For anyone who’s even mildly paid attention to pop music over the past 12 years, the name Bruno Mars should ring a few bells. Whether it was singing about catching grenades for girls, being locked out of heaven, or praising everything he likes, Mars has been a staple of pop music for a while now, racking up over 50 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
However, Bruno’s counterpart on this album, Anderson .Paak, is a little less well-known. While he hasn’t performed alongside Beyonce at the Super Bowl, he has put out music with some of the best rappers of the era. Using collaborations ranging from everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Andre 3000 to Dr. Dre, .Paak has spent his career building a unique sound unlike anyone else in the industry.
So when the two came together to announce their new duo, Silk Sonic, in early 2021, the music community started buzzing. They released their initial single, “Leave the Door Open,” and it shot up the charts. Their combination of a (no pun intended) silky smooth 70s sound with their modern crooner vocals made it an instant hit. They followed it up with “Skate” which was equally as groovy and finally capped off their hyping with “Smokin Out the Window” which was a complete shift from Bruno’s normal vibe of hopeless romanticism to a new pessimism that became an instant classic breakup track.
A full tracklist dropped following the release of “Smokin Out the Window.” On November 12th, Silk Sonic finally blessed the world with their first album together.
On this record, Bruno and .Paak created a fresh sound that has been missing in pop lately. The duo, along with the inclusion of soul legend Bootsy Collins, has put out a time machine back to the past while also modernizing the sound for a newer audience. While some listeners may be miffed by the lack of length (they released about half the album as singles), I think it still works. The succinctness of the project makes it easily digestible for all levels of listeners. There has barely any filler content which is hard to come by in pop these days and a welcome surprise.
The emotional roller coaster Silk Sonic puts the listener through makes the project very exciting. While the diverse sounds may be there to make the record more radio-friendly, they are great for listenability. While there are plenty of radio hits, most of them came out as singles. These types of tracks end up being fun and don’t detract from the album as a listening experience. Overall, the album is a welcome addition to the discographies of both artists and has something for every type of listener.
The three-track run of “Smokin Out The Window”, “Put On A Smile”, and “777” is by far one of the best moments of the album. Bootsy Collins’ intro on “Put On A Smile” urges the listener that it is ok to beg for forgiveness right after hearing Bruno complain about paying rent for a girl that, in his words, has to be given back to the city, is one of my favorite moments. All throughout, the charming ambiance of the 70s-inspired sound shone through. Whether it was the groovy basslines reminiscent of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” or the crescendo on “Blast Off” as the project ended, it never got boring.
While I really wanted to love “After Last Night”, something about it just didn’t click with me. The inclusion of Thundercat and his excellent guitar work made it intriguing, but it failed to fire me up the same way the other tracks did. The vocals are superb though and save the record from having any real skips.
The only things keeping this album back from being perfect to me are the length and the rollout. It is hard to get excited about songs when they have been playing everywhere for the past six months and they make up most of the album. While the singles are all still great, they got a bit stale for me. It was hard to really want to listen to them when the album dropped because the new tracks were much more intriguing. If the rollout hadn’t been so lengthy, it might have achieved a higher grade.
All in all, the duo of Mars and .Paak brought some real excitement to the record. The combination of their vocals and some spectacular instrumentals made the project one of my favorites of the year. While I may be a sucker for older R&B and some good sampling, I think this album is still enjoyable even without having bias. If the rollout had been shorter and more of the album had been kept a secret, it would have been even more enjoyable. Regardless, An Evening With Silk Sonic brought a flair that made it one of my favorite records of the year.
Must-Listens: “Smokin Out The Window”, “Put On A Smile”, “Blast Off”
Skips: No real skips, maybe “After Last Night”
Listen to An Evening With Silk Sonic here:
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