“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,” the “Blinding Lights” singer, 30, said in a Variety interview published ahead of his Super Bowl LV halftime show on Sunday, February 7.
The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) began promoting his fourth studio album in November 2019, when he unveiled his red-jacketed alter ego in the music video for the lead single, “Heartless.” The character’s appearance became more striking — and mutilated — as the era went on, with a bloodied face on the album’s cover in March 2020, a fully bandaged head at the American Music Awards in November and the use of prosthetics to represent plastic surgery in the “Save Your Tears” video released in January.
“It’s all a progression,” the three-time Grammy winner told Variety. “We watch the character’s story line hit heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on.”
In response to critics who wondered why The Weeknd would do such a thing during his most successful album cycle yet, he explained that “being attractive isn’t important to me but a compelling narrative is.”
The Toronto native seemingly marked the final chapter of his After Hours era on Sunday with his Super Bowl performance, during which his face was back to normal but his signature jacket was still on. He did much of his 14-minute set from the stands of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, while running through hits including “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “I Feel It Coming” and “Earned It” before making his way to the field with a massive group of bandaged backup dancers surrounding him.
The high-energy performance at the sporting event marked the biggest milestone in The Weeknd’s career thus far, fulfilling a goal he had since childhood.
“We all grow up watching the world’s biggest acts playing the Super Bowl, and one can only dream of being in that position,” the “In Your Eyes” crooner said in a statement released by the NFL in November 2020. “I’m humbled, honored and ecstatic to be the center of that infamous stage this year.”
The Weeknd later revealed that he used $7 million of his own money to set up a stage in the stands, keeping social distancing guidelines in mind amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was tough to bring the vision to life with what we had at the time. We really wanted to be safe,” he said on the NFL Network on Sunday morning. “We really thought about the players and the workers, so we built the stage within the actual stadium.”
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