- For his Super Bowl LV halftime show, The Weeknd was joined by a troop of bandaged backing dancers.
- The dancers were dressed as the artist’s “Character,” a recurring figure in his “After Hours” album.
- The Weeknd said The Character’s bandages are a reflection “on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity.”
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The Weeknd was joined by an enormous group of masked dancers for his halftime show at Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
If you were one of the many wondering why his crew were all bandaged up, it’s part of a story the artist has been spinning since March of 2020, the significance of which he only recently revealed to Variety.
“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 Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, told Variety between rehearsals for his Super Bowl performance.
He added: “It’s all a progression and we watch The Character’s storyline hit heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on.”
Who is “The Character?”
The red jackets, gloves, and facial injuries are all part of what The Weeknd calls “The Character,” which began with the release of his critically-lauded “After Hours” album in March 2020.
“I kept thinking about his style and how I felt he would be the right person to execute the vision,” he said. “I wanted to see him on screen more.”
Since first appearing in the visuals for his lead single “Heartless” in 2019, The Character has become increasingly bloodied and bandaged in The Weeknd’s subsequent visuals for the album â€” all of which have been helmed by the same director, Anton Tammi â€” and in live appearances.
Appearing just before the launch of “After Hours” in March 2020, The Weeknd appeared on “Saturday Night Live” bloodied but with only minor injuries compared to his later performances.
The look was clearly a callback to his appearance in his “Blinding Lights” music video in which The Character drives around drunk and is beaten up by bouncers.
“I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving, but that’s what the dark undertone is,” he told Esquire of the video.
“There’s … a very committed vision and character being portrayed, and I get to explore a different side of me that my fans have never seen,” The Weeknd told CR Fashion Book at the time, according to Marie Claire.
The Character’s injuries have got progressively worse
In this side-by-side one can see the progression in The Character’s injuries between appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in January and the VMA’s in August 2020.
In November, The Character’s injuries worsened when he appeared bandaged like a mummy at the 2020 American Music Awards. This look was replicated by his back-up dancers at Super Bowl LV.
In January of 2021, The Weeknd took things a step further by drastically altering his character’s appearance in the music video for “Save Your Tears.” He appears to have undergone drastic plastic surgery â€” presumably to hide the injuries he’s sustained.
At the Super Bowl, The Weeknd did not appear in make-up or bandages, but his back-up dancers did.
Asked by Variety why he appeared to be making himself as unattractive as possible while promoting his biggest album, The Weeknd said: “I suppose you could take that being attractive isn’t important to me but a compelling narrative is.”
And when asked why he sometimes appeared in character and sometimes as himself, he replied: “Why not play with the character and the artist and let those lines blur and move around?”
It’s now been more than a year since The Weeknd first introduced fans to The Character, and while his new greatest hits album doesn’t show him with any facial disfiguration, he is wearing that telltale red suit.