The city lights glimmer during the Super Bowl LV halftime show; The Weeknd sits statically in his car awaiting to make an entrance with his signature red jacket embroidered with crystals. Twitter armed and suited watching closely as the camera moves closer to singer, born Abel Tesfaye examining the scene. Placed center stage, he signals the beginning of his medley-hit performance opening with his 2016 hit “Starboy.”
A seeming-like angel ascends from above joining tens of others whilst the stage splits in half introducing the Grammy-winning artist. The singer performed solo unlike any other Super bowl performance which accompanied other artists, already hinting toward an atypical structure of the show. Twitter was quick to react comparing the backup dancers of “Starboy” to robots who appeared wearing similar helmets to the song’s collaborators, Daft Punk. They were dressed in pure white with bright, glowing red eyes captivating viewers with their eeriness.
The “masks” were dropped once “The Hills” entered the game. Jumping between his numerous albums, he suddenly enters a golden maze of mirrors, guiding the viewer through a dizzy sequence as he begins performing “Can’t Feel My Face.” Surrounded by dancers whose faces were bandaged, they mimicked The Weeknd’s moves, leading the camera in multiple directions. Memes and comments splurged through Twitter as the unsteady camera work created a sense of dazzle and confusion following a fast-paced rhythm. Many users reacted using the same snippets of the singer surrounded by glimmering lights.
— Dj 112 (@DJ112sa) February 8, 2021
— Meggy (@MeggyNikirk) February 8, 2021
— Tyler Roney (@TylerJRoney) 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
what my pizza rolls see from inside the microwave pic.twitter.com/GavZzw7cQR
— Ryan Schocket (@RyanSchocket) February 8, 2021
Trying to take make the $25 admission price worth it when they tell you the museum is closing in 5 minutes. pic.twitter.com/n1vohfeotb
— Felipe Torres Medina (@felipetmedinaa) February 8, 2021
Shortly after tens of dancers with bandaged heads hijacked the area mimicking his dance moves whilst wearing identical red blazers. The repeated close ups with the camera as well as the intense eye contact marked this performance as both unusual and intimate. The storyline, persona, and colors generally mirrored his recent music videos from the album “After Hours” highlighting darker tones and creating a sense of mystery. Similarly, he used this concept during his SNL, VMAs, and AMAs performances.
Star Wars References
The storyline was teased by viewers, this time comparing the scene to Star Wars. While some characterized parts of the performance as creepy, following the glowing eyes of the choir and the bandaged faces of the backup dancers during the intro, some others made fun referencing Star Wars’ Jawas and C-3PO.
— Anna Roisman (@AnnaRoisman) February 8, 2021
— Elliott Bambrough (@E2TheBam) February 8, 2021
The pandemic introduced a new feel for the Super Bowl halftime show, giving emphasis on multiple camera angles and perspectives in an attempt to engage the viewer with the storyline. The strictly home-based performance focused on intimacy and in most instances having a one-on-one connection between the Canadian singer and the home viewer. After the captivating “Can’t Feel My Face” act, he returned to the stage accompanied by fireworks in the distance setting grounds for a mood-booster with hits like “I Feel It Coming,” “Save Your Tears,” and the sensual “Earned It” from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.
Many were quick to comment on the controversy that occurred earlier in the year regarding The Weeknd’s non-existing Grammy nominations. Fans who perceived this year’s halftime show as iconic shared comments shading the Recording Academy, “the Grammys look like CLOWNS right now”, whilst others simply praised the singer, “Proud of him for choosing to perform for the super bowl over the Grammys.”
proud of him choosing to perform for the super bowl over the grammys. https://t.co/Go8go0zaM7
— aaliyahkim (@aaliyahkimobeda) February 8, 2021
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, producing the show was much more complicated than usual in terms of hygiene, safety, and precautions. The Weeknd’s publicist told the New York Post that Abel Tesfaye contributed $7 million to the production of the halftime show from his own earnings above the amount the NFL had already input. Despite the challenges, they still managed to create a spectacular, rich performance, leaving viewers fascinated.
Embed from Getty Images
Be sure to check out the performance for yourself.