The list of participants in this year's FiK was recently announced but I haven't had the time to write about it until now.
There is going to be a change to how Albania chooses its song for ESC 2016 as the public will be partly involved in the voting process for the first time ever, alongside the jury vote.
No dates have been announced as yet, but it should probably be around Christmas time as usual.
Here are the 24 participants and their songs, Big news is that two of my favourite FiK performers of recent years are back, back, back! Rezarta Smaja has been a very familiar face in recent years at FiK and I can't wait for the return of Linda (Lindita) Halimi. Since she blew us all away with her debut performance in 2014, Lindita has gone on to compete in American Idol but was sadly eliminated in the earlier stages of the contest.
Albulena Jashari –Fjalët ia lë zemrës
She's a very modern young artist, her music seems to be very "current" and judging by "Bashke", her latest video clip, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SzP3E1B4wk could she be the Albanian version of Poland's Margaret? If so, stand well back, because we could have a fanboy stampede here!
Classic Boys –
OK so here we have an operatic trio discovered on X Factor Albania. An Albanian Il Volo - will the viewers or juries feel "grande amore" for them I wonder?
Dilan Reka –
Edea Demaliaj –
Edona Vatoci –
For this post I've been looking at some YouTube clips of the artists and she looks like one of this year's more interesting performers.
Elson Braha –
Erlind Zeraliu –
Fabiola Agalliu and Agnesa Çavolli –
Fabiola has a nice jazzy tone to her voice, as indeed does Agnesa. Again this could be an interesting one, although I worry that the guitar solo may come from an acoustic guitar rather than an electric one...! Both have appeared on The Voice of Albania which is yet another fertile breeding ground for FiK contestants.
Festina Mejzini –
She's certainly glammed up her image between X Factor Albania and this year's Kenga Magjike. I'm sure that appearing in a current contest will have raised her profile sufficiently to boost her chances in FiK.
Flaka Krelani –
Now here is the big-voiced diva who single-handedly keeps the Albanian cosmetic industry in business. I didn't really like her song in last year's FiK but she has quite a good song in this year's Kenga Magjike - "Rebelohem" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=857NP1G5bow I hope her FiK55 song is as good.
Franc Koruni –
Another artist currently in Kenga Magjike. Listen to him sing without looking at him - you'd think it was a grizzled old blues singer (or a Cat Stevens soundalike) when in fact he is just a young man. It'll be very interesting to see what he brings to FiK.
Genc Salihu –
At this stage, the one most likely to have a guitar solo.
Linda Halimi –
Really can't wait to see what Linda/Lindita's going to do this time round. I think it's brilliant that she she replies to her fans on Twitter too (myself included). Her Twitter name is @LinditaWorld so how appropriate that her song is called World! Hoping fully it will be a great song and performance and she will go on to represent Albania in ESC, then everyone can live in Lindita's world...!
Linda Rukaj –
From one Linda to another, this time a France-based Albanian singer-songwriter who plays acoustic-style music. Not my thing as you know, but she may surprise us.
It's a band. Expect guitar solos.
Luka and Serxhio Hajdini –
Luka is a New York-based artist and singer while her brother Serxhio appeared in The Voice of Albania.
Neki Emra –
Orges Toçe –
Rezarta Smaja –
Haven't heard anything from her since her duet with Klodian Kacani in last year's FiK but I can only guess that it will be yet another ballad or mid-tempo number showing off her vocal talents. I've seen clips of her singing pop and rock on YouTube and it would be nice to see her doing something different in FiK for a change.
Not sure if this is the same Tiri from The Voice of Albania. If it is, we can expect some pop-rock.
Yll Limani –
I searched on YouTube and again I'm not sure if I have the right one! This one definitely fits into the FiK rock remit though.
Xhesika Polo –
So we end the list with yet another talent show contestant, from the same series of X Factor Albania as Classic Boys. I've watched a few of her clips and I really think she could be a contender if she gets the right song.
With very few exceptions this year, FiK features a younger group of singers which suggests a move towards, dare I say, musical modernity? But before we throw our hands up in the air at the idea of tropical house in FiK (perish the thought!!) we have to remember that FiK is one of the last bastions of "old" Eurovision, with the orchestra and the conductors (although the sidelining of the conductors last year didn't please me at all as I didn't get to see much of you-know-who) and like Sanremo, it follows its own rules. Bring. It. On!