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The Deeper Meaning Behind The Weeknd's Bandages At The Super Bowl

Photo: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
The Weeknd Super Bowl Performance

The Weeknd delivered an entrancing performance at the Super Bowl Halftime show, but what was with the bandaged backup dancers?

The "Blinding Lights" singer has sported gauze and stitches on a number of public occasions to promote his latest album After Hours.

The harsh look has become quite the eye-catching marketing strategy, but the album and the accompanying aesthetic is also making a bold statement about body image.

The Canadian singer’s iconic halftime performance was a continuation of this theme by probing a growing obsession with altering physical appearances. 

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The Weeknd first debuted this unique aesthetic in his "Blinding Lights" music video in which he appeared bloodied and injured after driving drunk. Next, at the 2020 AMAs, he appeared on the red carpet wearing bandages and black eyes. 

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When he released his "Save Your Tears" music video, The Weeknd had removed his bandages to reveal a prosthetic face that replicated extreme plastic surgery, we knew it was time to ditch the memes and start paying attention to the meaning behind this creative choice.

Many thought The Weeknd was poking fun at his ex, Bella Hadid, and her alleged cosmetic enhancements, but the bandages and plastic surgery is actually part of a much wider commentary on celebrity culture and body image.

And where better to explore this theme further than on the very public Super Bowl stage? 

The Weeknd spoke about the album aesthetic ahead of his Super Bowl performance.

"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,” he said. 

This progression from injury to his new transformed appearance was all part of a carefully crafted cohesive story that the singer explores in his album.

His music speaks to the pressures of fame and demands others have for individuals to conform to ideals. 

The bandages, the album, and the Super Bowl performance also explore the pressure on artists to always shock and push boundaries.

The character The Weeknd embodies is pushed, he says, to “heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on”.

Though clean-faced and bandage-free in his Super Bowl performance, The Weeknd made a nod to his After Hours character as bandage-wearing dancers appeared on stage and on the field throughout. 

As an artist, The Weeknd is no stranger to playing around with characters and concepts in his work.

His Starboy album, he says, was all about fan involvement and "getting them to play along.”

But in a time where we’re increasingly isolated and celebrities seem less and less like us, the bandages toy with the notion of divisions and the lack of relatability when it comes to celebrity culture. 

The theme seems especially fitting for the first-ever Super Bowl performance to not be viewed by a crowd in the stadium! 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.