First Listen Review attempts to capture my first impressions of the year’s Eurovision entries as and when they’re released. My opinion is liable to change as certain songs grow on me or get revamped, but based on the principle that most listeners will only hear each entry once (or twice) before voting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight. 

Albanian Flag

Elhaida Dani – Diell

Elhaida Dani - Diell | Eurovision 2015 AlbaniaHaving missed the finals for the past two years, Albania have chosen one of their most celebrated young talents to represent them at Eurovision 2015. 21 year old Elhaida Dani has a powerful voice and international pedigree – having won the Italian version of The Voice in 2013. She was widely tipped for victory at this year’s Festivali i Këngës, and she didn’t disappoint – with a showstopping stage performance earning her top marks from all but one of the jurors.

Diell is a real old school Eurovision ballad in the vein of hits like To nie ja! by Edyta Gorniak. Indeed, if this were 1994 I’d be calling it as a potential winner right away. In those days you could rest on a committed performance and a show-stopping vocal and probably impress enough judges to do well. For a 21st century entry though, I feel it needs some serious work. Fortunately, Albania almost always revamp their songs before the big show, and with Dani’s high profile and connections to the Italian music industry I’d be very surprised if Diell didn’t sound considerably different by next May. Here are some elements that I would humbly suggest she needs to look at.

  • First off, the electric guitar solo needs to go. It seems that Albanian musicians – at least of the Eurovision variety – never met an electric guitar solo they didn’t like, but they have a way of instantly dating their entries and it feels particularly out of place on this kind of ballad, dragging attention away from Elhaida while the rest of the song correctly places her front and centre.
  • As mentioned, the production at the moment reads ’90s Disney Ballad’. So far we’ve only heard a live version with full orchestra. I’m hoping the studio version is a little more edgy and modern, with a quieter start to give the song more sense of forward momentum.
  • Speaking of quieter starts, as much as this is very much a vocal showcase sort of song, Elhaida could do with reining it in a little. She’s going a bit Jessie J on the live version – starting off at full pelt and raising the volume from there. It’s technically impressive, but exhausting to listen to and it buries the melody of the song. A bit of light and shade, saving the histrionics for the final chorus would make this much more memorable – which is half the battle when you’re competing for televotes after all.

As it stands, if Albania did nothing to this song I still think it’d have a decent chance of qualifying – although I wouldn’t by any means put it down as a lock. Televoters have ignored virtuoso vocal performances in the past and it’s not an easy melody to catch hold of on the first listen. However, they do have a lot of potential to work with, and if they get the revamp right, they could go big guns with this.

Prediction: Probable Qualifier. With some work, a possible top ten contender. In current form 18-26.