At Least the Weeknd Tried to Say Something

Illustration for article titled At Least the Weeknd Tried to Say Something
Image: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

The fits were predictable: Cara Delevingne wore a sparkly, impeccably tailored Dolce and Gabbana suit. Machine Gun Kelly wore a Jedi-inspired, all white Balmain set. Dua Lipa wore an uninspiring Versace mini dress, loosely themed around aquatic life. The 2020 American Music Awards, which took place at a mostly vacant, socially distant Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday night, was unremarkable—just like many of the performances and costuming. However! One man’s look is worthy of commentary, because only one man tried to say something with his physical appearance: The Weeknd. He performed and accepted the award for Best Soul/R&B Album bloodied and with his head bandaged.

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According to Elle, the move is a commentary on drunk driving, a direct reference to his now ubiquitous radio hit, “Blinding Lights,” which he told Esquire is about earlier this year: “Blinding Lights’ [is about] 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. I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving, but that’s what the dark undertone is.”

Furthering that message in his fashion is effectual. I’ve been thinking about drunk driving a lot these days—how young people may be fooled into thinking driving alone is much more “covid safe” than taking a ride share service, and how dangerous that is after having a few. Alcohol sales are up, after all, and drunk driving tends to increase, too, around the holidays. Then again, it’s also simply pleasant to see a performer make a statement of any kind, in any small way, in a night that largely lacked energy of any kind. My bar is on the ground.

And so I’m not sure if it is that lethargy that this year has caused, but now I’m excited to see him perform at the 2021 Super Bowl—last week, I wasn’t; I’m not sure the man can dance. It will be unlike any halftime show before, and surely, he’ll use that time to do something interesting. Or maybe he’ll make another captivating statement with his look. And if he doesn’t, maybe he’ll bring out Ariana Grande?

URL: Senior Writer, Jezebel. IRL: Author of the very good book 'LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS,' out now.

DISCUSSION

Oh, a topic I can speak to with some authority! I haven’t examined drunk driving during COVID-19 closely, but we have seen a startling increase in another driving behavior: not wearing seatbelts. Most of the country has been at about 90% compliance with seatbelts for a very long time, but that compliance rate has dropped quite a bit during the pandemic. I can only speculate as to why, but my guess would be that a) those who are traveling more during this pandemic tend to be less risk-averse anyway, or b) there is less concern about being stopped and ticketed because enforcement has been less present on roadways.

One thing I find really interesting about drunk driving in the US is that almost no public health campaigns or other safety efforts have made any kind of a dent in the proportion of crashes that involve drunk driving. MADD didn’t really accomplish much, and the only notable trend change was actually when the Boomers aged out of prime drinking and driving years. Places like British Columbia have seen effective efforts at curbing drinking and driving, but they tackle it from an administrative perspective: those caught doing it have to pay administrative (rather than criminal) fees, have their vehicles temporarily impounded, and get mandatory ignition interlocks installed.

The problem with trying that kind of approach in the US is twofold: 1) we tackle drunk driving from a criminal rather than administrative approach, and a lot of court systems are so jammed up that cases end up getting dropped; 2) and perhaps more importantly, we don’t apply any kind of systemic approach to addressing why people drink and drive in the first place. I’m not really convinced by deterrence theory (i.e., that you can punish people into good behavior), but we really don’t see any effort to change social norms about driving to alcohol establishments or subsidize ridesharing or improve public transit access, aside from small cases here and there. Hell, we still demonize rehabilitation and addiction treatment, so it’s no surprise to me drunk driving is still a problem.