By Natalie St. Denis
R&B singer The Weeknd kicked off the Super Bowl LV’s Pepsi Halftime Show sitting in a vintage car, as a figure came down, wearing all white with glowing red eyes, from the ceiling. With its arms raised there was a choir that sang his hit song “Call Out My Name.” A bit creepy off the bat. Then, the camera pans to the large choir, all replicas of the figure who drifted down in front of The Weeknd.
As he transitions into the next song, the audience can finally get a clear glimpse of his face— which isn’t bandaged, bleeding, or botched with plastic surgery. It is completely different from what has been all over his social media during the past few months. Some viewers thought that he was truly undergoing facial surgery, which is not unexpected from Hollywood stars. This was all part of the storyline of his latest album, “After Hours.”
In an interview with “Variety,” the Canadian singer explains, “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.”
This is a real issue in the world of fame and it doesn’t take a celebrity to notice. Even fans are familiar with the pressure to get plastic surgery in the entertainment industry. Some even take to twitter to discuss pop culture icons and their facial work with the #celebrityplasticsurgery tag.
The dancers surrounding The Weeknd during his halftime performance were bandaged and masked. Their presence throughout the show depicts something of a cult group. This image could be conveying the way all celebrities feel stuck together in the center of fame, where they are forced to conform to a specific appearance.
The 31-year-old may have seemed like an interesting choice to some. The Weeknd hasn’t been in the music industry as long as some past performers of the halftime show, like Jennier Lopez and Shakira in 2020, Maroon 5 in 2019, or Justin Timberlake in 2018. But the audience was quickly reminded of the numerous hits The Weeknd has had since 2015. Among the hits were songs, “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming,” “Save Your Tears,” and TikTok hit, “Blinding Lights.”
The Weeknd’s songs show off his talented vocals which includes his ability to hit high notes and hold them for long periods of time. But this seemed to leave him out of breath during the performance, and may have been the reason he didn’t dance much.
Christian Schneider, a freshman hospitality management major, noticed his lack of movement.
“I know he’s not really a dancer or anything,” Schneider said. “But I feel like he could have done a little more choreography because I feel like for a lot of the time he was kind of just standing there singing, and there wasn’t much to see.”
His performance quickly gained traction on social media, following the almost 15-minute show. At one point during his performance, The Weeknd appeared to be walking through a lit up tunnel, looking lost, and held a camera very close to his face.
The Weeknd seemed to be singing to it. This part of the show was very chaotic and almost dizzying to viewers, which sparked many memes online.
Viewers were quick to come up with creative memes of this clip. On Twitter, Ashley Flanagan tweeted: “what my friends see in their ring doorbell when I show up to their house #superbowl #PepsiHalftime.”
Andrew Koenig, a dad who watched the performance, tweeted, “What I see when my kids wake me up in the morning #TheWeeknd #SuperBowl #PepsiHalftime.”
A more serious topic surfaced the media after The Weeknd’s performance. People online have criticized The Weeknd’s lack of political commentary on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Although he does actively support the movement and even donated $500,000 in June, he didn’t seem to reference or speak out about the topic during this halftime show performance.
Schneider mentioned he felt a little disappointed regarding this issue.
“I mean he definitely could’ve done more and I think a lot of other performances in the past, like in 2016 with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, they did do a lot more,” Schneider said.
Schneider was referring to when Beyoncé performed a song celebrating Black empowerment called “Formation.”
The Weeknd’s performance felt a little sub-par compared to those prior, but he was able to showcase his talents to the millions watching.
“I liked how it was very different and I like how he didn’t have a lot of dancers with him at all times like a lot of people do. He kind of made himself the star of the show and he didn’t need anyone else to do that for him,” Schneider said.
The Weeknd’s halftime performance showed audiences that the basic standard of performance doesn’t make a show memorable. Following an album storyline, commenting on social issues and sparking memes online is the route for a show to remember.