Curious about this year’s Super Bowl Halftime show?
Here’s what you need to know about the performer, the possible guest appearances and whether the event will be truly “live”:
1. The Weeknd Is Headlining the Halftime Show
For the very first time, The Weeknd will be performing at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. He told NFL Network’s Kay Adams that he would perform with no special guests, saying, “There wasn’t any room to fit it in the narrative, in the story I was telling in the performance.” This year’s appearance was announced by CBS Sports on November 12, 2020.
If past performances are any metric, according to Sports Illustrated, The Weeknd’s Super Bowl set will likely run between 12 and 15 minutes in length.
Arguably best known for the single “Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd has had three singles break the Top 10 — “Blinding Lights,” which peaked at No. 2 on January 23, “Hawai,” which peaked at No. 3 in November 2020 and “Save Your Tears,” which peaked at No. 9 on January 30.
The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye and who is about to turn 31, first gained popularity with his 2011 mixtape “House of Balloons,” according to Biography. He has since topped the Billboard charts with four No. 1 albums between 2015 and 2020: “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which won an American Music Award and a Grammy in 2015; “Starboy,” which won the Grammy for best urban contemporary album and was nominated for several AMAs in 2017; “After Hours,” which won the AMA for favorite Soul/R&B album in 2020; and “My Dear Melancholy.”
The Weeknd also holds the Guinness World Records for most streamed album on Spotify in one year and most consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 by a solo male artist.
2. Daft Punk May Perform
A leaked set list for the halftime show seems to suggest that the Weeknd is planning at least one surprise for his performance.
First broken by GQ Mexico, the leaked set list seems to indicate that Daft Punk could appear alongside The Weeknd. This makes sense, as two of The Weeknd’s biggest hits are collaborations with Daft Punk: 2017’s “I Feel It Coming” and the 2016 hit “Starboy.” While the Wall Street Journal has pointed out that the Super Bowl and British musicians often go hand-in-hand, it’s certainly less common for a French band like Daft Punk to grace the stage at an American football game.
However, this rumored collaboration may not happen. The Weeknd told NFL Network that he would perform with no special guests.
3. The Weekend Is the First Canadian to Perform in Years
The Weeknd was born in Toronto, Canada, to his mother, Samra, an Ethiopian immigrant who had come to the country in the 1980s, Rolling Stone reported. The Weeknd told the outlet his father left when he was just a toddler and made only a few brief appearances in his life thereafter; he was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother while his mother worked, according to Rolling Stone. He eventually moved to Los Angeles.
The 2021 Super Bowl marks the first time a Canadian act has headlined the halftime show in nearly two decades. The last time was back in 2003, when singer Shania Twain graced the stage — along with the American band No Doubt and British musician Sting. In a ranking of Super Bowl Halftime Show performances, Rolling Stone called Twain’s “a career-freezing sadgasm” that was only saved by No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani and Sting.
Speaking of Canadian acts, some fans might be wondering why there’s no final “e” in The Weeknd. This is because there was already a Canadian band called The Weekend before The Weeknd hit the scene in 2011. According to an archived EMI Music Publishing document, the band The Weekend opened for acts like Weezer and Green Day in their heyday.
4. Exec Promises Super Bowl Halftime Performance Will Be Live
Not every Super Bowl performance is live. After her national anthem performance at Super Bowl XXV in 1991, it was revealed that Whitney Houston was lip syncing. She had prerecorded the song in a move approved by the NFL, wrote author Danyel Smith for ESPN, saying, “she boldly interpolated our anthem and sang it as well as it will ever be sung.”
However, it appears that the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show will be a fully live affair, according to those close to the event. In an interview with ET, Super Bowl executive producer Jesse Collins said that the “live” aspect of the performance is very important.
“[The Weeknd has] monster hits, and he really worked hard to make sure that they are presented in a way, in a Super Bowl halftime format, in a live way that’s never been done before,” Collins told ET. “The key word is ‘live,’ like, we didn’t go pre-tape this. … It’s all happening in that stadium, in that moment.”
5. Super Bowl Halftime Performers Are Unpaid
CNBC reported last year that Super Bowl performers are unpaid, with the promotional benefits of performing at such a large event generally being considered compensation enough. While the NFL “does provide a hefty budget for any and all performance-related expenses,” CNBC reported in 2020, Billboard reported that The Weeknd has put up $7 million of his own money to make sure the performance is a great one.
“The NFL allows you a production budget — it’s almost never enough to satisfy what the actual production costs are,” Lou Taylor, a business manager to musicians who has experience with halftime shows, told Billboard. The Weeknd’s manager Wassim Slaiby told Billboard the artist wanted to “make this halftime show be what he envisioned.”
CBS News quoted Brian Rolapp, NFL chief media and business officer, about the event and what viewers could expect this year.
“Halftime Show performances have a history of excellence and creativity and we look forward to seeing what he will bring to Super Bowl LV,” Rolapp told reporters.
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