist before the show. Here is Jonida at the final plus the #TeamJonida message:
Marko Strazimiri & Imbro - Leyla - 142/ 8th
Gjergj Leka - Njė ditė tjetėr - 131 / 10th
Elton Deda - Qetėsisht - 156 / 7th
Eranda Libohova - 100 pyetje - 181 / 3rd
Jonida Maliqi - Ktheju tokės -
228 / 1st
Eliza Hoxha - Peng - 127 / 11th
Orgesa Zaimi - Hije - 121 / 13th
Bojken Lako - Jeto jetėn - 138 / 9th
Malaj - Mė e fortė - 166 / 5th
Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti - Dua ta besoj - 113 / 14th
Dilan Reka - Karma - 169 / 4th
Band - Dashuria nuk mjafton - 124 / 12th
Lidia Lufi - Rrėfehem - 219 / 2nd