On Monday (Oct. 10), Anderson .Paak delivered an impassioned, high-energy, and crowd pleasing performance on Ellen. The multi-talented artist selected his song "Come Down" for the early morning talk show, though the upbeat track suggests the opposite, as .Paak and the 40 plus dancers on stage turned up for the occasion.
In order to bring the song to life, .Paak enlisted set designer Mike Carson -- who directed all visuals and is responsible for art direction on Drake's Summer Sixteen tour setup -- and filmmaker Calmatic. The trio worked together -- "[.Paak is] super hands on," Carson tells Billboard -- in order to create a visual experience as vibrant as the track itself.
"I think it was important for us to showcase all of his talents in one compact performance," Calmatic says. "He's a great singer, he's a great dancer, he's a great rapper, and he can play the drums, so he has to showcase all those elements in under three minutes." A feat made to look simple by Carson and Calmatic.
In order to achieve the fusion of so many elements in one fluid performance, Calmatic drew inspiration from the Ernie Barnes painting "Sugar Shack." He says the painting is referenced in the music video for the track as well (which he shot) and that it only felt natural to recreate that spark for .Paak's live performance.
"I feel like he's kind of a throwback artist but at the same time he's very current and also futuristic," Calmatic says. "So I just wanted to take that old school vibe that we were all familiar with and put a modern twist on it."
.Paak was into the idea from the start, as his main mission has always been to reflect the energy of the song. "We were able to the pull that vibe off for the video and after shooting it we knew we wanted to bring that same element to the Ellen show," .Paak says. "Bringing that same energy to a live performance can be difficult to execute especially since there is only ONE time to get things right when you are performing live."
He adds this is where "the very talented" Carson came into play. .Paak says while Calmatic crafted the vision, Carson helped bring it to life. "With [Carson] and Calmatic working together we were able to do something that was bigger than any TV performance I've ever done."
Aside from "Sugar Shack," both Calmatic and Carson agree the performance and its design bears similarities to Soul Train considering the sea of dancers who accompanied .Paak and added a "dope element," as Calmatic says. All the while, .Paak primarily remained at the center of it all, packing a punch with his vocals and delivering a dynamic drum solo, too.
The one-track performance sped on with such surging energy that Calmatic says it felt as if it flew by in 20 seconds. He says this was his first time working on television, and though he felt nervous and unsure at times, he and Carson were more than prepared -- he references the various mock-ups and plans the two had initially drawn up for .Paak's approval.
"It's pretty fulfilling to see something go from an idea to real life with any form of art," Carson says. "Especially set design." Calmatic adds this performance in particular is special because it brings a still painting, one that has become so engraved in culture, to life in an entirely new time and space.
"When it was all said and done," .Paak says, "I feel like we brought that iconic art work to life while adding our own unique spin," -- which was the goal all along.