The Weeknd is one of the biggest stars in the music world — and in all of entertainment. His 2021 has included headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the world’s biggest stage. Another recent high-profile performance involved a car-centric spectacle at the Billboard Music Awards. In fact, NASCAR mechanics helped The Weeknd pull off his performance of the Billboard Hot 100-topping “Save Your Tears” at the awards show. Here’s how they did it.
The 2021 Billboard Music Awards
The Billboard Music Awards will never match the Grammys in terms of importance in the music industry, but it’s a long-running award show that first took place in 1990.
Nick Jonas hosted the 2021 ceremony, during which Pink earned the Icon Award, and Drake received the Artist of the Decade Award.
In addition, The Weeknd led the way with 10 wins, including Top Artist. Taylor Swift was named the year’s Top Female Artist. BTS earned Top Duo/Group honors, and Pop Smoke was named Top New Artist — one of five posthumous awards for the rapper, who was shot to death in February 2020.
The Weeknd’s Billboard Music Awards performance
On top of taking home 10 trophies, The Weeknd delivered one of the highlights of the show, which Billboard recapped. It was a risky performance for the popular artist, who sang and danced with a fleet of vintage cars and semi-trucks speeding by him.
The “car choreography” was the brainchild of director Alex Lill and writer Charlie Morse. During the storyboard process, Morse recalled thinking that seeing all of those cars would look amazing from an aerial shot, while Lill said they were inspired by “those old 1950s synchronized swimmers.” So instead of going for a Fast & Furious vibe, the production team aimed for “synchronicity and elegance,” something the stunt drivers weren’t used to. The producers had to find 20 identical red and white cars for the look they wanted.
The cars began driving faster with each rehearsal, and the day before the live performance, Lill decided to make the spectacle even more dangerous. He had the idea to bring the cars — which were traveling at 25 mph by that point — even closer to The Weekend, and the singer was quick to say yes when the director broached the idea with him.
Despite the danger of the setup, Morse recalled The Weeknd’s lack of nervousness: “He was calm, kept his composure, walked slow, and just didn’t look back.”
NASCAR mechanics’ big role
The production crew worked with nearly two dozen vintage cars, so one of the biggest issues the team faced was the vehicles breaking down in the days leading up to the show. That’s where NASCAR came into the picture. The producers had a crew of NASCAR mechanics on-site, tasked with fixing any cars with issues during rehearsals.
But the NASCAR techs also had to ensure all of the cars had the same brakes so that the stunts could be coordinated and performed without any margin for error.
It’s not the type of gig NASCAR mechanics are accustomed to doing, as they’re used to working on modern racecars, not vintage vehicles. But they’re some of the world’s best mechanics and were a good choice to help ensure safety for the big performance.