The Weeknd fills Tampa stadium with lukewarm performance

The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Did The Weeknd earn it?

Some might question whether the glossy R&B-pop singer even deserved such a massive platform - especially sans guests.

But given the unusual circumstances of Super Bowl LV, at least he utilized most of Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium during Sunday’s game, starting his halftime performance with a pre-taped backdrop of neon-lighted Las Vegas.

Once The Weeknd hit the end stage – an anomaly in normal times, when fans usually would be in the way – for “Starboy,” it was obvious he was singing live, given the echo-y background. With a choir in the lighted stands behind him and dry ice pouring in between them, The Weeknd teased viewers before heading behind the stage in a dizzying escape room filled with, well, blinding lights, mirrors and doppelgangers in his trademark bandages for “Can’t Feel My Face” (clearly this played better on TV than it did for the limited audience in the stands).

The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

But while The Weeknd’s musical offerings – “I Feel It Coming” and “Save Your Tears” among the catchy confections he included in his performance – filter pleasantly out of radio speakers, they don’t carry enough heft to anchor such a massive spectacle.

Obviously, “Earned It” had to make an appearance given its worldwide recognition, but the sultry ballad, performed with a bit of verve from the red-jacketed singer, was nothing but a drag in the middle of the NFL’s biggest game.

The finale of “Blinding Lights,” a heap of ’80s-liscious synthesizer pop, dazzled briefly as hordes of face-bandaged dancers – all clad in the same black and red ensemble – marched near the end zone as The Weeknd skipped down their center.

But even the streams of fireworks lighting the background during The Weeknd’s most sublime song left the impression that as much quirkiness and style he injects into his performance, he’s not quite the superstar he most wants to emulate – the inimitable Michael Jackson.

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