You’ve probably already heard their hit single Leave The Door Open, and you may be wondering – who are Silk Sonic? They seem to have come out of nowhere! Silk Sonic are none other than popular musicians Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. I would never have expected the duo to come together and write an album, but they did, and it passed an unbelievable 1 billion streams on Spotify.
Not only have they achieved copious amounts of streams, but Silk Sonic stylistically re-introduced the grooves of the 1970s back into the mainstream. Their deliberate approach to pastiche dazzled both musicians and non-musicians alike, as An Evening With Silk Sonic uses compositional techniques that we just don’t hear in today’s popular music.
Anderson .Paak emerged from the underground scene, known for his crazy drumming chops and countless collaborations. Bruno Mars, on the other hand, came from a songwriting super hit world, and has been around for years. How did two distinctly unique individuals from separate trajectories combine their talents to produce the album?
It all started when Anderson .Paak opened for the European leg of Bruno Mars’ 24k Magic Tour in 2017. It wasn’t long before the duo found themselves jamming in the studio – and agreed to make a collaborative record. The tour ended and the artists parted ways. After Mars listened back to their demos, they reunited in 2020 hoping to turn their talents into a passion project.
So, what is so special about An Evening With Silk Sonic? Read on to find out more.
An Evening With Silk Sonic
An Evening With Silk Sonic is a live show in the form of an album. The introduction was hosted by the one and only bassist and record producer Bootsy Collins. When listening, it truly feels like you’re watching the performance – and it starts with a bang.
Leading us into their glistening debut single Leave The Door Open, which premiered with a music video in March 2021. The track elaborately shows off the pair’s chemistry with its flirty lyrics, catchy grooves, and euphoric chord progressions that melt into each other. It’s symphonic arrangements revive the sound of influential Philadelphia soul groups from the 70s. They wear their influences on their sleeve, alluding to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, Michael Jackson’s Bad, and even .Paak’s own Grammy winning track Bubblin. Silk Sonic’s musical intelligence and literacy impressed Jazz Pianist Charles Cornell in his analysis of the track – ‘what a time to bring more in-depth music to a much larger audience’.
Following with the shamelessly funky Fly As Me. It’s catchy bassline and bouncy groove are strung together with punchy backing vocal harmonies. The boxing references throughout throw us back into the 70s: the most prevalent being the line ‘let me get a three piece and a biscuit’, followed by three drumbeats and an ‘uh!’ as if someone was knocked out. Mars explains in the Apple Music interview that after writing the hook to Fly As Me, he spent ages trying to figure out the verses. But ‘Andy starts playing the groove and says: Nah, it gotta be like this’ – and they went with it.
Track four, After Last Night, features bass and harmonies from Thundercat, and of course a lot of Bootsy Collins. Next, track five, Smokin’ Out the Window. Apparently, this track came first, it was one of the ones they wrote whilst jamming on Mars’ tour. Mars explains that he called Andy up on his birthday drunk out of his mind hoping to finish the song – then they started building from there. The juxtaposition in the lyrics between Chuck E. Cheese and Tiffany’s indicates that his former partner is living the high life whilst he’s left in the dust – top shelf R&B drama.
Put On A Smile shows us a different vibe from the rest of the album – a slow paced, sad love song. Instead of showing off, they sing about how in reality, they need their former partner. ‘Begging in the rain’ could possibly be a reference to older R&B music videos, where heartbroken artists would sing in the rain. Bruno said he initially played the song to Andy, and he said ‘it sucks’. But through collaboration, the magic happened, and they fixed the track.
They pick up the pace with 777, a sporty track about gambling in Las Vegas. Followed by Skate, which was released around 4 months after Leave The Door Open with a similar music video. Silk Sonic wrap up the album with Blast Off, a track about being transported to another world using psychedelic drugs. A true outro, ending with a tribute to the Beach Boys: ‘Blastin’ off straight to some good vibrations, can we take it higher?’ Every time the line repeats, they raise the key, the music gets higher and so do they!
A New Kind of Mainstream
In their interview with Ebro Darden for Apple Music, the duo gives us an in-depth look into the record. They felt the fear of never being able to play live again because of the pandemic, so created their idea of a fantasy setlist. They came together to create a necessary moment in music – ‘we’re at a time where you’re not supposed to be playing live instruments.’ The duo pushed each other to do things they’d never done before.
Mars highlights the demand of pop music today: ‘we want up tempo, give the kids something to dance to, you know, this TikTok thing’s blowing up!’ They came from a background of playing and performing live instruments, orchestras, and harmonies – and they wanted to write music like that. Whether it’s number one or not, they don’t care, it just feels right to them.
Silk Sonic’s authenticity brought on a widespread appreciation for the album. Many music lovers hold Soul hits of the 1970s very close to their hearts, so to see such an organic recreation of the era was a breath of fresh air. It’s uplifting to see pop music that not only significantly contrasts from the mainstream, but pop music that introduces more complexed compositional ideas – inspiring young musicians to further expand on their abilities.
Want to see the duo live? Silk Sonic announced that they will be performing 13 concerts at the Dolby Live theatre in Las Vegas form February to April 2022.
What do you think of An Evening With Silk Sonic?
Edie is a musician that composes and produces her own tracks alongside music for games. She also works as a freelance graphic artist, and learns about socio-cultural issues and current affairs in her spare time.