I do not know how I got there

Ronela Hajati

Here we go again then.

It might not seem like a whole twelve months since you were sat shitfaced and full of frazzles watching Flo Rida pitch up to do the rap during the San Marinese song in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, but it has been (and you didn’t imagine it, that actually happened).

Yes – stow that hand luggage, fasten those seatbelts, put your brain into airplane mode and brace brace – because it’s time for my annual unremittingly miserable Wizz Air flight across the barren wasteland of European pop that is all 40 songs in the 66th Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne.

Several times a day right up until the final on May 14th, I’ll be taking my previews – cliché ridden streams of consciousness consisting of lonely, unpleasant observations, barely rewritten press releases and painfully poor jokes from previous years’ blogs – and uploading them here onto the internet for your pleasure, signalled on social media via the identification of an unrepresentative and offensive quote to take out of my own context for clickbait tweets. You know, like the real media.

This, fact fans, will be the third time that Italy will host the contest (having previously hosted the 1965 edition in Naples and the spectacularly amusing 1991 edition in Rome), as well as the first European Broadcasting Union event to be held in the country since the last god awful edition of Jeux Sans Frontières in 1999. Forty countries are in it this year – Armenia and Montenegro are back after a year off, Belarus was kicked out of the EBU last year and after a couple of weeks of arsing about, eventually the EBU decided that the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s contest would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

So we start as ever alphabetically in Albania.


For most brits Eurovision starts with an “ironic” and vaguely xenophobic feature in Saturday’s papers on the day of the final in May, but for people like me (who self-identify as having the Eurovision as a “hobby”), the “irony” and vague xenophobia can be a year-round, 24/7 experience. It’s a kind of perfect escapism, where you can spend half an hour or so every day cosplaying feeling a bit sorry for other countries as a kind of temporary relief from the unfurling metahorror of watching the UK get more and more brazen about becoming a failed state.

You can watch watch turgid old finals from Harrogate on the Youtube, you can listen to Eurovision radio on full blast in the open plan office where you don’t work any more (“all over Europe, ESC ra-di-o”), you can watch spin offs like the minipops Junior version (sinister) Eurovision young dancers (baffling) or Eurovision choir of the year (harrowing), and thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, you can even watch other countries go through the tedious rigmaroles of picking their breathtakingly terrible songs.

Take Christmas ‘round the Dickinsons. Whilst you may be watching Call the Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys, I am usually slouched over around a laptop with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc retweeting people whose Christmas has been ruined because their mum forgot to buy “pigs in blankets” whilst watching the grand final of “Festivali i Këngës”, Albania’s very own “Eurovision Your Decision”- which tends to consists of a desperate mixture of Albanian hopefuls and Albanian hasbeens singing dreadful songs with no chorus in minor keys accompanied by a massive orchestra in a big hall somewhere in Tirana.

The show is quite an ordeal, to be honest – a three day, fifteen hour festival of shite that serves up staggering front runners like this thing featuring a pensioner banging on about his divorce, all padded out with baffling light entertainment sections like this where a close up magician does a seven minute routine without any actual tricks, or where an old man (accompanied by a woman he ignores in an unnecessarily short skirt) interviews a man dressed as 80s era terrorist who does a rap. For ten fucking minutes.

Emerging as this year’s winner was Ronela Hajati, a singer, songwriter and dancer who’s been knocking about the Albanian hit parade since 2006 when someone over programmed the drum machine and made her and her mate from youth club come flat last in Albania’s Star Academy. She then spent a good ten years trying to win talent contests to no avail, until she finally broke through in 2013 with “A do si kjo” – a song that contains the powerful lyric “you wanna bum bum like J-Lo” – and the rest is history.

Usually we get an unnecessarily overwrought ballad or a man having a mid-life crisis with a garage full of guitars, but this year everyone got especially excited because we ended up instead with a not especially remarkable bit of ethnopop – a kind of shouty version of Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s Lean On with flutes to make you feel like you’ve ordered a bowl of Ferges in Tirana.

It might just scrape into the final given a) the size of the diaspora (more Albanians live outside of Albania than in it, fact fans) and b) the fact that it’s upbeat in a sea of ballads, but to be honest I doubt it. I’m sad because I’d love to go to Tirana but it won’t be Tirana 2022, which means that without the refurb cash from Moroccanoil, the Enver Hoxha pyramid will just sit there being used as a latrine for another whole year.

Published by

Jim Dickinson

@Wonkhe SUs. Trustee @WinchesterSU. HE policy. Pop. Pro EU(rovision). Windmills not walls. FRSA. Dreams of visiting Moldova. A brunch. Dressing up. A feeling.

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