Albania: Duje by Albina and the Familja Kelmendi

Eurovision in Albania means three things:

  • A singer with fantastic vocals
  • A random electric guitar solo
  • D-R-A-M-A DRAMA. And when I say drama I don’t mean in the internet sense of petty squabbles. I mean that there is genuine emotion pouring across the stage.

And this year, Albania has once again fulfilled their expected brief (and more!) with the song Duje by Albina and the Familja Kelmendi. We’ve got a powerhouse singer, backed by five other powerhouse singers. We’ve got a full orchestra. And the drama? Oh, Albania is giving us both types this year. In her Festival i Kenges-winning performance, Albina delivers a full on, collapse-to-the-knees emotional moment….

Albina collapsed to her knees on stage with the Familia Kelmendi behind her

…while the rest of her family acts bored with her histrionics:

Okay. That’s a little unfair. Clearly, Albania did not have any tech rehearsals for its national final, and the director was just jazz riffing with those shots.

But yes, the Familja Kelmendi is actually Albina’s father, mother, two sisters, and a brother. (There’s apparently another brother, but that six person on stage rule means someone’s gotta stay home and feed the cats while everyone else is in Liverpool.)

Oh, and to make it even better, the whole song is about the importance of family. Or, in the very over-the-top world of Albanian pop music, how A FAMILY’S LOVE WAS KILLED by CAREER AMBITION.

Think I’m joking? Watch the official video:

This music video is a Hallmark movie made by A24. The director did not have to go as hard as they did! There are so many great horror movie touches in here:

Albina's face is reflected in the glass of a picture frame

…from her reflection in the frame…

Albina stand in a room where all the furniture has been covered in dust sheets

…to the spooky abandoned room covered in dust sheets…

Albina has her back to the camera and the Family Kelmendi is staring at her....

…to the moment the family comes home to find a killer in their house….

A tearful Albine sings They Killed Love

…to the final minutes of the film, when we get a tearful confession. Albina spills her motive for luring five people to her abandoned mansion so she could murder them!

Will any of this subtext show up on stage? Probably not! Instead, most audiences will experience this as an Albanian woman shouting at them, with five people standing around her doing some lackluster choreography. And that is a shame.

There’s a ton of grist to chew on here! Albina grew up in a family of musicians, but she was the one who won The Voice Albania and became a star. There are so many questions I have about the entire family dynamic! Is the song a rebuke of her ambiitions to make it big? Is she performing this song with her family to spend more time with them, or to force her siblings to sit through months of being a supporting act?

I don’t want a three minute cut of this song. I want a three month reality series – Keeping Up with the Kelmendis – that follows Albina and her family on the journey through Eurovision. I can see it now, based on the snippets we’ve seen in the video – the support of most of the family, sans the brother, who is just about to have a big career break that he needs to put on hold for Eurovision. The appearances on radio stations, when the older sister gets a minute of airtime before Albina answers all the questions. The difficulty of finding a place to eat healthily and grab a salad while on tour!

And that’s the highest praise one can give to a Eurovision song – that you want it to last so, so much longer than three minutes.

Duje is underrated, and I hope the juries give it its du(j)e.

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