Culture Picks | What The Weeknd’s Super Bowl performance was actually getting at

The performance was a celebration fit to mark a year of promoting The Weeknd’s latest studio album.


Courtesy of Flickr.

Every year, people start tweeting and making memes of the Super Bowl halftime show as soon as it begins, and this year was no different.

People took to Twitter, praising and mocking The Weeknd’s performance regardless of whether they were true fans or not.

The Weeknd performed eight songs at the Super Bowl LV: “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming,” “Save Your Tears,” “Earned It,” “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” and “Blinding Lights.”

While the NFL does cover performance costs to a certain extent, The Weeknd ended up spending $7 million of his own money on the performance.

The performance featured a set resembling the Las Vegas Strip, as well as a combination choir, orchestra and dance troupe, who all wore bandages over their faces that doubled as COVID-19-appropriate face masks. 

Since fans could not come near the performers, The Weeknd was able to spread his show across the entire field, making the performance larger than ever before. While the show was huge and the set was extraordinary, the performance seemed more organized and subdued than in past years, mainly because of the lack of fans.

Additionally, the show did not include a second headliner or performer as we’ve seen in previous years—think combinations like Shakira andJennifer Lopez, Coldplay featuring Beyonce and Bruno Mars or Katy Perry with Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott.

While many artists pre-record parts of their Super Bowl performances beforehand, The Weeknd did the entire show live. 

After the show, his sales increased by 385%, and Showtime is producing a documentary focusing on the performance from behind the scenes.

The Weeknd wore his iconic ruby suit, the enduring costume of his “After Hours” album cycle that the performer has worn in many Instagram posts and music videos. 

One tweet compared the troop of masked dancers to the hyenas from The Lion King.

Another person compared The Weeknd wandering around backstage to looking for their mom in the grocery store.

Even though there were plenty of memes, his fans tweeted their enjoyment of the show.

Other people were just confused.

Weeknd fans were happy to explain. 

The fans are right. The Weeknd has been consistently commenting on celebrity beauty culture.

For months, the Weeknd has been setting up an elaborate storyline that culminated in his Super Bowl performance. 

In his music video for “Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd was shown with a bruised and bloodied face. Later he would be seen wearing minimal bandages while he appeared at the AMAs with his entire face covered in bandages.

On Jan. 5, The Weeknd posted a picture of himself on Instagram without bandages, showing that his cheekbones were dramatically altered. 

In his music video for “Save Your Tears,” which came out the same day, he also had the altered look. The Instagram picture and music video had been edited, and The Weeknd looked the same as always during his Super Bowl performance.

In an interview with Variety, The Weeknd said he was building a message to fight against Hollywood beauty standards.

“The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated,” he said in the interview.