When the Weeknd showed up at August’s MTV Video Music Awards sporting a broken nose, blackened eyes, and a bloody lip, casual fans were concerned that he’d been in some sort of pre-ceremony accident or brawl. Real fans, of course, knew that the reigning method actor of pop was demonstrating his full commitment to the character/narrative from his VMA Video of the Year winner, “Blinding Lights” (in which he is beaten up by bouncers and then gets in a drunk-driving crash, resulting in multiple facial injuries).
The Weeknd has actually been rocking the bruised-and-bloodied look ever since he appeared on Saturday Night Live in March, but this Sunday at the American Music Awards, the enveope-pushing singer took his injured aesthetic to a shocking new extreme, with his head and face now totally swathed in mummy bandages as he performed “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” on a closed-off downtown Los Angeles bridge. (Adding to the overall surreal vibe of the performance was an all-too-brief bridge cameo by sexy saxophonist Kenny G, who appears on an “In Your Eyes” remix that actually cracked the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in October. )Back in April, the Weeknd explained to GQ that he wrote his latest concept album, After Hours, from the perspective of a “character losing his mind in Vegas, ” debuting his bloody-faced alter ego in the album’s first music video, “Heartless, ” in September 2019. That video’s director, Anton Tammi, has shot every subsequent video from After Hours, including last month’s extremely NSFW short film for “Too Late, ” in which the Weeknd’s decapitated head is found by two gauze-wrapped, plastic-surgery-addicted socialites in the middle of the street. The disturbing, bonkers “Too Late” video seems to have inspired the Weeknd’s latest awards show look.