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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

This year’s Superbowl Halftime Show was taken on by the Weeknd, performing songs from his current album After Hours. Taking on this big role during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Weeknd made sure to put on an unforgettable show to bring something memorable into this year of chaos. The Weeknd’s unique performance included a hidden meaning, which people might have missed.

    The Weekend received mixed reviews about this halftime performance. Some commented that he wore his red suit too much. Others made a remark that the bandaged faces of his backup dancers were too grotesque for families watching. What viewers did not realize is that this different halftime show was the finale to his story from his latest album, After Hours.

rock concert
Photo by Vishnu R Nair from Unsplash

    This “story” started in January 2020 in the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” music video, in which the debut of the red suit and his bloody face appeared when he drives drunk in the video and gets beaten up. On the cover of After Hours, the Weeknd shows the same appearance.

    Pretty soon, this bloody and beaten up appearance became normal in the public eye as well. This became a signature look when he wore it on SNL in March, the 2020 American Music Awards and the Video Music Awards.

    A year later, he released the music video to his song “Save Your Tears,” which shows his story continuing to develop. The Weeknd finally ditches the bandages to show what seemed like extreme plastic surgery.

    With public confusion on the meaning behind this character the Weeknd was portraying, he tells Variety about the meaning behind his performance:

“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. It’s all a progression and we watch The Character’s storyline hit heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on,” he said.

Crowd in a concert
Photo by Kaleb Nimz from Unsplash

The storyline of this character progresses to its final stage on February 7, during the halftime show performance. The Weeknd once again wears his signature red suit, but instead of his damaged face, he hits the stage with a clean new look. But the hidden message in his character is still shown with his background dancers, who all wear bandages on their heads.

For the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show, the Weeknd continued to develop his year-long character from the album After Hours. The Weeknd’s unique performance shows that throughout the year, he was a piece of performance art that was tied to his album, telling a story and leaving a hidden message about the manipulation of Hollywood.

Hello everyone! My name is Madelaine Triebold. I am from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and am currently a Sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am a Journalism B.A. major that is taking the Strategic Communication track with a certificate in Digital Studies. Some fun facts about me are that I am a broadway musical fanatic and that I would gladly spend any day at a badger football game! Find me on instagram @mtriebold!
Kate O’Leary

Wisconsin '23

Kate is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin Madison majoring in Biology, Psychology and Sociology. She is the proud co-president of Her Campus Wisconsin. Kate enjoys indoor cycling, spending time with friends, cheering on the Badgers and making the absolute best crepes ever!