The Weeknd Breaks Tradition with Halftime Show

Andrew Powers, Staff Writer

Super Bowl LV took place a couple weeks ago on Feb. 7th in Tampa Bay, Florida. The game began after a performance of the National Anthem by artists H.E.R. and Eric Church. While the Buccaneers and the Chiefs were duking it out, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, was preparing for one of his biggest performances to date, nearly a decade after his musical career began. He would be performing to an audience of 91 million people watching the game from their homes (Rivera). 

In the weeks preceding the performance, The Weeknd was putting all of his effort into planning the performance. His publicist said in an interview with the New York Post, 

“Abel spent almost $7 million dollars of his own money beyond the already generous budgets to make this halftime show what he envisioned.” said Abel’s publicist in an interview with the New York post.

Abel would be covering songs ranging from the beginning of his career to his most recent album, After Hours. However, to truly capture what he wanted, there would have to be speedy transitions on the stage. Since there were a reduced number of spectators due to the pandemic, they made the decision to build the stage in the stands for the first time in the halftime show’s history as an attempt to quicken transitions. 

The Pepsi Superbowl LV halftime show lasted  14 minutes and began with The Weeknd sitting in a car, dressed in his now signature sparkly red suit jacket with a set replicating the Las Vegas Strip around him. He exited the car to join a choir performing the intro to his hit song Starboy from the 2016 album of the same name, and although he collaborated with the musical group Daft Punk, neither they nor any other artists accompanied Abel on stage throughout the performance. This song transitioned into The Hills from his 2015 album Beauty Behind the Madness. After that, The Weeknd grabbed a handheld camera and went onto the stage, which appeared to be a hall of mirrors with golden (blinding, one might say) lights flashing all over. He spun the camera around singing the first verse to the hit Can’t Feel my Face, before a crowd of men in masks wearing the same clothes as Abel emerged from hidden doors and started bumping into each other at the chorus. The repeating phrase “I feel it coming” led into the song of the same name, as the crowd of men in masks began to disperse. The Weeknd exited back out of the stage.

After making it to the first chorus of I Feel it Coming, Abel quickly transitioned to Save Your Tears from his most recent album, After Hours. Once again only singing through to the first chorus of that song, The Weeknd began to perform the single, Earned It, which he made for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. The Weeknd then disappeared for a brief moment as the masked men from earlier began marching in the actual field to a snippet of House Of Balloons/ Glass Table Girls, from his debut album House of Balloons. He reappeared near the end goal, dancing in between the marching crowd, slowly picking up pace until the hit song Blinding Lights from his 2020 album started playing. At which point, the marching crowd rearranged themselves and revealed bright lights stuck to the palms of their hands. As Abel sang the chorus, the crowd started spiraling around him as the audience cheered and fireworks were lit off. The audience soon cheered, applauded, and wooed again when the song and the performance closed out. 

The Weeknd released a greatest hits album titled The Highlights two days before the performance on February 5th, and the album includes most of the songs performed. This release follows his fourth studio album After Hours which was released in March of 2020. All 14 songs on the album made it onto Billboard’s top 100, but Abel received zero Grammy nominations for it. Overall, fans of The Weeknd would like the performance, but others may be turned off by its strange aesthetic. 

For those who missed the show you can watch it here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=9rhadTURsrw)

 The Highlights is available on all major streaming platforms now.