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The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Why The Weeknd deserves credit for his storytelling performance

Photo Courtesy/ YouTube NFL

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the pre-show interviews and guessing the songs that The Weeknd would perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. Now I’ve watched the performance more times than I can count. There is something new and unique to discover each time that makes me that much more eager to go back and watch it again. 

Is my opinion popularly shared by everyone? Not at all. Is it shared with Weeknd’s XO fanbase? Most definitely.

No, The Weeknd’s performance was not the stereotypical halftime performance. It lacked the typical over-the-top stage, and the “hype” that has accompanied most Super Bowl performers and any surprise guests. The people who solely watched expecting to see these aspects were disappointed. 

The Weeknd’s performance was about more than all of those things – it was about storytelling. 

Those who have not followed The Weeknd from the beginning of his “After Hours” era would have missed out on the key hints and messages that he has been dropping through lyrics, music videos and performances. He has never explicitly said what his true intentions are because as he said in his pre-halftime show interview, he would rather leave it up to interpretation. 

The most common, and probably the most accurate, interpretation of The Weeknd’s “After Hours” story is as follows:

A man (The Weeknd) works his whole life to become a famous artist, yet once he gets to that point, fame, wealth and glory devour who he truly is.

As one would have seen in the music videos for “After Hours,” (which I recommend watching) The Weeknd dies amid this frantic Hollywood and Las Vegas lifestyle that he has come into. 

The Super Bowl performance was a montage of all of the different faces and lifestyles he has explored through his work in “After Hours.” It started with him in a flashy car under Las Vegas lights, living what most would think is his best life. He moves into the fun-house replica room of lights representing that he is “blinded by the lights” of this lavish lifestyle. Once on the field, he is surrounded by imitations of himself as a symbol of Hollywood behavior attempting to swallow him up. Breaking free from these dancers, The Weeknd is able to rise above the glory, lights and fame of this lifestyle and be the artist he truly wants to be. 

Even if people were not interested in the performance itself, I think The Weeknd at least deserves a round of applause for the hard work he has put into carrying out this story for the past 11 months. 

Of course, my favorite part of the performance was the transition from the song “House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls,” a song featured on his first mixtape “House of Balloons,” to his newest globally renowned hit “Blinding Lights.” This transition not only felt like a ‘shoutout’ to original XO fans, but it also was a flash from the very beginning of his music career to where he is now, in what many would say is the highlight of his career. 

The pandemic challenged The Weeknd’s creativity – most notably in staging and costuming.

The Weeknd staged this performance perfectly, not only for the 25,000 in attendance but also the 5.7 million viewers at home. While planning his performance, he was not even sure that there would be people in the crowd; therefore, he used what he could in the stands and manipulated camera angles for the safety of the players and viewers, which later became in-person fans. 

Memes circulated soon after the performance, commenting on the costuming of The Weeknd’s dancers on the field. Jokes ranged from comparisons of their face coverings to jockstraps, or to the character Jason in Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us.” In an attempt at carrying out his character himself, The Weeknd mocked the face bandages that he wore during his “After Hours” era. What made it look more like a horror film or jockstrap? Perhaps the N-95 masks every one of the dancers wore – and let’s not forget they were socially distanced. The Weeknd did a stellar job at ensuring that his performance was safe for everyone involved. 

I have heard many people say that The Weeknd just isn’t a “Halftime Show” type artist, and maybe that is true. But from the perspective of an XO fan, he displayed the most “Weeknd” performance yet, raising expectations for the remainder of his developing story and his “After Hours” tour next year.


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About the Contributor
Sydney Denham, Sports Editor
Sydney is a junior English major with a minor in journalism. She first joined the Torch during her freshman year and started as a Staff Writer, then became Assistant Sports Editor. This year, she is serving as the Sports Editor and hopes to recruit more writers for the Sports section who are eager to learn about writing recaps and athlete feature stories. Sydney is excited to design and publish this year's issue of Courtside in collaboration with the other editors. Outside of the Torch, Sydney likes to do photography.  You can reach Sydney at [email protected].

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