It’s the most wonderful time of the year, everyone: Eurovision is back! As usual, Albania brings us its good tidings for the season with its annual Festivali i Këngës competition. Lindita Halimi won this year’s edition with “Botë.”
Halimi was born in Kosovo and moved to the United States in 2013. She first competed at Festivali i Këngës in 2015 with “S’të fal,” finishing third. She won Albania’s Top Fest in 2009 and she also finished in the top 10 of Ethet (the Albanian version of Pop Idol) in 2007. Earlier this year, she appeared in the final season of American Idol, but did not make it to the top 24.
Her song “Botë” was written by Gerald “Big Basta” Xhari and Klodian Qafoku, both veteran songwriters who have participated in past Festivalis. Qafoku co-wrote Albania’s 2006 Eurovision Song Contest entry “Zjarr e ftohtë.”
Neither of us have been fond of the past three Albanian Eurovision entries, so we both think “Botë” is a delightful return to form. It’s as if all involved thought that “Feel the Passion” would have worked better with the arrangement for “Identitet.” “Botë” is not without its flaws: once it peaks, it gets a bit repetitive. But each additional instrumental flourish that gets thrown in propels it to a lavish finale.
The song as presented at Festivali brings a lot of grandeur, helped no doubt by the live orchestra and back-up singers. If you wanted to gather evidence that Eurovision lacks something without the live orchestra, here is your exhibit A. We’re hoping that Halimi and the Albanian delegation can replicate the drama within the constraints of the Eurovision rules.
We also hope they keep the song in Albanian. It just works.
Updated 12/26/2016: Per wiwiblogs, Halimi has tweeted that she will sing “Botë” at least partially in English. Sigh.