The Weeknd's Super Bowl Halftime Show Review: The Most Authentic Halftime Show Ever

Emerging from the shadows, The Weeknd retraced his steps and retold the ‘After Hours’ era on the Super Bowl stage. Arriving at Vegas, and departing on the fields of Tampa Bay, he did what no other Halftime performer did before, and told a story.

Sitting at the edge of his downfall, Abel had one decision to make, life or death. As the stage split in twos and the choir sang, he had emerged with his 2016 hit “Starboy”, as he questions if this was fate all along? Continuing with a synth-explosive moment of “The Hills”, he takes viewers inside of his headspace for a woozy, drug-fueled, chaotic performance of “Can’t Feel My Face”.

Bandaged clones arrive, a nod to what The Weeknd explains as homage to the extreme depths of Hollywood culture. As a signature look for the ‘After Hours’ era, the bandaging symbolizes what he's at war with. He’s a STARBOY, but does he fall into the trap? Just like he pinpoints on the ‘After Hours’ album cut, “Escape From L.A”, he does just that, as he shines on the top of the stage for “Save Your Tears”, and “I Feel It Coming”, before his vocals dazzles during a too-long performance of “Earned It”.

Taking it to the fields, the climatic moment that viewers have been waiting for finally happens. The clones take it to the field, for a demonic, dark, twisted, and every other synonym you can think of, for a nu-metal “House of Balloons" moment. It’s as if the clones were performing a ritual to summon The Weeknd, but it's one man vs. all, as for the grand finale of "Blinding Lights", he emerges victorious as the only man standing. 

Eight songs in 14 minutes weren’t “performances”, they were scenes of a cinematic Super Bowl Halftime show that viewers weren’t accustomed to. Required to go PG, The Weeknd stuck to his guns, and unlike any other performer of the past, he remained true to his artistic vision and didn’t sell out to be PG-friendly. While criticism stem from a history of Halftime shows that relied on flashy stage designs, heavy dancing, and a packed stadium, Abel stripped all of those away, and proves all you need is a vision.

Creative directed by La Mar Taylor, the man by Abel’s side since the very beginning, as well as ES Devlin, who has worked with the star since 2018, the show felt more authentic, and more personal than ever before. It was a touchdown victory for not only Abel, but for his team, his family and friends, and the XO fans that have discovered The Weeknd on tumblr a decade ago, now watched him along with 100 million others at home on the Super Bowl stage.

The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime show was a cinematic experience and provided a unique atmosphere that no other performer was brave to do. Once again, he didn’t need heavy dancing or any guests, he held his own for a visual moment that showcased the fact that he didn’t sell out to the expectations of the industry. 

Is this the greatest halftime performance of all time? Of course that’s arguable. But unlike any other performer, he did things on his own terms, and is now the standard for the next slew of performers to at least attempt to be as authentic.

Leave a comment