The Weeknd’s Show Leaves Viewers Eager For Monday


Courtesy of

The Weeknd performs at Super Bowl LV.

A.J. Fezza, Co-Culture Editor

It was a unique year for the NFL. The 2020-2021 season was done under the shadow of a global pandemic. When nearly all other professional sports had stunted or postponed seasons, the NFL season went on as usual, going all the way through to the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7. With the Super Bowl comes the most important musical performance of the year: the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

This year’s act was the pop and R&B sensation known as The Weeknd. The Weeknd released a compilation album on Friday, Feb. 5, called “The Highlights,” leading up to the big show. Anticipation was also built when the news broke that The Weeknd paid $7 million out of his own pocket to pay for his performance. Viewers were expecting a spectacle like no other. What they actually got was something not quite as impressive.

The performance began with The Weeknd sitting in a car, surrounded by Las Vegas-esque props and fluorescent lights. In the background, a choir sang his 2018 single “Call Out My Name.”

Next, The Weeknd was dropped onto a stage in the middle of Raymond James Stadium. The choir was now visible, and they were all wearing masks. No, these were not the typical masks that 2020 has made us all accustomed to; these masks covered the entire head and made the singers look like cyborgs.

The Weeknd then broke into his 2016 song “Starboy.” The audio was difficult to discern while watching live on television because of the presence of exceedingly loud, seemingly-fake cheering.

While The Weeknd sang, each member of the choir, all standing socially-distanced from each other on platforms, engaged in random arm movements, only occasionally moving in unison.

By the time The Weeknd moved on to the next song, “The Hills,” the audio was far more clear, and the show began to pick up.

However, his subsequent performance of “Can’t Feel My Face” brought the show back into bizarre territory. The choir’s platform opened up, and The Weeknd walked inside. He grabbed a camera, held it like a GoPro, and meandered around this indoor area while singing into it. This part of the performance, which went on to inspire thousands of memes over the next few days, was sloppy. Then, a crowd of backup dancers with bandaged faces joined the fray, throwing their bodies around this small, enclosed space. This unusual display was apparently a reference to one of The Weeknd’s music videos. However, for most viewers, this went totally over their heads. The dancers then began to block the camera, giving The Weeknd the opportunity to appear on the outdoor stage again to sing “I Feel It Coming” and “Save Your Tears.”

Next up was my favorite part of the performance: The Weeknd singing “Earned It,” while half of the choir, instead of singing, brought out violins as an accompaniment. It turns out that adding a large string section and electric guitar to “Earned It” brings tremendous new energy to the already-superb song.

The bandage-faced dancers from earlier in the show then returned, this time in massive numbers, to march across the football field. In between marching, the dancers waved around their limbs in a way that suggested that the choreographers put in minimal effort.

The Weeknd then joined the crowd of dancers down on the ground, and topped off the show with “House of Balloons,” and of course, “Blinding Lights.” This finale was expected, considering that “Blinding Lights” is The Weeknd’s biggest hit and the best-performing single in the country for 2020.

The show was widely-seen as average. All the fireworks and smoke machines in the world couldn’t raise the performance to the legendary status of those by Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and many others. One thing that stuck out was that there were no guest performers at all. This was a departure from the recent norm, since Maroon 5 brought on Travis Scott in 2019, and Shakira and Jennifer Lopez brought on rappers Bad Bunny and J Balvin in 2020.

It’s fine for halftime show performers to not have any guests, but in an interview on the NFL Network, The Weeknd qualified his decision to perform alone in a strange way.

“There wasn’t any room to fit it in the narrative and the story I was telling in the performance,” The Weeknd told the NFL hosts. “So, there’s no special guests, no.”

This left Villanova students and professors alike wondering the same thing: what exactly was that story?

I spoke to two Villanova students, both major fans of The Weeknd, about their perspective on the halftime show.

Stephen Terry, a sophomore, enjoyed it.

“I thought that The Weeknd’s performance was really impressive given the current circumstances,” Terry said. For doing the show 100% live, his singing was really good as well.”

Miguel Badia, another sophomore, also enjoyed the performance, but had a few complaints.

“I really enjoyed the show and how cinematic it was,” Badia said. “My only complaints are that the sound wasn’t great because I couldn’t hear [The Weeknd] too well, and that I wish there was more dancing instead of people just running around everywhere.”

All in all, the show was mediocre. Hopefully, next year’s performance is not quite as unnecessarily hyped-up.