Entertainment Celebrity The Weeknd’s unsettling Super Bowl act goes down in halftime history

The Weeknd’s unsettling Super Bowl act goes down in halftime history

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By now, many of us are keenly aware that the most exciting and talked-about part of the Super Bowl has nothing to do with football.

Each year, the world’s biggest artists take to the stage/field to deliver some of the most extravagant performances of their careers for the halftime show.

The Weeknd made history as the first Canadian to have the honour of performing for hundreds of millions of viewers.

But he did it controversially, performing for a live audience of more than 22,000 people in Tampa, Florida, despite the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the performance took place on an elevated stage away from crowds, before The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, was joined by hundreds of lookalikes.

In one meme-orable moment, Tesfaye frantically tried to find his way out of a spooky, gold hall of mirrors while being pushed around by masked men.

Sporting an entirely black ensemble with a red blazer – a nod to his enormously successful After Hours album (that was surprisingly snubbed by the Grammys) – Tesfaye and his bandage-wearing backup dancers splashed out onto the field for a choreographed routine.

Though there were many eerie and unsettling elements, you wouldn’t be wrong for feeling a sense of deja vu.

First, there were the black and white Michael Jackson-inspired loafers paired with black gloves.

This isn’t the first time Tesfaye has worn Jackson comparisons, and fans have long commented on their similar voices and music style.

Then there were the heavily bandaged, faceless dancers who looked like they stepped straight off the set of Jordan Peele’s horror film Us.

Dancing against a backdrop of a stylised, neon cityscape, the pop singer belted out a medley of his most successful tracks, including Starboy, The HillsCan’t Feel My Face and Spotify’s most-played song of 2020, Blinding Lights. 

Between the nostalgic Jackson nods and the Peele-esque bandage masks, Tesfaye’s dedication to creating a carnival horror-house experience shone through.

In fact, Tesfaye was so dedicated to seeing his vision come to life that in addition to the millions contributed by the Super Bowl, he paid more than $US7 million ($A9.1 million) out of his own pocket.

The performance stands out as one of the weirder ones in halftime history, but Tesfaye is far from the first star to have a memorable Super Bowl show.

Two little Latin girls

Last year, latin pop powerhouses Jennifer Lopez and Shakira gave us all a lesson in exactly “what two little Latin girls can do”.

The pair took the stage by storm and delivered a memorable medley of their biggest hits.

“It’s a perfect moment in my life, honestly,” Lopez told Vanity Fair.

“But it’s also a great time for Latina women to take the stage at the biggest all-American event, with everything that’s going on in the country right now.”

And while the energetic performance was highly praised by the public, it was the fact that the women were in their 40s and 50s that dominated much of the fanfare.

Fans were dazzled by Lopez and Shakira’s ability to perform difficult and fast-paced choreography while singing.

Queen Bey

Beyonce is one artist who knows how to work a crowd.

The RnB singer set the standard in her 2013 show by smashing through a number of her greatest hits.

She also gave her legions of adoring disciples something to fan-girl about when brought out her former Destiny’s Child alumni Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.

“There haven’t been that many women that have done Super Bowl halftime shows – I had to hold it down for the ladies,” she told CBS.

Immediately after her spectacular performance, the power went out, though officials at the time said the incidents weren’t related.

Beyonce was invited back to perform alongside Bruno Mars and Coldplay in 2016.

Perfect Illusion

Lady Gaga’s 2017 halftime show demonstrated how fearless the pop singer really is.

In a moment that quickly went viral, Gaga leapt from the roof and into the stadium.

The singer then went on to wow fans with a mix of her most popular songs like Born This Way, Million Reasons and Just Dance. 

Though the roof-dive was one of her most daring, it turns out it was a ‘perfect illusion’ and had actually been pre-recorded days earlier.


When it comes to the most talked-about Super Bowl acts, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s accidental-but-maybe-on-purpose nip-slip steals the show.

Way back in 2004, long before #FreeTheNip was in the public vernacular, Timberlake and Jackson found themselves at the centre of a media storm when he ‘accidentally’ pulled off part of Jackson’s outfit exposing her right nipple.

More than 140 million viewers caught the incident, which also birthed the term ‘wardrobe malfunction’.

Timberlake apologised following the scandal, and was invited back to perform in 2018, but Jackson was reportedly blacklisted.