Music

Watch the Weeknd make history as the first solo Canadian to headline the Super Bowl halftime show

The R&B star performed a medley of his biggest hits including 'Can't Feel My Face' and 'Blinding Lights.'

The R&B star performed a medley of his biggest hits including 'Can't Feel My Face' and 'Blinding Lights'

The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium. (Getty Images)

On Sunday night, Toronto R&B star the Weeknd made history as the first Canadian to headline a solo Super Bowl halftime show. 

The performance, which the Weeknd reportedly put $7 million of his own money in to produce, featured a career-spanning setlist of songs including "Can't Feel My Face," "The Hills," his 50 Shades of Gray hit "Earned It," a snippet of "House of Balloons," from his 2011 debut mixtape, and his 2020 smash hit, "Blinding Lights." 

Taking place mostly in the stands of Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium, the Weeknd kicked off the evening amid a neon light display, giving a nod to the bright aesthetic of his 2020 album, After Hours, while backed by a full choir.

Attendance this year was kept at its lowest in Super Bowl history, 25,000 people, due to COVID-19. To comply with pandemic protocol, the Weeknd's halftime show employed around 1,050 people, according to the New York Times, which is a fraction of its normal work force. Staff were also subject to daily COVID tests.

Sporting his signature red blazer and black gloves, which the Weeknd has worn in every live performance and music video while promoting After Hours, the singer also incorporated an army of dopplegangers wearing identical outfits (but with bandages wrapped around their heads — a version of the Weeknd's After Hours costume) into his performance. The lookalikes first appeared In a lit-up, backstage rendition of his 2015 single, "Can't Feel My Face" and later, when they took over the football field to end the evening with his hit single, "Blinding Lights."   

The Weeknd's Super Bowl performance was at the centre of a recent controversy when the Toronto artist was shut out at the Grammy Awards, receiving zero nominations. Some believed the Grammys snubbed the Weeknd as retaliation against the singer for choosing to perform at the Super Bowl instead of the Grammys. (The Grammys were originally scheduled to take place a week before the Super Bowl, but have since been rescheduled to March 14 due to COVID-19 concerns.) 

In response, Grammy Awards' interim chief, Harvey Mason Jr., released a statement arguing that "all of the records get the fairest of fair shakes.... The people in that room care: there's no agendas in there, there's no 'let's snub this person' or that person. It's about, 'Let's try and find excellence.'" 

To commemorate the Weeknd's historic moment at the Super Bowl, Toronto Mayor John Tory declared today that Feb. 7 will now be known as The Weeknd Day. In a press release, Tory said of the Weeknd's big performance, "Millions of people will be watching him and cheering him on but we know Scarborough, a community he continues to support, will be cheering loudest!" 

He added: "Toronto is proud that one of its own, The Weeknd, has achieved such enormous popularity both here at home and on the world stage." 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

Corrections

  • This article originally stated in the headline that the Weeknd was the first Canadian to headline; he is the first solo Canadian to headline.
    Feb 08, 2021 8:47 AM ET
  • This article originally stated that the whole production cost $7 million; that was actually the amount that the Weeknd put in personally.
    Feb 08, 2021 8:51 AM ET

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