Breaking down The Weeknd’s halftime show

Published 7:03 am Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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The first Super Bowl came along in 1967 after the American Football League and the National Football league merged. Alabama was well-represented in that inaugural game. The Green Bay Packers’ quarterback was former Alabama quarterback Bart Starr, and the Kansas City Chiefs had two former Lanett High School players.  The Packers won 35-10. 

The halftime show in that first Super Bowl consisted of the marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling University. Things were not much different a year later when the halftime show in the second Super Bowl consisted of seven Miami-area high school bands.

Carol Channing was the first nationally-recognized performer at a Super Bowl, and that didn’t happen until Super Bowl IV in 1970. Things didn’t really amp up until Michael Jackson kicked off the now-expected superstar appearances at halftime in 1993.

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Let’s move ahead to the 2021 halftime show.

First, the chosen performer was The Weeknd.    And no, that isn’t a typo–the final “e” in weekend is omitted.  I have no idea why.  I’d never heard of The Weeknd, so I scurried off to my nearest internet connection to find out.  As it turns out, The Weeknd is not a group, it is a 30-year-old Canadian singer, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, who calls himself The Weeknd when he performs.

When I look at “The Weeknd” it seems that it should be pronounced as “The Weakened”.  I think he pronounces it as “The Weekend”.  I think he also flunks basic spelling.  But we’ll see some of The Weeknds lyrics in a minute.

So out of all of the performers in all of the world, the Super Bowl halftime show selection committee selected a Canadian whose claim to fame is that no one I know has ever heard of him (I asked), and who misspells an entirely common word–maybe even on purpose. Okay.

I watched the halftime show. The Weeknd must be doing okay. According to the Sporting News website, he spent $7 million dollars of his own money–let that figure sink in for just a moment–to make the halftime show “be what he envisioned.”  I still have no idea what he envisioned.

I watched the show on YouTube to help me figure out how to describe it. Where do I go to get those 14 minutes and 10 seconds back?

The Weeknd spends about the first twenty seconds sitting in and then getting out of a car on a set. Then he spends the next ten seconds walking over, sitting down, and hanging his legs off the edge. Then the excitement really ramps up as this white-robed figure is soundlessly lowered onto the stage for what appears to be no purpose at all. That takes us to a little more than a minute into the performance.  A choir has been seated and singing on a multi-tiered stage, and it parts as The Weeknd walks out, intensely backlit, and awkwardly waving his arms as though he were directing the choir. He screams something about a minute and a half into the show.  Then he begins singing. The song was nice, even if I’d never heard of it.  He has to do something right–after all, he had $7 million bucks to throw at this project.

He sang from a song called “The Hills”. I had to look that up. I listened to the lyrics–it’s the wordsmith in me–and I had to look those up, too. 

Here is a sample:

“Your man on the road, he doing promo

You said keep our business on the low-low

I’m just tryna get you out the friend zone

‘Cause you look even better than the photos

I can’t find your house, send me the info

Driving through the gated residential

Found out I was coming, sent your friends home

Keep on tryna hide it but your friends know”

Deep, isn’t it. 

He seems to use “tryna” a lot.  When did writing “trying to” become too much work? Then at about four-and-a-half minutes, The Weeknd is singing and dancing when he is joined by men in red jackets with bandaged faces (did they all get injured on the way in?) who sort of bump into each other a lot as he sings “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you. But I love you.”  Maybe the dancers all suffered facial injuries caused by a lack of feeling in their faces.

At about the ten-minute mark, the bandaged men in red jackets come back out. Each of them had what looked like Iron Man lights in their hands as they strolled across the football field. 

They began running into each other all over the football field, much like the Kansas City Chiefs defense did during the actual game. 

All I could do was wonder where they found that many red jackets and where did they find enough bandages to cover all of them.

I sure did hope that no local emergency room needed bandages.

The Weeknd stopped singing and the odd men stopped acting in odd ways at around the thirteen-and-a-half-minute mark. The show ended with The Weeknd walking off looking at the fireworks in the background.

When I watched the YouTube video this Monday night, I was viewer 12,480,983.  The next morning, I was viewer 16,397,005.

I’m not altogether certain that I understand the modern world.