Abel Tesfaye — known far more widely as the popular R&B artist The Weeknd – wants Super Bowl 55 viewers to draw their own conclusions about his
Abel Tesfaye — known far more widely as the popular R&B artist The Weeknd – wants Super Bowl 55 viewers to draw their own conclusions about his upcoming halftime performance Sunday night.
“I don’t like to spoon-feed the audience,” he told reporters in a news conference Thursday. The Weeknd has been known to sometimes perform with a bandaged face and bloody aesthetic. “Hopefully, they can pick up some of their own theories and conclusions of what the show is saying and the story I’m telling in the performance.”
As the NFL opens Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium to roughly 25,000 fans, including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers, The Weeknd and the show’s production team are getting creative. Yes, he said, the roughly 12-minute show will still incorporate the football field. But The Weeknd said he will not limit himself to a field stage. In fact, he confirmed he’s invested his own funding – $7 million, according to his interview with Billboard – to ensure the production quality he desires.
“Due to COVID and for the safety of the players and the workers, we built the stage within the stadium,” he said. “We’re also using the field as well, but we wanted to do something we’ve never done before, so we built the stage in the stadium. I’m not going to tell you anything else because you’ll have to watch on Sunday.”
The Weeknd insisted he is cognizant of the family friendly audience for the show.
“For sure, I definitely want to be respectful to the viewers at home,” he said. “I will still incorporate some of the storyline. It’s a very cohesive story I’ve been telling throughout this era and throughout this year.
“So the story will continue, but definitely we’ll keep it PG for the families.”
He’s sure to perform “Blinding Lights,” which spent a record 43 weeks in the top 10. Other top songs that could enter the rotation include “Heartless,” “The Hills” and “Save Your Tears.”
LIFE:The Weeknd’s Super Bowl halftime show: Will he wear those face bandages? What songs will he sing?
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league is eager for hundreds of millions to see The Weeknd’s “incredible talent and vision” in the cinematic experience.
“Sunday will be unlike anything we’ve seen on the halftime show before, and as you know, we’ve seen a lot of things on this stage over the years,” said Adam Harter, PepsiCO’s senior vice president of marketing for media, sports and entertainment.
The Weeknd, too, has seen plenty of Super Bowl halftime shows. Prince, Michael Jackson and Beyonce stand out, though he said his favorite was Diana Ross’ 1996 performance. He’s watched it on repeat, he said, admiring her glamour.
“The show just makes me smile, and she has a great exit with the helicopter, which she lands in the middle of the field, grabs onto it and flies out into the clouds,” he said. “It’s like – I wish I could’ve done that, I wish I thought of that, to be honest.”
In response to a quip that it’s not too late, the Weeknd smiled: “I don’t have enough money to do that.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein