An Albanian seventeen year old was the filling in a Hadise and Alexander Rybak sandwich back in 2009. Holding her own amid the stars of the 2009 lineup, a very respectable (standard issue) 17th place was achieved. Both the song and its staging have stayed long in the memory of many!
Take one singer in a pink tutu, a guy in an aquamarine bodysuit (gimp suit, as you wish), two breakers in curious half masks, some bizarre choreography. There is no seeming logic or story to the combination of components in front of us during these three minutes, but that’s part of the joy. It is as though four separate stylists worked uncoordinated on Kejsi, the breakdancers, the backing vocalists and the most memorable incarnation of Jenia Evgenios Buli (also Greece 2008, 2010). Overlay these over a very catchy song with a tinge of 70s french pop and some text book schlager rhythms and key change. You’ll end up with something that is stuck in your ears and your eyes, and probably leave you wondering how on Earth this came to be! Albania’s sixth entry is perhaps my favourite, more for its eccentricities than for outdoing the others musically. 17-year-old Kejsi is loving life, despite the terrifying entourage on the cavernous Moscow stage.
This week’s guest star, Rinor Nuhiu
As an Albanian myself, I understand the general critical attitude when it comes to our national broadcaster, the RTSH. Whilst we all take pride in Festival i Këngës, which has been running for almost six decades (even in Albania’s most brutal times in history), it continues to struggle to be in line with contemporary music trends. That has led to many successful Albanian artists hesitating from participating and aiming the global market without the need of Eurovision.
The lack of public involvement, especially in the final verdict, has paved the way for many controversies, including the latest sagaof Arilena v. Elvana, Flaka Krelani’s feud with one of the jurors, Alban Skenderaj, in late 2007, etc. Kejsi Tola emerged from Ethet e së Premtes, a talent show in Albania, similar to Idol. Quickly after winning the show, she decided to take on Festivali i Këngës and won! The up-tempo song contained some Albanian folk elements in it, and it was fun (for a change). There was no big excitement about a good result, but we enjoyed that cliché performance. Her Eurovision participation made Kejsi a household name and a well-respected artist. She’s been producing good quality songs and quite a commercial sound recently.
My favourite entry from Albania remains Suus, by Rona Nishliu in 2012. Highly controversial, a lot of screaming, yet so much emotion. With the recent upgrade in technology and honestly, importance, RTSH is taking notes on improving FiK and our overall Eurovision participation, and I hope that this year’s excitement about the festival will continue. We need more successful names and would benefit from some televoting at FiK.
What do the team think?
“Carry me in your dreams” is one of my favourite Albanian entries and among my top song from 2009. It’s catchy, fun and memorable. It’s not often Albania send uptempo songs, but when they do they are damn good. Kejsi gave a very different performance in Moscow compared to the one from the national final. One would believe that adding the two midgets and the invisible man in blue on stage would be too distracting, but in fact it made the whole performance even more fun without losing the main focus on Kejsi herself. It’s also one of the very few songs that worked well in English after originally having been performed in Albanian. It surely deserved at least a lower top-10 place in 2009. My ranking is 9,5/10. Hope to see Kejsi Tola back again soon with something at least as good as this one.
‘Albania’ and ‘banger’ are not often words that are associated with each other in the Eurovision circuit. As we now know, 2020 will not be an exception. But in both 2009 and 2010, we were treated with back-to-back bops from this glorious and passionate nation. ‘Carry Me…’ is often regarded as one of their best entries, and it’s obvious why – the song retains the power of the staple Albanian ballad but takes the tempo up a notch and throws in an unconventional and striking melody. This combination makes this a unique moment in the ESC archives, reflected by the…abstract staging concept. As much as I adore this, I will say that the Festivali I Këngës version is far superior to the ESC version, and the psychedelic turbo-folk production of the former packs more of a punch.
2009 was the year before I discovered the wonderful world called the euroverse and it remains one of my favourite contests ever. So many gems it gifted us. While Albania is admittedly not one of the 2009 songs I listen to regularly, it is still a very solid song and one of the few of the country were I say the revamp and English switch actually did something good to the song. I rarely say this but I actually prefer the English version. I also very much approve of her styling and the colour choice for the LED backdrop. Besides as a self-declared lover of ethnic elements, the instrumental bit from 2:06 is mesmerising. I am however not a fan of her dancer with the full body green outfit nor of the other dancers to be totally honest, but this surely deserved better than 17th place.
Watching Kejsi Tola’s ‘Carry Me In Your Dreams’ brings me lots of nostalgia to the early noughties, when lots of questionable fashion choices were made and teen me was just getting into Eurovision. As a self-confessed lover of the weird acts the competition brings, I love the entry, specifically for the bejewelled Slenderman and the clown-faced breakdancers. The cloud of pink tulle that Kejsi Tola is wearing can only be attributed to it being 2009, but she pulls listeners in with the lively beat, the Balkan inspiration behind the tunes and lyrics that can easily be picked up so we can join in with the singing. Meanwhile, the dancers and how they interact and play with Tola keep our attention glued to the act, making it quite memorable! I don’t remember what I thought when I first watched it, but ten years later I am a fan!