Silk Sonic creates R&B record for the ages

Ben Pease, Arts and Entertainment Editor

What’s cocky yet charming, childish yet mature and two words, nine letters? The fantasy collab group by the name of Silk Sonic.  

The seeds of Silk Sonic were planted during the first shutdown due to the global pandemic. It gained traction as rapper and drummer Anderson Paak and multi grammy award winning pop singer Bruno Mars rekindled a musical relationship that started when the duo shared a tour in 2017. Within a short amount of time they were in the studio recording the full album under the dream band Silk Sonic. 

An Evening With Silk Sonic pays homage to Mars and Paak’s R&B/Soul roots. Because in essence, Silk Sonic is the modern take on Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. The nine songs on the record are all about having a good time, enjoying yourself and the music. With verses as catchy as the choruses, the album locks in an upbeat feeling involving girls, family and parties. 

Mars’ voice instantly identifies An Evening With Silk Sonic as a pop record at first glance. The iconic voice behind global pop hits like “24k magic”, “When I Was Your Man” and “That’s What I Like” is the only element dragging the soul of Silk Sonic up to the pleasantly deceiving surface of mainstream. Yet, with a little more grit and roughness in his voice, he would soar out of his Unorthodox Jukebox imprisonment and create separation from his solo career. This would allow Silk Sonic to be distinctive, unique and a lone wolf in his many years as a singer-songwriter. 

“Leave The Door Open”, a grammy nominated hit that flaunts the majestic vibrance of 70’s soul. It’s nostalgic, like this song was sealed in a time capsule fifty years ago. Paak’s smooth, raspy voice steps up to the plate for the verses. It feels like he’s singing in a reverberated shower while being backed by echoes of “what you doin’?”, “where you at?” and “you got plans?”. The call and response is as if Paak is hyping himself up, practicing pickup lines while looking in the mirror before a night out. The song then shifts, changing key for Mars to command the bridge and chorus in a classic Marvin Gaye style. The spotlight shines upon Mars and his lively voice that has been the source for his success. 

What Mars and Paak do tremendously well is incorporating space into the music. The instruments and vocals have the spotlight in sections before allowing them to breathe by pausing a beat. This provides a masterful feel for rhythm, which may be due to Paak’s close affiliation with the drums. 

“Skate” is all orchestrated through timing, Paak and Mars are the conductors and this is their symphonic debut. The bridge is built up by a three beat swell between the bass line, guitar and strings as Mars sings, “take my hand and hold on tight”.  The bridge lines up to flow straight into Mars’ wonderous chorus “ohhh skate to me baby”. Mar’s choruses could be a source of an addiction if the listener is not careful. Just a couple doses a week! Are there AA or in this case BA (Bruno Anonymous) meetings for those who can’t restrain from playing back the middle eight measures in every Mars song? The track offers a beautiful simplicity to it, forming a friendly, upbeat atmosphere, like there’s no worries in the world. “In a room full of dimes, You would be a hundred dollars” and “I can smell your sweet perfume, Mmm you smell better than a barbecue”, Mars sings. 

Who says that? What kind of lyric is that? In an interview with R&B Now, Mars says he and Paak kept trying to one up each other’s lyrics and competing with who could make the other laugh. This fun, playful process really translates to the music and can be heard all throughout the record. It’s all about having a good time. It’s crafty, meticulous and catchy. Is it genius? Well no, but that’s not the point. It paints the sunny atmosphere Paak and Mars are attempting to convey. These lyrics make it no longer an attempt but an accomplishment.

“Smokin Out The Window” was the first song Paak and Mars created while on tour roughly five years ago. This song is what jump started the super group referred to today as Silk Sonic. Paak sings of complications with love and applies wacky, outlandish synonyms such as “got her badass kids runnin’ ‘round my whole crib like it’s Chuck E. Cheese”. Paak establishes an intimate and animate atmosphere where everything goes. The only rule? No rules.

Everything in An Evening With Silk Sonic moves in the right direction, every turn, every key change comes smoothly and rightfully so. Like a driver using their turn signal, every move is anticipated. The record gives listeners what they want, a win-win for Paak and Mars as it gives them what they want as well, being a 70’s feeling R&B record for the ages. Better yet? It may just possibly rank up against the genre’s ancestors.