The Weeknd’s Super Bowl halftime performance

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The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Chris O’Meara/AP)

What makes a good performance? Is it the bright lights, or the stage setup? Is it the choreography? The music? The fireworks, or the smoke machines? Making the audience feel engaged?

The halftime performance for Super Bowl LV was different than any year prior, primarily due to COVID-19 safety protocols. For one, it was the first Super Bowl performance where the main stage wasn’t set on the actual field.

Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, spent seven million of his own money to create his halftime show. The performance opened by replicating the night life of a big city. A large choir created suspense as Tesfaye took the stage.

A large group of background dancers joined The Weeknd on the field in a costume with bandages covering most of their face. Tesfaye has been an advocate for body positivity over the last few years and created a strong message by the choice of attire.

“The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated,” he said in an interview with Variety.

The Weeknd performed many of his top hits, including “Starboy,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming,” and “Blinding Lights.”

     Tesfaye, and his bandaged friends, didn’t involve much choreography and spent most of his time swaying and singing towards the camera or the audience. While he has very talented vocals, it often felt like he could be doing more.

But, was this entirely his fault? 

The Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa Bay, Florida, was limited to less than 38% capacity for spectators. It can be difficult to create an electric environment when more than 60% of your audience is made out of cardboard. 

With all of the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, it limited the creativity that a halftime show should include. Under the circumstances, I thought he performed well and reminded many people of the familiarity of his songs.