It’s been years since I’ve really been invested in the part of the Super Bowl that is about football. For me, the Super Bowl is the commercials and also the halftime show. This will be the second halftime show produced by Jay-Z after his creative partnership with the NFL was announced last year, and The Weeknd is headlining. I can’t wait to see this performance.
Because of the music, of course; The Weeknd’s After Hours has been one of the biggest albums of the last year, and he’s been one of the most successful artists of the last few years. But also because of how he’s been building up to this moment, the work he’s putting into this narrative. Earlier this week, in an exclusive interview with Variety, explained – sort of, because he may have also been “in character” for the interview – the storytelling that he’s been committed to for months and months and months; first with the bruises and other injuries on his face, and then the subsequent bandages on his face, and then the “new” face most recently, revealed through award show performances and music videos…all of which is not present in the Super Bowl teaser that was released a couple of weeks ago and which he was not wearing yesterday at the press conference.
The Weeknd looked like The Weeknd. Still, the fact that The Weeknd was even doing a presser was noteworthy. He’s not that kind of artist. Before this album cycle, he was actually more reclusive than most. And now here he is, taking questions at a podium ahead of one of the most high-profile spectacles in the culture, and not entirely uncomfortable. Maybe “The Character” is the key to all of this, a meta and layered meditation on identity, superficiality, and the masks we all wear. As he told Variety:
“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.”
So what CAN we expect at halftime on Sunday? Usually the halftime show is a bombastic display of an entertainer’s live performance skills but it’s not usually a play within a larger production. It’s usually a major artist singing their biggest hits and lots pyro. The Weeknd, however, seems to suggest that his performance will be part of an ongoing narrative. Which is why he may not have any surprise guests…because they haven’t been a part of the story so far:
But what if “The Character” is a liar? How do we really know?
The Weeknd apparently put $7 million of his own money into this show so while expectations are always high for halftime, giving out that detail there raises the stakes. And maybe it’s a little bit of a f-ck you to the Recording Academy about the Grammys.