Pop Culture with Tatiana


Blinded by the lights at The Weeknd’s Super Bowl 2021 half-time performance

(Music fact) The Weeknd released his fourth studio album in March, titled After Hours, and reportedly broke the record for the most global pre-adds in Apple Music history with more than one million users

The Weeknd delivers a visually stunning Super Bowl half-time show in the midst of a global pandemic. Bearing in mind he was largely forced to perform from the stands, rather than the pitch, in compliance with strict coronavirus protocols. There couldn’t be stunts (like when Lady Gaga jumped off the stadium roof), guest stars, marching band interludes, or obviously huge crowds of fans in front of the stage.

The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) is not a dancer like Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and all of the other artists that were able to wow an audience with choreography at their Super Bowl performances. So he focused his performance on visuals, lights, the movement of the camera and a troupe of dancers.

I must say personally I am not a huge fan of The Weeknd’s music, but this performance was good. A Super Bowl half-time show would’ve been extremely difficult to prepare this year because of all the restrictions. But this meant, he could focus on his performance being more pleasing for a television audience rather than a live one.

The “Starboy” singer didn’t want his first chance at a Super Bowl half-time show to fall short because of COVID-19 restrictions, so he told Billboard Magazine that he put $7 million of his own money into his Super Bowl halftime show performance to make sure it was just as he envisioned.

He began by recreating the Las Vegas strip. Set at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida, he appeared on stage in a floating black convertible surrounded by flashing neon signs reminiscent of Sin City.

Emerging from the vehicle, The Weeknd was wearing his signature look, the same one his After Hours alter ego has donned in every music video since the album’s March 2020 release, a suit with a red sequin blazer.  The stage was located high up in the stadium bleachers.

As the opening bars of Starboy rang out, the cityscape parted to reveal the singer, bathed in light, performing surrounded by a choir of red-eyed automatons.

Apart from a few Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves, he kept the focus on his vocals with a dramatic reworking of The Hills,

He then grabbed a handheld camera and disappeared into a backstage maze of lights and mirrors. At this point, I must admit it was cool, but if you are prone to feeling dizziness or epilepsy, it could be difficult to watch. But no performer has ever done this before and I think he thought of it because it was a somewhat made-for-television performance, so he could get away with being in a corridor and not on stage.

The singer was joined by dancers dressed like masked bandits that pushed him around as he continued to effortlessly sing the well known lyrics to Can’t Feel My Face, while starring directly into the steadicam.

The masked singer are part of the campaign for The Weeknd’s recent album, After Hours, which has revolved around a bloodied and bandaged character “having a really bad night”.

With the chaos coming to a halt for a brief moment, the Starboy hitmaker and his bandaged crew posed stoically with their hands at their sides, before resuming their vertigo-inspired routine.

The camera, purposely losing track of the star of the show, zoomed past the crowd of The Weeknd doppelgängers, before the entire performance returned to the main stage.

Afterwards, The Weeknd reemerged and gazed out into the crowd in awe as the opening tune of I Feel It Coming played over the sound system.

Clearly caught up in the moment, the Canadian-born singer looked directly into the camera and let out a light chuckle before bringing the microphone to his mouth.

Fireworks blasted off from behind a megaboard at the stadium as The Weeknd continued to break the fourth wall and address viewers at home with his gaze.

As the tension began to build, an entire orchestra emerged, with violins dominating. They played the notes to The Weeknd’s sensual Fifty Shades Of Grey track Earned It.

The stage and the production was epic. We could see the extra 7 million dollars of his own money he invested into the performance.

Then came my favourite part of the entire performance.

Taking his performance to the field, The Weeknd’s bandaged bandits delivered an eerily robotic dance routine, consisting of coordinated stomping and hand motions – complete with bright handheld lights.

Taking his lead single global, the multi-talented musician enthusiastically performed Blinding Lights as fireworks blasted off and his dancers gyrated. 

The performance ended with a dazzling fireworks show around the stadium.

Celebrities around the world were quick to praise stunning performance. Martha Hunt tweeted that “The Weeknd is Tom Brady level focused”.

The Weeknd pulled it off, proving how badly The Grammys dropped the ball by snubbing him in this year’s nominations.

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