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. 

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Albania: Elhaida Dani –  I’m Alive

Elhaida Dani - Alive | Eurovision 2015 Albania

Elhaida’s ‘I’m Alive’ was written by Albanian production duo Zzap & Chriss. It replaces ‘Diell’, the song she won the Albanian national final with in December 2014.

When I reviewed the song Elhaida Dani won Albania’s Festivali i Këngës with back in December, I suggested that the raw materials were there, but that the song was in need of a major revamp. As it turned out, she and her team went one step further, scrapping ‘Diell’ altogether and replacing it with the much more modern and dynamic ‘I’m Alive’.

This definitely seems to have been a popular choice, not only with fans but with bookies; Albania have shot from the doldrums of the betting leagues up to a comfortable 14th at time of writing. I suspect they may go higher still after rehearsals open for the semi final. On record, it doesn’t quite gel for me – it’s certainly a stronger entry than its predecessor, but the hook doesn’t offer an obvious entry point, and in places it feels more like a vocal showcase than a fully realised song.

However, I have a strong suspicion that a live setting will be very kind to this entry. Not only is Dani an excellent singer, but the arrangement has a forward momentum to it that should give it real energy on the night. My only concern is that she may succumb to Jessie J syndrome and kill the performance with over-singing. If she can resist that, this is a safe qualifier that could potentially give Albania one of their strongest ever results. A very polished, creditable effort all round.