With a full choir, dancers and a custom-built set inside Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, it’s clear that The Weeknd’s Super Bowl LV Pepsi Halftime Show performance on Sunday was unlike anything he’s ever done before. Fans who tuned into the show over the weekend got to witness the 30-year-old singer in his true element, performing a medley of his greatest hits on the world’s biggest stage.
While there were plenty of amazing moments to unpack from the live performance, there’s also a lot that happened behind the scenes. Now, ET’s breaking down everything you didn’t see on TV!
Jesse Collins, executive producer of this year’s halftime show, told ET’s Kevin Frazier on Monday that The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) simply wanted to “start a spectacle” with his epic entrance. Any fans speculating that there was an underlying message would have to ask the singer directly, he said, as he wasn’t aware of any Easter eggs in the performance.
“Abel wanted to start with high production value. He came up with this idea of that open,” Collins said. “It was something that had never been done before and he worked it out with Pepsi.”
“It was just this really cool concept of him getting out of the car and then bringing it into the stadium by putting him in the Jumbotron,” he continued, adding that their “next step” was to reveal the choir and the city. “That was just a beautiful skyline of a city. You’d have to ask The Weeknd if there was some subliminal message [there] because he didn’t convey that to me.”
.@TheWeeknd kicks off the #PepsiHalftime show with Starboy! #SBLVpic.twitter.com/DFAi1LNtNl
Collins also revealed that the sparkly hand-embroidered Givenchy jacket The Weeknd wore throughout his performance (reminiscent of his signature After Hours-era look) weighed approximately 40 pounds.
“It was made with real rubies,” he told ET. “That was probably one of the most challenging parts through the whole thing, because rubies are not the most flexible things in the world. So just to wear that thing, running around, up and down, singing live and dancing, it was really unbelievable how he was able to pull that off.”
When asked about the millions of dollars The Weeknd reportedly put into his own show, Collins joked that some of the money “probably” went to that jacket.
“I don’t know how much 40-pound ruby jackets cost … but I think that was a very expensive piece,” he said. “And for him, [The Weeknd] had a very clear vision of what this performance needed to be. So he was just willing to spend whatever it took to get every bell and every whistle that was necessary to execute his vision.”
One of the most talked about moments from the performance — which the internet naturally turned into an instant meme! — was when The Weeknd performed dizzying camerawork while performing “I Can’t Feel My Face.”
Collins confirmed that The Weeknd was in control of the camera at that point, grabbing it on his own to make that part of the show “feel different.”
“Obviously, there’s a camera guy on the other side, but that was something that him and our director, Hamish Hamilton, worked out,” he revealed. “Just like, ‘Let’s do something different. Let’s put a special lens on it, give it a fish-eye feel.’ Abel grabs it so it becomes theatrical, you know? It just felt like something completely different.”
A lot of fans at home also had mixed reactions to the dancers who were rocking bandaged headgear throughout the show. The specific After Hours-era look (symbolizing Hollywood’s “absurd” culture) is one The Weeknd has previously spoken about, and worn himself, over the past year while promoting his fourth studio album.
“He definitely wanted to complete that thought,” Collins explained. “Those bandages also had KN95 masks built in them, so it was a great way to be COVID-19 safe while at the same time tell the artistic story that The Weeknd wanted to tell.”
BLINDING LIGHTS ? @TheWeeknd#PepsiHalftime#SBLVpic.twitter.com/Qv9yyW8wED
Turns out, The Weeknd’s use of dancers and choreography was also a secret in itself.
“That was the first time The Weeknd’s ever used dancers in a show, and the first time he’s ever gone into dance rehearsals. Like, he’s never done anything around choreography,” Collins revealed. “As the story goes, his manager, Sal, saw Kendrick Lamar’s  GRAMMY open with U2 and he found out that Charm La’Donna was the choreographer for that.”
“Abel’s like, ‘One day, we’re going to need dancers, and Charm is going to be the choreographer for this,'” he continued. “That was a couple years ago. Now we get the Super Bowl halftime show and Sal calls Charm in London. He’s s like, ‘We got the halftime show, and I know you’ve never worked with us, we’ve never worked with you, but we want you to be our choreographer for halftime.'”
Collins said he thinks this being a “first” moment for The Weeknd also made the performance even more special.
“For him, having dancers and going to dance rehearsals and all that stuff, this was all new. It was nothing that he had ever done before, and kind of shied away from it,” Collins said. “For a guy who’s never done that before, to do that on one of the biggest stages in the world and have fun with it and not feel forced, it’s a pretty amazing thing.”
Lastly, Collins also shared how The Weeknd celebrated as soon as the performance was over: “We were just in that [Tampa Bay Buccaneers] pirate ship just jumping up and down like we had won the game!”
“I found him in the trailer after and he said he just, like, blacked out,” he added. “He said it was just like before he knew it, he was on the field and he was like, ‘Oh my god, this is almost over,’ and then there was no time to think about it because that was it.”
Hear more in the video below.
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