The Weeknd’s performance for the Super Bowl halftime show on February 7, 2021, was one to remember. The show was funded in part by NFL, in part by $7 million of Abel Tesfaye’s own money. Abel, the 30-year-old musician better known as The Weeknd, broke with many traditions related to the Super Bowl and managed to exceed every expectation at a time as complex as the present one —considering there is an ongoing pandemic. The Weeknd paid attention to safety and made his show an entertaining and qualitatively high musical performance.
Despite all of this, there’s some features America overlooked: maybe people were too busy with memes to care. As Abel himself declared, he had no guests join him “on-stage” because of safety measures related to Covid-19, but this show was a special kind of one man show.
The performance starts with Abel sitting in an expensive car. The background is a mix between Las Vegas related visuals and Pepsi ads at their best. Red and blue dominate the scene for the entirety of the 15-minute show. The Weeknd gets out of the car, he’s alone. The singer sits down on the floor whilst a choir starts singing “Call Out My Name” in the background; the choir, recalling one associated with religious celebrations, amplifies the grandiosity of the whole event but also creates a tense atmosphere.
As the choir is shown, it is evident that distancing measures were observed in a very creative way. When Abel joins the choir on stage something else becomes clear: the choir is made up of men only. I hate to bring this to your attention, but it is a fact: there is not a single female performing. No musician, singer, or dancer is a woman. This came to me as an extremely negative feature of an apparently perfect show.
The show goes on, Abel’s incredible stage presence reclaims everyone’s attention, but I can’t help wondering who thought that a choir sounding and looking like it came straight out of heaven —white clothing, a sound specifically recalling religious celebrations, males only voices— was a good fit for Abel’s provocative and sex-related hit “The Hills”.
Critics and public opinion went crazy on the “I can’t feel my face” performance in the golden room. The Weeknd is alone, holding the camera in his hands, but soon he is joined by a handful of bandaged dancers looking exactly like him. The show was made possible by so many people, on stage and behind it, but the only one we ever truly see is him: Abel.
When I thought I was about to change my mind, as Abel sang “Save Your tears” I noticed that the musicians who performed by his side also had their entire faces covered by glittered masks. One could claim this is yet another necessary measure dictated by Covid-19, but I think it doesn’t make sense after looking at what comes next. Halfway through the show, Abel is back in front of the choir, this time singing “Earned it”, one of his hits and soundtrack of the film “50 Shades of Grey”. The choir is now mask-less and has changed into sparkly black suits. Some of the singers were replaced by violinists, making the provocative pop song sound like an orchestral piece. My doubts arise from the choir —which I still can’t help associating to religious celebrations because of the specifically related vocals they recreate. Who thought it would be a good idea to have this kind of choir sing “Earned it”? As a musician, I must admit it sounds amazing, I loved every musical bit of this show, but some things just aren’t right from so many other perspectives.
The creatives and music professionals who ideated and realized this show have made an amazing job on different levels, but the outcome is a gigantic praise to individuality, male superiority and idolatry of success.
I know the opening in Vegas makes sense now.