The Weeknd’s half-time performance stayed within those tight confines, while also stretching them to its limits, playing a completely clean set, full of international hits, while also towing the line on what lyrics and song themes are acceptable on a primetime broadcast.
He may be the biggest superstar on the planet at the moment, and he made sure to let the world know it, making his entrance in a beam of light like he just descended from the heavens.
A choir of robotic figures sang in the middle of a skyline that resembled a mixture of Las Vegas and New York City, paying homage to the seedy themes of a rendezvous gone wrong that have been at the center of The Weeknd’s entire catalog, laced with a heavy dosage of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
He opened with his song “Star Boy,” declaring that he is now in fact, a star. The song is produced by Daft Punk, and the metallic, red-eyed choir paid tribute to the robotic duo.
With a full band, a drummer shredding the kit and a guitar player wearing a glittery blue mask that contrasted The Weeknd’s shimmering red jacket, the singer shifted his feet like a consummate professional and made the case for himself as one of the best performers of the era.
He performed a bombastic version of his song “The Hills” featuring new cinematic elements reminiscent of The Lord Of The Rings or a Hans Zimmer score. Remember that this is a song about a late night booty call, and it was heating up the football field during primetime television.
That song is followed by what is arguably the biggest hit in the Weeknd’s repertoire, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” which is a song about taking a certain outlawed powdery substance.
This performance comes in a presentation that is sponsored by Nickelodeon, the channel that gave him a Kids Choice Award for the same song.
His “love” song, “I Feel It Coming,” is the sweetest The Weeknd will ever sound, yet the innuendo is ever present throughout the performance. Yes, the NFL agreed to do this, and the performer brought everything with him that made him into a superstar.
He swapped his choir for a glittery string quartet to perform his sultry anthem “Earned It,” which was made famous by being on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, a film that made bondage acceptable for middle America.
The singer definitely earned the spotlight during this performance, as The Weeknd’s showmanship and raw vocal performance is just one of the many reasons why he is at the pinnacle of American pop culture.
He closed with his newest hit “Blinding Lights,” singing on the field in a crowd of bandaged dancers, their faces masked like millions of Americans throughout the pandemic.
And while this song was one of the biggest commercial and critical hits of the past year, it was noticeably snubbed by the Grammys.
With this performance, The Weeknd has made that award show irrelevant, as the singer performed on America’s biggest stage without any new heap of gold handed to him.
He has lived up to his namesake, Abel Tesfaye, showing that he is able to perform any song he wants, with no network to tell him otherwise.
I applaud the NFL for letting a risqué performer do his thing, nearly uncensored, towing the line between inappropriate and just right for the whole family.
That balance is what has propelled The Weekend to superstardom and onto your television screen for the Super Bowl.