The Weeknd wows at the Super Bowl

After his halftime performance, The Weeknd saw a 41% increase in his songs’ streams

Pepsi [Fair Use]

After his halftime performance, The Weeknd saw a 41% increase in his songs’ streams

Amy Zhang, Copy Editor

Millions watched as The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) took the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show this year. The performance, which is getting a Showtime documentary later this year, packed eight songs into 13 minutes and lived up to halftime show expectations, despite the COVID-19 precautions taken.

The show opened with The Weeknd sitting in front of a set that imitates a city’s skyline. Backed by a choir in the background, he kicked off the performance with “Starboy.” The backing track seemed to overpower his voice at times, but his ad-libs shone through and added life to the song.

He performed “The Hills” next, remaining onstage and singing into a stand mic while maintaining eye contact with the camera the entire time. The setup served as a subtle reminder that his target audience was people watching from home, not fans in the stands, due to the pandemic. During the chorus, the choir’s jabs of harmony set a dark, moody tone, a surprising change from the song’s recording.

Next came the song that probably created the most memes from the set, “Can’t Feel My Face.” As he entered a maze filled with mirrors and disorienting lights, the camera panned back and forth in a purposely dizzying manner that also gave a nice fisheye view of his face. The chorus amped up the confusion when dozens of bandaged backup dancers flooded the maze-like intoxicated clones of The Weeknd jostling for the camera.

Afterwards, he exited the maze to perform “I Feel It Coming,” “Save Your Tears” and an orchestra-accompanied version of “Earned It” on top of the stage. From there, he descended onto the football field into a crowd of dancers for an energetic performance of “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” from his first album and “Blinding Lights” from his latest. The latter was the pièce de résistance of the show, one of his greatest songs reimagined by blending a chaotic swarm of dancers into a darker chorus, harmonized into a minor key. It closes with The Weeknd as the last man standing amidst a sea of dancers lying on the ground, which is rather symbolic of his music career thus far.

Beyond the final shot, this performance seems to have a deeper meaning, as it could likely be an event in the storyline from his latest album “After Hours.” This alternate universe of sorts has been incorporated into music videos and award shows. Over the span of the promotional period for “After Hours,” his character sustains head injuries, gets decapitated, wraps his head up with bandages and emerges with a look altered by plastic surgery.

“I will still incorporate some of the storyline,” The Weeknd confirmed in an interview with Uproxx. “It’s a very cohesive story I’ve been telling throughout this era and throughout this year. So the story will continue.”

Was the performance the final scene in his storyline? It makes sense for him to continue it through a wave of success. “After Hours” was one of the biggest albums of 2020, and The Weeknd saw a 41% increase in his songs’ streams after the halftime show. Whatever his next move may be, it is sure to be as surreal and extravagant as his Super Bowl performance.