SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va., – Before watching this performance, I wouldn’t have said
that I was a fan of The Weeknd but more of a casual listener. I’ve always enjoyed his aesthetic and sound throughout the years and how he successfully formulates entire individualized eras unlike most male pop stars.
However, though he has put in a lot of work into his craft, I was shocked to find out he was performing the halftime show this year. This was due to him not being as established within the music industry like past performers (i.e. Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Shakira, and Michael Jackson.) I personally went into this performance with low expectations (but not as low as the disastrous years that Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake were the headliners) and was hopeful that The Weeknd would put on a good show.
By opening with his Las Vegas-like set with a high-quality performance of orchestral “Call Out My Name,” The Weeknd kicks off his completely solo halftime show with a captivating bang. The animatronic–esque chorus sings until they end up parting like the red sea to reveal The Weeknd. He starts his hit song “Starboy” to officially start his show. In his performance of “Starboy,” he adlibs quite a bit and shows off his range before transitioning to his breakout 2015 hit song “The Hills.” I personally was hoping this performance would have Nicki Minaj appear for her iconic remixed verse but he did it solo instead.
On the topic of collaborators, I found it interesting that The Weeknd decided to not have any come perform with him given his caliber of collaborations- Ariana Grande, Eminem, Doja Cat, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Juicy J, and Lana Del Rey all come to mind. When interviewed about this, he had stated that collaborations “…didn’t fit in with the narrative” that he was hoping to portray. This frustrates me most with the fact that he did perform two songs that are with collaborators- both “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” are done in collaboration with Daft Punk. I don’t think it would’ve been hard to at least incorporate a nod to them for their contribution.
After finishing his rendition of “The Hills,” The Weeknd becomes lost in a handheld camera viewpoint within a highly illuminated maze (of which a clip has already become a standout meme on Twitter) to perform “Can’t Feel My Face.” This section sounded great vocally, but with the rapid movement, lighting, and camera placement, I personally was getting a bit motion sick while watching similarly to when shaky cam is used within films. The Weeknd used this up-close personal time to connect with the audience, however, by showing a bit of personality smirking to the camera before throwing it and unveiling many masked look-alikes whose masks reminisce on the most recent music video “Save Your Tears” (but he isn’t performing that next.)
The Weeknd then walks back into the stadium to perform my favorite song of his, “I Feel It Coming,” among a fake cityscape. Sadly, this song felt a bit boring and a drop in the energy though the song was performed well. He then transitions into the previously hinted at recent hit “Save Your Tears.” “Save Your Tears” picks the energy back up though he doesn’t do much performance wise beside arm movements.
As “Save Your Tears” ends, we are treated to a full orchestra opening the Fifty Shades of Grey hit “Earned It.” The Weeknd again comes out of the parted wall to be center stage. This is my favorite vocal song of The Weeknd’s entire performance and though he didn’t do anything crazy, it’s probably the best overall part of the show. The Weeknd then shocks everyone afterwards by performing two songs from his first album before being signed to Republic Records – “House of Balloons” and “Glass Table Girls.” He then ends the night with a performance of his Billboard Number 1 hit “Blinding Lights” with his masked look-alikes all on the football field dancing until they drop.
This performance cemented The Weeknd as a pop star for our generation and showcased his talent to a wider audience. It showcased why his most recent album “After Hours” should’ve been nominated at the upcoming Grammys. Though this Super Bowl Halftime Show wasn’t as extravagant as previous years, it makes sense for it to be different due to COVID regulations and how odd the entire year has been. The main let down for me was the lack of collaborations- it has become a staple in Super Bowl Halftime Shows and could’ve easily at least had Daft Punk and Ariana Grande. I’m glad to have watched this performance though and look forward to how his career continually evolves as a result.
As for next year, I think it’s time to go back to the pop girls to take charge of the halftime performances. Miley Cyrus showed that she has a vast range of hits in her TikTok Super Bowl performance and would do well in the halftime slot. Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Taylor Swift are others who I think would do amazing (especially Swift though I doubt she’d get the chance due to her Coca-Cola sponsorship.) Whatever happens next, though, I think this year’s performance will be remembered as being good.
List of Songs Performed:
- Call Out My Name
- The Hills
- Can’t Feel My Face
- I Feel It Coming
- Save Your Tears
- Earned It
- House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
- Blinding Lights