Opinion: The Weeknd Either Saved or Ruined the Halftime Show

Two days after Super Bowl LV, the Halftime Show was #2 on YouTube’s trending. Perhaps The Weeknd saved the legacy of the Halftime Show as we know it, or he just made it harder to up the ante for the previously inglorious tradition.

Photo courtesy of NRK P3.

Photo courtesy of NRK P3.

Colleen Leidner, Contributing Writer

With rumors circulating that The Weeknd spent $7 million out of his own pocket to reassure himself that his Halftime Show performance would be done right (and with the proper funding), I can’t help but wonder if he was a little overqualified for the job.

Let’s be honest, up until Super Bowl LV the Halftime Show was a fiasco. From the unintentional Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s exposed breast (resulting in the ultimate crossover Timberlake stans never wanted) to the controversy over Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s dancing skills, there are a lot of things that have happened over the years to make everyone wonder who exactly is in charge of putting the show together. 

In a stroke of genius, someone had the bright idea to hire The Weeknd, an exceptionally talented artist. The same exceptionally talented artist who, bear in mind, had a gig at the Grammys that he decided to throw to the wayside to help out the reputation of the Superbowl Halftime Show. His execution was stunning as he incorporated fireworks, a choir, some of his hit songs, and a sincere passion in his art.

What I witnessed Sunday night was incredible. Music, choreography, the lights, the presentation… all of it was flawless. Although I am not a huge fan of The Weeknd, I was in awe.

The Weeknd presented himself to the audience while sitting in an old black Mercedes Benz surrounded by neon lights reminiscent of Las Vegas. He walks to a ledge and sits down, when what appears to be a fallen angel glides down in front of him, illuminating the choir. The entire choir may or may not have been wearing Star Lord’s mask from Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m still not sure. The choir then divides to show The Weeknd himself as he launches directly into one of his most well-known hits, “Starboy.”

The next fifteen minutes were full of well thought out choreography, some of the greatest hits from The Weeknd, and the best light displays I may have ever seen in my life.

It’s important to keep in mind that this man put on an incredible show in the middle of pandemic restrictions. Everything was done live there at the arena in Tampa, and precautions were most certainly taken. The choir and all of the backup dancers were either six feet apart or, in the case of the dancers, wearing masks made of bandages. 

This has to do with the storyline The Weeknd is currently telling, characterized by the bloody nose he’s normally seen with. During his NFL press conference, he said, “It’s a very cohesive story I’ve been telling throughout this era and throughout this year. The story will continue, but definitely will keep it PG for the families.” Regardless, my four-year-old brother still said they looked like monsters.

The Weeknd himself sported the red suit he’s been wearing through this era of his music, and definitely gave viewers some serious Michael Jackson vibes. His vocals were absolutely stunning, and his attention to detail can be seen through the entire 15 minutes he had in the limelight of the Super Bowl. The choreography his dancers followed? Superb. The lighting? Brilliant. That one violin interlude? Out of this world. The Weeknd even stayed true to himself by incorporating his own story arc.

With so many good things to say about his performance, I raise some questions. Did the Weeknd further the bar of performance, or lower it? Not many artists are willing to pay $7 million out of their own pocket to fund a show that already has funds. Was a well-done Halftime show enough to make any other artist who is called on to do it in the future giddy, or was The Weeknd’s performance a welcome reprieve from all the bad Halftime performances of the past? Personally, I hope things get better. If the Weeknd can pull off a show like that in the middle of a pandemic, maybe other bands can do it too.

Disclaimer: The opinions presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University Press.

Colleen Leidner is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @silver_tragedy.