Albania held its 51st annual Festivali i Këngës on Saturday, and selected “Identiet” by Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko as its entry for the next Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö.
I had a feeling about “Identiet” during the second semi-final. The Albanian audience seemed to respond to it on Friday and responded to it again on Saturday. Reminiscent of concept album-era Styx, the prog-rock entry starts strong with “hey hey” and a distinctive guitar riff. At Festivali, “Identiet” was supported by an orchestral arrangement with horns, timpani, and backing singers, helping it go appropriately large. Rock guitarist Bledar Sejko, most known for his work with Thunder Way, plays a solo with this teeth. Lead singer Adrian Lulgjuraj has a tonality that reminds us of Dennis DeYoung, if Dennis DeYoung was a baritone.
Having a full orchestra in view on the stage gives Festivali a sense of history, a throwback to Song Contests with the live orchestras that we find charming. If Lulgjuraj and Sejko are wise, they keep as much of the orchestration as possible for their backing track in Sweden. The horns in particular add to the overall epic-ness of the song.
Festivali has grown on us over the years and now is one of our favorite national selections. Is it weird that, like for so many Albanians, it’s becoming part of our Christmas tradition?