The Super Bowl halftime performance is one of the most highly anticipated occasions on both the sporting & musical calendar with greats from The Beatles to Michael Jackson taking the stage over the years. The biggest live performance America has seen since the pandemic started, last weekend over 100 million people tuned in to the Pepsi LV Super Bowl streaming live from Tampa, Florida to celebrate the annual NFL championship.
This year it was The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye who had the honour. And he seems more than a fitting choice – with a hits album just released & over ten years of music in his discography, his cinematic and sinister stylistic album ‘After Hours’, and with 2020’s hit of the year ‘Blinding Lights’ under his belt, it really is The Weeknd’s time.
There’s a lot to unpack in this highly prestigious and historical event, so we’ve put together all you need to know about The Weeknd’s incredible Super Bowl performance last weekend.
He’s known for his amazing live performances
The Weeknd has had a cinematic roll out of his latest album, 2020’s ‘After Hours’. Since the album was announced, he’s been developing a theme throughout his music videos for the album, each telling its own story. At the A.M.A’s last year he shook things up with his Oscar-worthy medley of ‘Save Your Tears / In Your Eyes’ that followed him through the empty city streets. Just another reason why he makes such a fitting choice as this year’s performer.
Things were a little different this year due to COVID-19
Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium can host more than 65,000 normally, but as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, only about 25,000 fans attended which includes 7,000 vaccinated health care workers who were gifted free tickets, (the rest of the attendees were cardboard cutouts supplied by the NFL). In addition to a quieter crowd, Tesfaye was restricted when it came to moving around the field as limited contact with players and staff was essential. Despite the limitations, including having to build the stage into the stands to comply with pandemic protocols, The Weeknd worked with what he had to create a never seen before Super Bowl performance.
He spent over $7 million of his own money on the show
In order to make his cinematic vision come to life, Tesfaye proved his commitment to his performance by investing $7 million from his own pocket. “The Super Bowl is an opportunity on the most massive level,” says Wassim ‘SAL’ Slaiby, The Weeknd’s manager. The result was a spectacular 14-minute performance that continued the ‘After Hours’ narrative, filled with lights, mirrors, fireworks, and more glitz and glam than you’d expect.
He kicked things off with his hit ‘Starboy’
Watch the Super Bowl LV live visual album now & relive your favorite moments from the @Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime show w/ @theweeknd, the National Anthem w/ @jsullivanmusic & @ericchurch and America the Beautiful w/ @hermusicx: https://t.co/wb9yMSz3h7 #SBLV pic.twitter.com/nh8aMIi4sz
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2021
Making an amazing first impression, the show kicked off by lighting up a Las Vegas-inspired skyline with The Weeknd sitting poised in a black convertible, right in the middle of the city of sin. Kicking off the performance with an eerie gospel version of “Call Out My Name’, The Weeknd swiftly cranked up the energy and jumped into a full version of the 2016 hit and Daft Punk collab, ‘Star Boy’.
People are meme-ing the hall of mirrors
me trying to follow the hostess to my table at the Cheesecake Factory pic.twitter.com/mhB6LKCIiF
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 8, 2021
my camera roll when I take my iPad back from a toddler pic.twitter.com/g0OqJLFpPH
— 𝑨𝒔𝒉𝒍𝒆𝒚 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 • 𝑬𝒔𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒏 (@skinclasshero) February 8, 2021
— Meggy (@MeggyNikirk) February 8, 2021
Reminiscent of the ‘Heartless’ music video, a portion of his performance takes place inside a disorientating hall of mirrors with a handheld camera capturing the chaotic action for added effect. Fans have quickly jumped on to creating memes of The Weeknd looking dazed and confused or up close and personal to the camera, comparing it to accidentally having your camera on during a Zoom meeting or losing your mum in the supermarket as a kid. Relatable, Abel, relatable.
He wrapped up the medley with ‘Blinding Lights’ as the finale
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2021
The Weeknd wrapped up a star-studded performance with one of his latest hits and biggest songs of 2020, ‘Blinding Lights’. In a visually striking finale, The Weeknd appeared on the Superbowl field along with a full crew of dancers in matching red jackets and white bandaged heads before diving into a choreographed routine to ‘Blinding Lights’. What other way to wrap up the performance of a lifetime?
His performance corresponds with the arrival of his compilation album, ‘The Hits’
If The Weeknd wasn’t already on the top of his game, just before his Super Bowl performance he released the compilation album ‘The Hits’ that arrived on February 5th. This curated collection gives fans both old and the chance to discover some of this classics like ‘The Hills’ or rediscover old gems like the sultry ‘Earned It’ from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack.
Watch The Weeknd’s Super Bowl performance here: