A halftime performance unlike any before
On Sunday, February 7, the well-known artist The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, headlined the halftime show at Super Bowl LV. After a year filled with trials and tribulations, including being snubbed by the Grammys and the postponement of a tour to promote his new album “After Hours,” Tesfaye finally received the recognition he deserved when he headlined this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Unlike most artists before him, The Weeknd chose to perform completely by himself, denying prior claims that he would be joined by a guest artist. Having spent nearly $7 million of his own dollars to create such a spectacular performance, he was only joined on stage by background dancers and singers.
Prior to the start of his performance, the NFL advertised that it would be donating $250 million over a 10-year period to “combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.”. Beginning to speak out about the social injustices over the course of this year and having donated his own money to such movements, The Weeknd found a fitting way to combine entertainment and politics together.
Opening his performance by sitting in a car set on a stage version of the Las Vegas strip, he began walking down a row, where the audience could see an enormous church choir singing one of his most popular songs “Call Out My Name.” Acting as the conductor and stopping the choir, he then begins singing his classic hit “Starboy” in a custom Givenchy, red crystal jacket that dazzled all the way to California. While he didn’t bring out his collaborator Daft Punk to perform with him, the choir, alongside The Weeknd, was seen wearing helmets that are identical to the one worn by Daft Punk.
During his fourteen-minute performance, he hopped between albums and sung a majority of his hits, such as “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “Save Your Tears,” an orchestra version of “Earned It” and the biggest sensation from his latest album, “Blinding Lights.” While there were many at home who greatly enjoyed his medleys, there were some who in fact felt unimpressed by his performance as a whole. In an interview that occurred three days prior, The Weeknd explained that there were to be multiple symbolic moments within his performance.
The first moment of symbolism came as he walked within a mirrored room,“I Can’t Feel My Face” playing in the background. As he walked, nearly a dozen background dancers strode around him, their faces completely bandaged and leaving his face as the only “pure” one. Although viewers watching at home felt a twinge of motion sickness as the cameras spun around him for nearly a minute, this was important in highlighting that he was not like the rest.
“The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated,” The Weeknd stated during the Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show Press Conference.
While most viewers may not have seen this press conference prior to the game, it would have left them confused as to the beauty behind the madness. However, his fans have noticed that in his new album, “After Hours,” The Weeknd has inserted a recurring theme in each music video and performance. With each new appearance, he transforms: from a man with a bruised nose, to one with bandages and finally, in his recent music video for “Save Your Tears,” someone bearing a completely different look. For those who have not kept tabs on The Weeknd, it would have been confusing to understand the significance of the bandages worn by the back-up dancers.
Despite the circumstances of performing during a pandemic, The Weeknd did an excellent job at creating a unique experience, with songs that everyone could sing along to. Having his back-up dancers wear bandages across their faces, with N-95 masks on top was both a nice homage to the theme of his album and a great way to ensure the health and safety of those dancing. Following safety guidelines and unable to have a traditional stage performance, The Weeknd used this opportunity as a chance to showcase his innovations as an artist. This led him to create a stage built completely in one section of the stands, a first for any artist at the halftime show. Going back to tradition, he closed with his sensational hit “Blinding Lights” as a multitude of fireworks erupted behind him in the distance.
For those saddened at having to watch The Weeknd from your TV, fret no more, as he has announced his tour dates for 2022. As a part of his North American leg tour, he has added new performances, one being at Fresno. That’s right—on April 27, 2022, The Weeknd will be in town for one night only. Tickets began going on sale February 8, so make sure to buy your tickets before it’s “too late,” and you can “save your tears for another day.”
Author: Shyanne Mortimer | A&E Co-Editor