The pandemic ensures that the Weeknd’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl will be like none before. And in a brief interview for the NFL Network posted Thursday, he revealed another break with tradition: There will be no special guest.
Asked by sportscaster Kay Adams, he laughs and shakes his head before saying: “I’ve been reading a lot of rumors… I wouldn’t bet on it. There wasn’t any room to fit it in the narrative, in the story I was telling in the performance. So yeah. There’s no special guests.”
So, it seems there won’t be anyone like Beyonce, Travis Scott, Bruno Mars, Missy Elliott, M.I.A. or any other Super Bowl halftime special guests from recent years — or past collaborators like Daft Punk, Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey, Rosalia or Doja Cat — joining him in the narrative he’s referring to, which is the long and complex bad-night-in-Vegas storyline that has played out in videos, photos and television appearances around his “After Hours” album. It involves the red-jacketed, busted-nose character featured in the album artwork and began back in November of 2019 with a pair of songs — the smash singles and videos “Blinding Lights” (which was Variety‘s Hitmakers Record of the Year) and “Heartless.” While It starts off with a few too many drinks and a fight, but then the story becomes more surreal, apparently involving possession by an evil spirit, decapitation and more.
And just when the bandaged-nose started to seem normal, the Weeknd appeared with his face fully wrapped in bandages during his literally explosive appearance on the American Music Awards in November, like a person who’d just had plastic surgery — and the “Save Your Tears” video made it look like that’s exactly what happened.
While the Weeknd addressed the bandages in an exclusive interview with Variety earlier this week — essentially saying that they’re a commentary about the vanity surrounding celebrities — he didn’t provide much insight as to what the story itself means or where it’s going. He spoke with Variety about it s in our cover story back in April, but didn’t reveal much: “This character is having a really bad night, and you can come up with your own interpretation of what it is.”
During a press conference on Thursday, he did reveal that the performance will be more “PG” (-rated) than his often gory or disturbing videos; that the performance will take place in the stands as well as on the field (“We kind of built the stage within the stadium”); and confirmed that the performance will “incorporate some of the storyline [from the videos] — it’s a very cohesive story I’m telling throughout this year, so the story will continue.”
He declined three separate times to provide more details than those, saying at one point, “I don’t like to spoon-feed the audience, hopefully they can come up with some of their own theories and conclusions for what the show is saying and the story I’m telling with the performance.”