The Weeknd got a lot of screen time at the 2020 American Music Awards. The singer/songwriter, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, won 3 awards and performed 2 of his songs at the recent awards show. However, perhaps The Weeknd‘s most audacious performance at the AMAs was his appearance. His face, covered in bruises and bandages, worried some fans. Why did the “Blinding Lights” artist look so beaten up?
The Weeknd continues to play into his ‘After Hours’ character
Can The Weeknd feel his face? Many American Music Awards viewers wondered the same thing while watching the 2020 show. Throughout the night — amidst 3 acceptance speeches and a performance of 2 of his songs, “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” — the singer donned bandages, which appeared to cover up dark bruises.
However, The Weeknd’s ghastly appearance is nothing to worry about; the bandages play into a character he’s been developing over the last several months.
According to a profile in GQ from earlier this year, The Weeknd created a storyline that transpired over the course of 4 of his music videos — from “Heartless” to “In Your Eyes.”
Unlike other artists, who “become entirely different characters for each new video,” The Weeknd wanted to embody one person for the 4 videos he created for the 2020 album, After Hours.
“The Hills” singer came up with “the concept of a ‘character’ losing his mind in Vegas,” as The Weeknd explained to GQ. He then paired up with filmmaker Anton Tammi, and the 2 creatives took the project and ran with it.
“After we did ‘Heartless’ I started falling in love with ‘The Character,’” The Weeknd wrote. “I wanted to see him on screen more and I could see that Anton wanted to shoot more of me playing him.” They eventually wrote the plotline to the rest of the video series.
The ‘Blinding Lights’ singer explains his AMA outfit
In Jan. 2020, The Weeknd began showing up different places in the recognizable red-and-black outfit, like on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. For the Colbert performance, The Weeknd went sans bandages — but just a few weeks later, he sang “Blinding Lights” on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, with a banged-up face. All of it ties into the progression of the character’s storyline.
“A narrative arc emerges, artfully portraying a downward spiral,” GQ noted of the videos. His attire remains the same, too, apparently even at events like the AMAs: “black pants, shirt, and tie paired with a red suit jacket.”
Apparently, The Weeknd is a total film buff — and he pulled a ton of inspiration from cinema for his After Hours videos. According to GQ, the singer was inspired by “Andrzej Żuławski’s Posession” as well as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the “erotic horror flick Trouble Every Day.” For “In Your Eyes,” The Weeknd revealed that the music video is a reference to “almost every thriller film you can think of in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
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The Weeknd explained the real meaning behind “Blinding Lights” to Esquire:
… how you want to see someone at night, and you’re intoxicated, and you’re driving to this person and you’re just blinded by streetlights, but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you’re so lonely.
The song, the music videos, and of course, the long-con of the bandage-costume, all goes to show a deeply dark, gritty side of The Weeknd.
“I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving,” the singer clarified, “but that’s what the dark undertone is.”
The Weeknd cleans up at the AMAs for his new album and new songs
In the Aug. 2020 interview with Esquire, The Weeknd explained that his tour for After Hours — which was planned for this year, before the pandemic hit — was centered around this character, as well. As the publication confirmed:
He and his team had imagined a theatrical experience, like a 3-act play or a rock opera telling the story of the character from the ‘Blinding Lights’ video, a bloodied, beat-up man in a sharp red jacket, desperately trying to fu*k, drink, drug (maybe murder?) his way out of heartbreak and into emotional maturity.
However, in light of the 2020 quarantine, The Weeknd has had to scale back his character’s “life” — carrying it out among various awards show appearances, like the AMAs.
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Despite his worrisome appearance, The Weeknd cleaned up at the 2020 awards show. The singer ended up taking home 3 statues total: one for “Favorite Male Artist – Soul / R&B,” one for “Favorite Album – Soul / R&B” for his album After Hours, and another for “Favorite Song – Soul / R&B” for his song “Heartless.” The Weeknd dedicated the album award to Prince, another out-of-the-box creator.