Review: The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

Evan Kostylo and Alyssa Shick

The Super Bowl Halftime show: a long standing tradition that brings music, football, and fans together. Abel Tesfaye, more well known by his artist name The Weekend, headlined the event at Super Bowl LV in Tampa. With COVID-19 having an obvious impact on the season there was a lot of uncertainty about the Super Bowl and how things would be conducted. The Weeknd was able to rehearse and perform a show that exceeded expectations, while having his crew get frequently tested and follow all COVID-19 regulations. 

He kicked off his performance with the song “Starboy” from his Starboy album. Following that, he sang seven of his other best hits, going through various albums. Many were expecting for him to be accompanied by a guest artist, as most halftime headliners do, but he performed the show in its entirety by himself. The Weeknd jumped from performing in the stands, to inside a gold light-filled hall of endless mirrors, to the field. His performance was a proud outlier due to bringing back “Happy House” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, an early 1980s goth flashback, which was the first in Super Bowl history. His bold emotional and scenery choices made it stand out amongst others. The eye-catching settings were very intentional, he explained to BillBoard that he wanted to create a, “cinematic experience” for those virtually watching the show. The Weeknd was able to perform not only his best hits on stage, but his point regarding Hollywood’s society and culture. 

The Weeknd’s performance dug deeper than just the music. Portrayed through the bandages of his army of backup dancers was a statement on Hollywood culture. He told Variety, “The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrities and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated.” He saw his expressive ideas come to life at a press conference earlier that week; he worked to keep them PG and make them less gruesome. While the messages went over the heads of some and became a meme for the internet, those who understood it appreciated his attempt to add meaning to the powerful performance.