The Weeknd’s Super Bowl 2021 Halftime Show Broke Longstanding Traditions


For the last two years, Jay-Z has organized halftime entertainment as a part of a partnership between the NFL and his company Roc Nation; that partnership has coincided with a more open embrace of politics as a part of the show. Last year, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira made headlines when their halftime show put a spotlight on Puerto Rico and commented on immigration politics with dancing children in cage-like structures.

Tesfaye walked on after the end of an NFL commercial that advertised a $250 million to commitment to combat racism. “While the season might be over,“ it read, “our commitment to social justice is not.”Though Tesfaye, the first Canadian to perform at the show solo, isn’t necessarily known for his political activism, throughout 2020 he commented on police brutality and racial justice in interviews.  Last June, he donated $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, National Bailout, and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. When he won Video of the Year at last fall’s MTV Video Music Awards, he accepted his trophy with a sober speech that sent condolences to the families of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor. “The pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the tensions of the election have mostly created a sense of gratitude for what I have, and closeness with the people near me,” he said in a December interview with Tmrw magazine. His performance, however, was entirely absent of political commentary.

In March 2020 Tesfaye released After Hours, his fourth studio album; each one of its 14 tracks charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite the album’s commercial success and a warm critical reception, Tesfaye didn’t receive a single Grammy nomination in December. Though a source told Rolling Stone that there was a “struggle” with the team producing the Grammys over his Super Bowl commitment, the Recording Academy chief Harvey Mason Jr. denied that his performance had affected its chances in the nominating process.

Last week, Page Six reported that The Weeknd singer had spent about $100,000 to rent a six-bedroom mansion on the Davis Islands, an archipelago neighborhood in Tampa, for the week.  Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has been living in a nearby $29 million house owned by Derek Jeter. On Monday, Tesfaye partnered with Postmates to donate 150 meals from a black-owned Tampa restaurant to frontline workers at AdventHealth Carrollwood hospital.

“I see that people are struggling and I just wanna help,” he told Variety about the donation. “I’ve been in that position myself and I know what it feels like. I never really had money growing up, so giving away isn’t hard for me, it’s very easy.”

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