Saturdays first installment of the six-week Swedish Melodifestivalen, the “superbowl of national finals”, had its high and low points. Danny Saucedo and Gina Darawi proved to be natural performers as the show’s hosts, though Danny was a bit hesitant in the host duties (relying too much on reading his cue cards). Their two production numbers, at the beginning and voting break of the show, were the highlight of the entire broadcast. First Gina made her entry in a number parodying Loreen’s “Euphoria”, with the lyrics pointing out that as a returning host, her pay for the gig should go “Up, up up!” Then when Danny was castigated for his uncertain style in dressing for his hosting gig, we were treated to an amazing cavalcade of song, dance and humor featuring former hosts Kristian Luuk and (megastar) Lena Philipsson, “Karl för sin Kostym”:
The major fail on Saturday was with the show’s technical staff, who made two big blunders in the onscreen graphics. The quick reprise of the night’s entries with the phone and text numbers for voting was a complete mess (that required Gina to wing it for a minute before the right graphic could be put up onscreen). Then at the (supposedly) suspenseful moment when we waited for the revelation of the fifth of the highest scores to proceed to the next round, the onscreen list revealed that it was Yohio a full minute before Gina read the result.
But, ahhh, Yohio! The androgynous Sundvall teen who conquered Japan dressed as a sweet anime girl slowly bubbled up during rehearsal week. The initial press listen on Wednesday got him lukewarm reviews. Most of the press thought “Heartbreak Hotel” was typical MF pop rock, and placed his entry in 4th or 5th place of the week’s 8 entries. His onstage rehearsal brought that up a notch, full dress rehearsal brought it up another. The Friday night audience survey suddenly revealed him as a force to be reckoned with when he placed first with 38 percent of the vote. Swedish newspaper polls during Saturday’s show demonstrated even more strength for Yohio and “Heartbreak Hotel” when he crushed the other seven entries, even widely-tipped David Lindgren. Yohio and David go directly to the March 9th final at Friends Arena in Solna, where my trusted Schlagerprofilerna MF experts figure that the teen will do no worse than top five.
In a sign that Sweden is a bit more socially advanced than the US, a sweet moment for us and Yohio came when his father Tommy Rehn showed support for his son by showing up at the night’s afterparty in his own version of “visual kei” drag (see the father and son below).