Since winning Albania's Eurovision selection contest in December, Juliana Pasha has learned what it means to look the part. The 29-year old has transformed herself from a rather dowdy looking lounge singer wearing a wig into a disco diva who shakes her hips as freely as she styles her hair. In March, when she debuted the English-language version of her Eurovision entry "It's All About You" (Nuk mundem pa ty), she donned a tight pantsuit with rhinestone-studded chains draped on her shoulders. That look embodies the playfulness of her song, an electronic ode from one obsessed lover to another: "I am the one/ Who doesn't know how to say no/ To you, I'm so easy."
But for Pasha, salvation hasn't come through her makeover: it's come through Jesus. Her official Facebook page reveals that she's a devout Christian. She recently told reporters that her spiritual journey began six years ago as she and her husband struggled to get by. "At that moment, God spoke to our hearts," she said. "We were in the car. We prayed and cried and decided for a life with Christ." As part of that, she turned down an offer to play a female bodyguard in a stage production of Chicago because it conflicted with her ability to testify for the Lord.
With that in mind, "It's All About You" becomes a modern day hymnal honoring the bond between a woman and her God. As Pasha shouts repeatedly on the track: "It's all about you/ All the things that I do/ You are my life/ Because you make it amazing."
Without that background, it'd be easy to misread Pasha's Eurovision preview video. As it opens, she draws a figure of sperm on a concrete bench and watches it swim away, perhaps like the lover she so desperately needs. She lays in a pile of leaves taking Polaroids of herself -- forget-me-nots for her absent paramour, perhaps? -- and eventually curls up next to a pile of men's clothing. The pain of separation cuts through the air: "You are all I dream/ Everything that I need/ Because when you are gone/ I feel so empty."
This, of course, is nonsense. From a religious perspective, the figure of sperm is actually a balloon flying toward heaven and a symbol of man's connection with the divine. Pasha wears white to represent her purity, and blows flowers and touches trees that magically illuminate to connote that she is ripe for a relationship with God. At one point, Pasha appears as three separate women in one shot -- no doubt an allusion to the Holy Trinity. And on multiple occasions she and the only man in the video invoke the crucifix by standing upright and spreading their arms. As man is imperfect, Pasha eventually takes rest on a wicker tree swing draped in a Laura Ashley-esque duvet -- a symbol of consumerism, not religious piety.
Albania competes in the first semi-final, which is the less competitive of the two by a long shot. Of the 17 countries competing that night, ten will advance to the final. Bookies have consistently ranked Albania behind Greece, Slovakia, Belgium and Belarus, but ahead of Moldova, Iceland and Russia, suggesting that she's a shoe-in to survive the semis.
The final is a different story. Last year, Albania entered with a similarly upbeat pop song. While Eurovision fans, who comprise 50% of the result, ranked it 11th, the professional jury ranked it 23rd. Pasha will no doubt please the crowd, but it's less certain that music industry professionals will vote for yet another Eurovision dance anthem.
"I am glad that Christians are in prayer behind me," Pasha recently told reporters. Unfortunately, that won't be enough to guarantee a victory, and at best she'll place 20th out of the 25 countries in the final.