Silk Sonic presents an evening filled with ‘good vibrations’ and an old school sound

Silk+Sonics+An+Evening+with+Silk+Sonic+released+Nov.+12.

Photo by Randi Haseman

Silk Sonic’s “An Evening with Silk Sonic” released Nov. 12.

There are a handful of artists today that one should not compete with when it comes to release dates. On that list, one could include names such as The Weeknd, Drake, Kanye West, Billie Eilish and especially 11-time Grammy winner, Taylor Swift.

And that’s exactly what Silk Sonic did.

Silk Sonic, a fresh new duo featuring underground R&B renaissance man, Anderson.Paak, and superstar sensation, Bruno Mars, released their long-awaited album, “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” on Nov. 12, the same day as Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Based on the attention the group is receiving after the album release, it comes as no surprise that the album debuted at the number two spot on The Billboard 200 last Monday.

Hosted by Bootsy Collins, a pioneer in funk music and the one who came up with the duo’s name, the album is centered around an old-school, R&B soul, funk and soft rock sound all created by original, in-studio instruments.

In an interview with Ebro Darden, Mars spoke about the importance of having the live music sound in the group’s debut album.

“You know this Tik Tok thing is blowing up,” Mars said.  “Me and Andy come from this school of performing and playing live instruments … To us, this just feels right. If it did what it did and hit number one or it didn’t, me and Andy know that that was the best we could do and we’re cool with that.”

Even with the old-school sound in this age of autotune and artificial sounds, where will this album rank amongst other collections released this year? Will it be viewed as a “classic album?” Only time will tell, but for now, here is my first impression review.

Silk Sonic Intro:

The minute-long introduction is technically Silk Sonic’s first of four singles released by the group, but its early March 2021 release served as a teaser for the next-day drop of number one hit single “Leave The Door Open.” Nevertheless, the duo begins the album by putting the listener in a setting similar to a small concert centered around the anticipated “good vibrations” of the album. By introducing Bootsy as the host and inviting listeners to grab a drink and make their way to the stage, the intro is a perfect alley-oop to enjoying “An Evening With Silk Sonic.”

Leave The Door Open:

The song not only brought Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak fans together, but also commanded all of the world’s attention on this unique. “Leave The Door Open” left newly-assembled Silk Sonic fans antsy for the album release. So much so, that the group decided to move the original January 2022 album release date to November this year.

As the song starts, people are introduced to Anderson.Paak’s vocals, which are centered around an invitation to spend a combination of wanting a lover to keep him company and a boastful attitude. Soon after, Mars rounds out the first verse going into the harmonious chorus of leaving the door open for someone to come over and be treated to their life of luxury.

Even with the typical love-crush message, it’s the song’s instrumental that makes it different than today’s popular sound.

“With the orchestras and harmonies, when we wrote (“Leave The Door Open”) it was one of those songs where I was like, ‘Dang, I can’t believe we’re a part of this,'” Mars said. “We don’t know what it’s going to do. We didn’t care if it was a ballad, mid or whatever you want to call it … This is important to us.”

Fly As Me

Although the album is under the title of Silk Sonic, many people still believe this is a Bruno Mars’ album, especially since he is the bigger name out of the two. “Fly As Me,” however, offers listeners a chance to get in tune with Anderson.Paak’s artistry. The James Brown instrumental sound that combines funk and soft rock create a fast-paced and upbeat mood that matches the song’s message that he needs to be with someone as “fly,” luxurious and stylish as him. It’s obvious that Anderson has his eyes set on someone and hopes to at least have one night to fulfill his romantic desires.

After Last Night

One of the more soulful songs on the album “After Last Night” is a continuation of Silk Sonic’s love search after finding someone as fly as them. Although the message suggests a one-night-stand situation, both Anderson’s and Bruno’s emotion in the song emphasizes the urge to take this relationship to the next level, even if it was only for one night. Both of their new lovers have such a hold on them that they both are willing to spoil them with “cars, clothes, diamonds and gold.” The song reaches new heights as the percussion picks up speed and variety, the electric guitar’s sound rages and Mars takes over the ending with passion.

Smokin Out The Window

It turns out that the material things were not enough to conquer love. This love-drama song is an immediate reaction to both of the duo’s lovers taking advantage of their materialistic love. The song, being the group’s third and final single, currently sits in the top ten of The Billboard Hot 100 and is also the most explicit song on the album, which may be a result of a broken heart and hurt ego. A hurt ego because she does not “belong” them, but to “everybody else,” meaning she’s caught up in multiple affairs. It’s the catchy chorus and the melodic instrumental that makes this put everything in a not-so-sad mood. That will soon change.

The music video to the song, which was released Nov. 4, does not fully capture the heartbreak emotion but pays homage to the old-school Soul and disco era with the setting being on a stage with live instruments and backup singers. Although choreography and passionate lip-syncing transport the viewer back to the 60s and 70s, there is a part in the video where Anderson.Paak drops “dead” to emphasize his comical line of “not to be dramatic, but I wanna die.”

