Super Bowl 2021 and its halftime show: Everything you need to know

This year’s halftime act, Canadian popster The Weeknd, is on the cusp of superstardom

If you're looking for some late-night NFL action, Sunday night's 55th Super Bowl live from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, features Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Kansas City Chiefs.

For pop music fans, though, the big attraction will come 90 minutes into the game, as the famed Super Bowl halftime show kicks in.

Will there be anyone actually in the stadium? With Covid and all that?

Super Bowl LV will have the unique distinction of having the lowest-ever attendance in the event’s history, with just 25,000 fans permitted in the near-66,000 capacity stadium. Another 30,000 seats will feature cut-outs, but European sports bodies will still be watching with envy as crowds of any size are still not permitted to attend major sporting events.

Will the halftime show go ahead? And who’s performing?

The famed Super Bowl halftime show will also go ahead, but you'd be forgiven for thinking the star power has been dialled down a little due to Covid. While previous halftime shows have featured Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and The Rolling Stones, not everyone will be au fait with this year's halftime act, Canadian popster The Weeknd.

While the Weeknd (real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) is a three-time Grammy winner, he's not quite in the household name bracket yet. But he's on the cusp of superstardom following the massive success of his 2020 single Blinding Lights. You'll know the song: its the one that, every time the intro comes on the radio, you immediately mistake for A-Ha's Take on Me.

Why has NFL gone for The Weeknd?

It’s most likely Tesfaye’s versatility that has sealed the deal. The 30-year-old is heavily influenced by R&B, as evidenced by his hit, I Feel It Coming, but he’s also got a few party bangers in his arsenal, such as I Can’t Feel My Face, and of course Blinding Lights, a near-perfect 1980s synth-pop pastiche that should provide a perfect climax to his halftime slot.

And he's got the endorsement of one Shawn Carter, aka rap superstar Jay-Z, who is also the NFL's official musical adviser for the halftime show. "The Weeknd has introduced a sound all his own. His soulful uniqueness has defined a new generation of greatness in music and artistry. This is an extraordinary moment in time and the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show is going to be an extraordinary experience with an extraordinary performer," said Beyonce's other half in a press release.

Will The Weeknd bring any “special guests” on stage with him?

“Don’t bet in it,” said the man himself. “There wasn’t any room to fit it into the narrative and the story I was telling in the performance. So yeah, there’s no special guests.” Aw.

But he won't be the only musical performer at Super Bowl LV. Just like with presidential inaugurations, someone is needed to sing the national anthem, and that task will fall to country artist Eric Church and R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan, in a sort of cultural hook-up that chimes with president Joe Biden's pledge to bring America's polarised communities together.

And acclaimed R&B artist H.E.R. aka Gabrielle Wilson, will belt out Ray Charles's America the Beautiful, promising to "make it my own". The 23-year-old has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her song Fight for You, from the movie Judas and the Black Messiah.

What time will the halftime show start?

The game kicks off at 6.30pm Eastern time, which is 11.30pm Irish time, and, taking stoppages and ad breaks into account, the halftime show should start around 90 minutes later, at 1am on Monday morning. So the weekend will be over by the time The Weeknd bounds onto our screens.

Will it be worth waiting up for? I’ve got work in the morning.

This may not be on the level of, say, U2 rocking the Super Bowl with Where the Streets Have No Name, MLK and Beautiful Day in 2002 in tribute to those who died in the 9/11 attacks, but, as with other halftime shows, the NFL will pull out all the stops to make this a spectacular interval distraction, and The Weeknd could well pull a few rabbits out of the hat.

“Due to the Covid and for the safety of the players and the workers, we built a stage within the stadium,” he told reporters. “We’re also using the field as well, but we wanted to do something that we’ve never done before. I’m not going to tell you anything else because you’ll have to watch on Sunday.”

How can I watch it?

Super Bowl LV will air on Sky Sports NFL from 10pm and on Sky Sports One and BBC from 11pm, with kick-off at 11.30pm

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