An Evening With Silk Sonic: A Sublime Debut from Two Artists Fascinated by Nostalgia

The cover of An Evening with Silk Sonic features the group

Bruno Mars has a strange relationship with time and music. His early imprint on the charts in 2010, with singles like “Grenade” and “Just The Way You Are”, was a commercial success, but received mixed critical reviews. Subdued, saccharine vocals and generic lyrics were perceived as an inauthentic effort to please too many audiences at once, but one element consistently praised about the debut album was its nostalgic connections.

The retro tinges of Bruno Mars’ instrumental signature were a true breath of fresh air in a chart climate saturated with repetitive club beats and subpar autotune, and in 2014, he appeared to truly take this feedback to heart. Since the release of his collaboration with fellow vintage-inspired producer Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk”, Mars’ music has always felt the most fresh and innovative when he’s channelled a rose-tinted past. Whether he’s taking influence from ’70s funk or early 1990s new jack swing, Bruno Mars has a way of reviving old genres with the precision of a dedicated student and the passion of an unforgettable showman.

It’s no wonder, then, that he found a natural kinship with rapper Anderson .Paak, an artist who puts the ‘neo’ into neo-soul with lively and inventive performances underscored by timelessly soulful instrumentals. When Paak’s musical tendencies combined with Bruno Mars’ love of the old soul greats while the former supported the latter on tour, the resulting possibilities were too shimmering to ignore. Their first record as a duo, titled An Evening With Silk Sonic, makes it clear that they’ve hit on something special; at once, it’s comfortingly familiar, and unlike anything else charting right now.

From the album’s intro, which asks “who y’all came to see tonight?”, the duo aim to give listeners a front row experience to their aims of authenticity and elegance. Funk legend Bootsy Collins lends his credibility to the project in a spoken intro, unveiling the curtain on their debut single. “Leave the Door Open” could be described as effortless in its charm, but it’s clear that the dueling performers are giving their all to their performances, almost seeking to outdo each other in their attempts to play the ladies’ man.

It’s that charisma both artists are known for that keeps this soul-inspired bedroom jam from sounding like it’s trying too hard. The twinkling keys and cheesy, crooning backing vocals could so easily veer into cheap parody—I mean, who in the year of our lord 2021 is using the word “shamone” unironically?

Complete sincerity keeps the track afloat; they’re committed to their act in a way you’d expect from two artists who often market themselves on their showmanship.


Maybe I’ve just heard it too many times since its release, but to me, “Leave the Door Open” isn’t even the clearest example of this lack of internet-friendly self-deprecation leading to a timeless performance. No, the real swagger can be found in “Fly As Me”, an homage to ’70s funk that’s clearly got nothing but love for the genre. Anderson.Paak’s rap talents come into play here with a self-assured flow that matches perfectly with the syncopated groove of the bass. His verses are such an artful blend of vintage class and modern soul’s confessional tendencies that I think he’s showing up the more well-known name on the track. Bruno’s Stevie-Wonder-esque fills and soaring high notes tie the track together, but the faster and funkier songs on An Evening With Silk Sonic truly belong to Paak. We see this later with “777”, an ode to gambler’s luck that offers all the glitz and confidence of Vegas with just a touch of lounge-act sleaze.

The two tracks that follow the swagger of “Fly As Me” are genuinely sublime. “After Last Night” features high-calibre contributions from Collins as well as Thundercat, creating richly layered vocals that truly offer something for every listener, and the devotional lyrics transition into the broken-hearted “Smokin’ Out The Window”. However, while the line “not to be dramatic but I wanna die” has lived in my head rent free for the past week, this is one of the first songs on the album in which the misogyny of the era the duo are emulating starts to creep in. The song covers sexual betrayal in the vein of Motown classics like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, but come on; it’s 2021, you don’t own women. These lyrics are sparse enough so as not to ruin the song for me completely, but it does take me out of the warm, luxurious tones of the music.


As the record nears its end, the songs veer in a slightly more forgettable direction. Songs like “Put On A Smile” and “777” are as lyrically high-end as ever, they’re just too similar to earlier tracks to truly make their own mark. If I’ve already heard the wealth of tones in “After Last Night”, do I really need “Put On A Smile” in my life?

The energy does, however, get picked up by “Skate”, the album’s second single and its penultimate overall track. There’s just such a joyful atmosphere to the production; it feels free from all constraints, whether that’s the rules of genre or the categorisations of time. The emphatic vocal delivery of both artists makes the song’s romantic lyrics feel sincere, but this time, it’s Mars in particular who truly brings the emotions out of the light, dazzling beat.

Rather than dragging out the run time with weaker and weaker tracks, Silk Sonic decide to quit while they’re ahead. The final track “Blast Off” is another serenade on paper, but there’s hints at the duo’s aims of stardom through confident deliveries of poetic astral imagery. As a final note for the album, it’s spot on. There’s so much ambition in this project, so many grand plans to draw inspiration from a multitude of genres gone by and craft a loving pastiche that could only have been made in the current moment. It’s not a rehash of the artists’ influences, but is instead a love letter. It isn’t hard to see why this is an album of the year contender for many people. As much as Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are singing to the hypothetical ladies in their audience, they’re also singing their love of the genres they’re taking inspiration from, and that’s likely to be something that truly doesn’t age.

Written by Teddy Webb

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