The Weeknd appears with bizarrely bandaged face at 2020 American Music Awards


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.

At this rate, it looks like the Weeknd might show up in a full body cast at his next two major TV appearances: the Jan. 31 Grammy Awards, where he is expected to be the top nominee, and Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, where he will be the halftime show performer. But regardless of what happens at those events, it’s certain that the Weeknd will keep surprising viewers. On Sunday, as he picked up his first AMAs trophy — for Best Soul/R&B Album, for After Hours — he said, “Last time I received this award [for 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness], it was given to me by the late, great Prince. And you know, he's the reason I get to constantly challenge the genre of R&B. And I'd like to dedicate this award to him.”

Speaking of taking risks, while the Weeknd’s pyrotechnic outdoor extravaganza was obviously socially distanced (even if his bandages didn’t cover his nostrils or mouth), and other artists gave remote performances, several seemingly riskier numbers actually took place inside L.A.’s Microsoft Theater, in front of a live audience. This of course raised eyebrows after the controversy surrounding this month’s live, indoor Country Music Association Awards — not to mention the fact that the AMAs took place just three days after L.A. County reported 5,000 new cases in a single day; one day after a nearly statewide California curfew went into effect in an attempt to curb the coronavirus surge; and on the same day that L.A. County public health officials announced that they will suspend outdoor dining at restaurants starting this week.

But host Taraji P. Henson, who was thrilled by the “glorious sound of live, in-the-house applause,” insisted that the AMAs show was operating safely, declaring, “We have some special guests here tonight. We invited them in small groups, from the same families. They're all here, socially distanced, wearing masks, COVID-tested. Yes, we're very responsible!” Later, in a bit of a doth-protest-too-much moment, she gave a shoutout to the “small-but-mighty, COVID-free audience,” which according to Rolling Stone comprised “less than 100” people in a venue with a usual capacity of 7,100. (These invited guests seemed to be relegated to the upper level of the theater, while the front rows downstairs were occupied by cardboard cutouts of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Dolly Parton.)

“Anyone entering the AMAs footprint is tested in advance, and testing continues with frequency throughout the wrap of production,” a spokesperson told Rolling Stone ahead of Sunday’s ceremony. “Everyone inside our footprint, with the exception of artists onstage who are singing or speaking, will be wearing facial coverings and maintain social distancing at all times. When artists are not on stage singing, presenting, or accepting an award, they will be wearing personal protective equipment. Additionally, we disinfect our set every evening and in between performances during pre-production, rehearsals, and in the live show.” (The awards’ Dick Clark Productions did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.)

Other notable AMAs appearances Sunday night included the live TV debut of Megan Thee Stallion’s body-positive banger “Body”; Billie Eilish’s first televised performance of her new single “Therefore I Am”; Jennifer Lopez and Maluma’s steamy “'Pa Ti”/“Lonely” duet; Machine Gun Kelly introduced by new girlfriend Megan Fox and accompanied by Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker; Katy Perry returning to her “Katheryn” roots with a folksy rendition of her Smile song “Only Love,” accompanied by Darius Rucker and dedicated to her father; Lil Baby’s mental health anthem “Emotionally Scarred”; ‘90s boy band Bell Biv DeVoe doing the New Jack Swing classics “Poison” and “Do Me” while twerked up on that Beyoncé cutout; and, closing the show, K-pop boy band BTS, performing “Dynamite” and “Life Goes On” at Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium in fabulous pastel satin suits.

The Weeknd had a big night at the AMAs, taking home three awards, but lost out in the final Artist of the Year category to Taylor Swift. Swift accepted the night’s top honor virtually, explaining that she skipped the ceremony because she’s busy re-recording all of her music, following her fight with her former record label Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun over ownership of her masters. “It's been amazing, and I can't wait for you to hear [the re-recordings],” Swift told her fans watching at home.

For a full list of AMAs winners, click here.

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