red suit theory

After Super Bowl LV, the Weeknd’s Gotta Retire the Red Suit

At the very least, pick a new color. Photo: The Weeknd/YouTube

When the Weeknd was conceptualizing his fourth studio album, After Hours, inspired by the Martin Scorsese film of the same name, he probably didn’t imagine he would get stuck in a perpetual album-release cycle. The first single, “Heartless,” dropped in November 2019 and kicked off the whirlwind story, but since the album came out on March 20, 2020, the rest of the project has become synonymous with our living hell. “This character is having a really bad night — all these videos are taking place in one night — and you can come with your own interpretation of what it is,” the Weeknd told Variety last April. At a concert, the story might unfold and make perfect sense: Sad man self-destructs. Simple. But across several flashy, high-concept performances and music videos released in the span of a year while we all came to grips with a crushing new reality? A little hard to follow. “It’s all a progression, and we watch the Character’s story line hit heightened levels of danger and absurdity as his tale goes on,” the Weeknd tried his best to explain earlier this week. Instead, that red suit has been haunting us through some of the worst moments in recent memory, even as the songs became viral megahits. Between the Weeknd’s Super Bowl LV halftime performance and his world tour delayed to 2022, when will we (and his stylists) be free? Here’s a look back at the suit’s cursed history.

November 27, 2019: Ah, the release of the fuckboy anthem “Heartless.” Looking at this photo brings back fond memories of commutes, office small talk, and fresh air — everything the red suit does not currently evoke.

December 6–7, 2019: The Weeknd performs his new singles on back-to-back nights of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, pulling out dance moves straight from Joker. On night two (shot in black and white so you can’t tell he repeated his outfit), he asks the crowd to sing along to “Blinding Lights.” Sometimes it’s nice to remember the world was always this cruel.

January 21, 2020: The “Blinding Lights” music video dropped in January 2020, and we have not known peace since. Coincidence?

January 23, 2020: He packs up the red suit and takes it to Los Angeles to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! How novel.

March 4, 2020: The Weeknd releases After Hours, the short film. In it, he walks off the stage at Jimmy Kimmel Live! and promptly begins to lose it. Didn’t expect to feel seen.

March 20, 2020: The album drops, featuring his bloody nose and red suit on the cover.

April 7, 2020: Confirmed, the suit does indeed make an appearance in the nausea-inducing intoxication simulation that is the “Until I Bleed” music video. Good timing, it seems, since cities have gone under lockdown and drunken nights out are a thing of the past.

August 30, 2020: The country took the summer to debate civil rights yet again, but by August, the red suit was dry-cleaned and ready for its close-up at the MTV Video Music Awards. “Blinding Lights” also had a major TikTok dance during this time, but the suit was not gonna get caught doing it.

September 18, 2020: The “red-suit character,” as he calls it on Instagram, covers Rolling Stone. “The Weeknd’s Endless Summer,” the cover warns us.

November 23, 2020: After Hours lands the Weeknd three AMAs, but his face is too bandaged to enjoy it. It’ll all be worth it for the Grammys, he probably thought.

December 4, 2020: He’s wearing the red suit in the music video for the “Blinding Lights” remix featuring Rosalía, but let’s be honest, no one is looking at him. Another season of “Blinding Lights.” Maybe this is how we count time now.

December 10, 2020: As a Jingle Ball gift, he ditched the suit, gloves, and bandages entirely for a special living-room performance. It almost feels suspiciously normal.

January 5, 2021: His latest music video, “Save Your Tears,” unveils Botched Weeknd. Instead of a bloody face, he has turned himself into Handsome Squidward, just in case his other recent videos haven’t traumatized fans enough.

February 3, 2021: The After Hours tour lives on … in 2022. We’ve felt this pain before. Like the red-suit man, are we too stuck in place, scrambling for peace in a universe intent on destroying us until we are unrecognizable?

February 5, 2021: The Weeknd may have gone all-black for the Super Bowl press conference, but the red suit (sparkling edition) is front and center on the field in the new Pepsi ad for the halftime show. When will the Weeknd let us and, more important, the red-suit man rest?

February 7, 2021: The Super Bowl was in Tampa, Florida, this year, but the Weeknd still had to take us to Vegas. Wearing an oversize red sparkling blazer and wing-tipped shoes, he descended into a fun house of gold lights, where a mob of Weeknds in red jackets with bandaged faces began their takeover. He gave the After Hours treatment to his hits from over the years, like “Starboy,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” and “Earned It,” complete with an orchestra, before ending with a “Blinding Lights” dance tribute to the red jacket. Congratulations to this jacket. Now hang it up!

After Super Bowl LV, the Weeknd’s Gotta Retire the Red Suit