For nearly all of his ten years-extended vocation, the Weeknd has been obtaining at any time far more ornate strategies to duck the spotlight, starting to be immeasurably famed and preferred whilst keeping a cool, skeptical and helpful eliminate from the severe, often goofy highlight of fame.
Out on the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show, even though, there is not a lot a person can do to hide. It is a locale that flattens nuance, sandpapers intent. It is live and intensely vetted. For somebody whose music generally dive deep into traumatic and provocative matter make a difference, but gleam so brightly and convincingly that it’s uncomplicated to skip the brittle soul in just, it is an not likely, almost vulnerable position to obtain on your own.
Which almost certainly explains why, at Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the Weeknd rejiggered the phrases of the performance. What would ordinarily be a hyperchoreographed spectacle with numerous going elements was instead something a lot more centered and, at instances, unnervingly personal. Even although his music tends towards the maximalist, the Weeknd identified various means to make the functionality seem little, a type of magic formula whispered in front of an audience that tops 100 million.
In a overall performance clearly intended for at-residence consumption, he targeted intently on the cameras. Guiding him was a band and a choir interspersed among the a neon cityscape, and typically he was surrounded by dancers — their faces bandaged, in retaining with the fame-skeptic iconography of his the latest new music video clips — but frequently, the Weeknd stood by itself. His eye call was extreme. When he danced, he mainly did so in isolation. In the midst of a pyrotechnic affair, there he was, preserving his possess time.
That was also partly the end result of the exclusive situation of the event this calendar year: a grand-scaled affair reimagined with pandemic restrictions in brain. Fairly than the typical stage setup — assembled at midfield, then quickly disassembled right after the show — the Weeknd executed mainly from the stands, only descending to the field for the final number of minutes of his set.
Wearing a glittery pink blazer and spectator shoes with an all-black ensemble, he in some cases appeared like a cabaret mayor, a master of ceremony for a place-age operate. He trapped to the largest of his many huge hits. “Starboy” was lively, and “The Hills” had a majestic sweep.
Immediately after “The Hills,” he pivoted to one thing far more peculiar, strolling into an overlit labyrinth and undertaking “Can’t Feel My Face” amid a scrum of face-bandaged search-alikes. The digicam was hand-held and unsteady, speaking a glamorous mayhem that this event normally doesn’t dabble in.
Afterward, he tempered the temper with some of his largest-tent hits: the sunshiny “I Experience It Coming,” the oversized “Save Your Tears” and then “Earned It,” his theatrical ballad from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack.
There could perhaps be no more fitting minute for the Weeknd to be headlining the halftime show: Just after practically a calendar year of staying away from other people, who far better to set the terms of community engagement than pop music’s biggest hermit? That explained, it was jarring this 7 days to enjoy him poke his head out from the shadows, partaking in a terse, not wholly relaxed information meeting, and yuk-yuking in a comedy sketch with James Corden.
There are some duties of this stage of fame that aren’t negotiable. Questioned at the information convention no matter whether he would temper his songs or efficiency in any way, supplied how lurid and graphic his recent videos have been, the Weeknd insisted, “We’ll continue to keep it PG for the households, surely.”
Which is to say, there was no mischief injected onto one particular of pop music’s grandest, most-seen and most scrutinized stages — take, for instance, the uncooked carnal provocations of Prince’s 2007 rain-shellacked effectiveness, or the fireplace-eyed political radicalism of Beyoncé’s takeover of Coldplay’s tepid established in 2016, or M.I.A.’s center finger in 2012.
Mainly, as promised, he saved it PG, while he did toss in a sly grin and a tiny sashay of the hip during “I Sense It Coming,” and the scattered mayhem throughout “Can’t Really feel My Face” prompt far extra sinister matters than could be represented. His current tunes video clips have targeted on the grotesquerie of movie star worship, but that narrative was nodded to but mainly sidelined.
This is the second halftime demonstrate created in section by Jay-Z’s Roc Country, in an arrangement struck even though the league was attempting to address fallout from its handling of Colin Kaepernick’s racial justice protests. In modern years, the N.F.L. has seemingly perpetually been in crisis-response mode. This time was constantly challenged by the influence of the coronavirus.
Right before the match, the rock-soul singer H.E.R. carried out “America the Attractive,” injecting some Prince-minded guitar filigree. And the nationwide anthem was a duet involving the phenomenally gifted soul singer Jazmine Sullivan and the nation stoic Eric Church, wearing a purple moto-esque jacket as if to overemphasize the political and cultural center ground the effectiveness — sturdy, in some cases outstanding — was so plainly striving for.
In the Weeknd, the N.F.L. opted for one particular of the couple of unimpeachable pop stars of the past decade, a regular hitmaker with an ear for modern output and an passion for the grandeur and sheen of the most important 1980s pop.
Only throughout the last pair of minutes, when he at last emerged on to the field, did he accept just how significantly he had occur. Actively playing at that instant was a snippet of “House of Balloons,” the murky title song from his extremely murky debut mixtape, produced a decade ago. At that point, the Weeknd was a full cipher, a Toronto miscreant with an ethereal voice and zero fascination in sharing himself with the relaxation of the earth.
This nod to his previous was speedy — a wink for longtime admirers — and it gave way to “Blinding Lights,” his exuberant smash from 2019, which topped the Warm 100 for 4 months. It’s a sterling track that evokes equally an idyllic foreseeable future and triggers aural perception reminiscences of mega-pop’s glory yrs. On the area, he was surrounded by hundreds of Weeknd-alike dancers. In the starting, he moved with them in lock step. But as the music swelled, and the dancers began to swarm in odd designs, the Weeknd moved in his own rhythm, keeping the camera’s gaze, alone amid the chaos.