Put On A Smile

After Bootsy Collins begins the song with, “Tell her how you really feel,” the mood switches. In every Bruno Mars album, there has always been a signature heartbreak song dating back to “Grenade” on “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” “When I Was Your Man” on “Unorthodox Jukebox,” “Too Good To Say Goodbye” on “24K Magic” and now “Put On A Smile.”

The shameless emotion along with the soulful instrumental pulls at the listener and makes the lyrics relatable to whoever is listening, whether they have experienced a breakup or not. The duo reference “Smokin Out The Window” when they mention that calling out of her name was a bad move and references “Fly As Me,” when saying that they are not trying to be the life of the party anymore. My biggest highlight of the song was Bruno’s signature raspy, but passionate belt on the word “dying” towards the end of the song, stating in full that the Lord knows he’s “dying” by putting up a fake smile to hide his heartbroken pain.

777

Life moves along, and fairly quickly, with this instant James Brown-esc instrumental. After saying they don’t want to be the life of the party anymore, they go to Las Vegas and have the time of their lives, boasting that they are going to “buy Las Vegas” after this hitting straight sevens at the slot machine. A shoutout to the late king of pop, Michael Jackson is also featured after Anderson.Paak says that he is going to “Moonwalk to the money like I’m Mike Jack” and “But the man in the mirror sayin’, go on get your paper.” Out of all the songs on the albums, “777” had a similar pace to “Fly As Me,” but felt a little out of place. Something that might have taken the song to next level is an artist feature to make the song feel more full. A possible feature idea could be Grammy-winning, west coast rapper, Kendrick Lamar, whom Anderson.Paak teamed up with on his 2018 hit, “Tints.”

Skate

The happy-go-lucky roller skate song, “Skate,” is meant to be a song that brings people to the dance floor. With Anderson.Paak on the drums and Bruno Mars on the bongos, the live instruments of “Skate” takes listeners down the Soul Train line and into the era of Motown, a revolutionary Black-owned recording label founded in 1959 that presented groups and artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5 and more to the world. The song encompasses a light-hearted mood with a few comical lines such as “You smell better than a barbecue,” which makes the piece perfect for any age group.

To exemplify the live entertainment aspect of the disco sound, there is a short instrumental break at 2:28 to offer a chance to “groove,” skate or dance.

As far as the love story goes, it seems as if the two have found a new lover that provides a refreshing feeling to the storyline. They imply that they can simply have a fun, genuine time with this new girl with lines such as “skate to me,” “slide your way over,” “I wanna get to know you” and “I never fall, but tonight you got me falling for you.” It seems as though this new chapter in the love story is ready to take off (or blast off) soon.

Blast Off

The grand finale of the nine-song album is curated around a classic slow-jam sound that is meant to cultivate a magical and carefree feeling, similar to songs from groups such as Earth, Wind, And Fire or the Isley Brothers. Although the song is about Silk Sonic’s new relationship reaching exciting, new heights, “Blast Off,” also symbolizes how high duo can reach with their sound. With a variety of astronomical references such as “Kiss the moon tonight,” “Watch the world go crazy from outer space” and “Dance all night on Saturn’s ring,” “Blast Off” is the perfect way to end the album on a high note.

The second part of the song features a majestic repetition of the group “blasting off to some good vibrations.” The gradual key changes, along with Mars’ “Can we take it higher?” lines, offer a great deal of anticipation and to what the group has in store next. Of course, the song and album close out with Bootsy Collins giving a final salute from “outside the stratosphere” to listeners.

The Final Take:

“An Evening with Silk Sonic” is something that many Silk Sonic fans could have guessed it to be: A collective storyline centered around live instrumentals with a creative range of vocal sounds.

Who knew that combining Hawaiian-native and child prodigy, Bruno Mars, along with one of the most talented and arguably underappreciated artists, Anderson.Paak, would take the music scene by storm and turn out to be a perfect fit?

Paak has had a track record of recording under the genre of R&B soul, soft rock and funk for years now, especially with his album “Ventura” winning Best R&B Album at the 2019 Grammys. It was great to see him take control of a few tracks on the album so that the album is not viewed as a Bruno Mars album featuring Anderson.Paak.

With all of the artists and influencers that helped Silk Sonic in making the album, I would have liked to hear at least one or two features from other artists. In many post-album release interviews, Silk Sonic explained how R&B singer, Babyface, played a role in the duo’s sound in songs like “Put On A Smile.” Hearing a feature from him or any other R&B artist could make the album feel more complete.

However, the nine-song album was just right for the group, Mars explained in an interview.

“I told (Anderson) that if you can’t get (the audience) with nine or ten (songs), you are not going to get them with 20.”

Overall, the soulful, old-school sound of “Silk Sonic” is something fans can look forward to if both Mars and Paak choose to release more music together in the future. Sitting at number two on the Billboard 200, it is going to be interesting to see how much the group will sustain their success on the charts and solidify themselves as one of the most lethal one-two punches in the music industry. Can the album possibly move Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” to second place? How will the album match up against Adele’s “30”, which is expected to go number one soon? Only time will tell, of course.

This story was written by Andrew Amouzou. He can be reached at andrew.amouzou@marquette.edu or on Twitter at @AndrewAmouzou.