Abel Tesafaye (known by stage name The Weeknd) went “from homeless to Forbes list” to being booked as the headlining act for the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL on February 7, 2021. This comes as no surprise, as The Weeknd has dominated the industry this year with his chart-topping album After Hours and hit single “Blinding Lights” having broke numerous global streaming records.
“We all grow up watching the world’s biggest acts playing the Super Bowl, and one can only dream of being in that position,” Abel Tesfaye said in a statement in The New York Times. “I’m humbled, honored, and ecstatic to be the center of that infamous stage this year.”
The decision comes from the NFL wanting to broaden their audience by pivoting from classic rock dominated by white males to artists more popular with mainstream times, younger fans, and people of color. The stadium at this time is said to have 20% capacity for the event and a reduced staff that is allowed on and off the field.
This will be the second Super Bowl partly produced by Roc Nation and Jay-Z. “The Weeknd has introduced a sound all his own,” Jay-Z said in a statement. “His soulful uniqueness has defined a new generation of greatness in music and artistry.” Jay-Z was recruited by the NFL in 2019 to help orchestrate music performances after artists across the industry said they would not work with the league to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was kneeling in protest of police brutality and has not found work in the league since 2016.
Tesafaye has shown support for racial injustice and social justice initiatives in a multitude of ways from his virtual Tik Tok performance, to donating $500K to Black Lives Matter, $200,000 to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative. And in a brief acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, he said simply, “It’s really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so I’m just going to say: Justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor.”
The Weeknd knows how to translate his music into his stage performances, as we’ve seen his ability time and time again, capturing the audience in his performance as his energy lights up the room. And I expect this performance at the Super Bowl will be nothing short of, if not top, the already amazing opening performance he had at the MTV Music Video Awards.