Silk Sonic channels old school R&B

Two people in front of a wall of albums one holding sunglasses on their face and the other holding a bass guitar.
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak come together to form Silk Sonic. The resulting project, “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” features groovy tracks “Smokin Out The Window,” “Fly As Me” and more. (Photo courtesy of John Esparza)

“An Evening With Silk Sonic” marks a momentous occasion. In a year filled with highly-anticipated releases, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak added their names to the slate as newly-formed duo, Silk Sonic. The album marks Mars’ first album since 2016’s Grammy Award-winning record “24K Magic” and Paak’s newest release after “Ventura.” Needless to say, anticipation has reached a boiling point for the artists’ joint project “An Evening With Silk Sonic.”

Lead single “Leave The Door Open” was released on March 5, 2021 to much fanfare. Since the album’s release, it has garnered over 600 million Spotify streams and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks. Its lyrical content is casual as Mars and Paak preen over a romantic interest, enticing them to a night in. All of this is layered over a sparkly, all encompassing and soft instrumental that cushions and supports their outstanding vocals. “An Evening With Silk Sonic’s” second single “Skate” achieved, comparatively, moderate success, peaking at No. 14 on the Hot 100 in Aug. 2021, but remained consistent in its old-school sound and tumultuous relationship lyrical themes. 

What works so well about Silk Sonic is Mars and Paak’s chemistry. Their history extends beyond just recording the album. They first met and worked together on the European leg of Mars’ “24K Magic” Tour in 2017. Coincidentally, the idea for a collaboration sprouted out of the tour and blossomed into a 31-minute, nine-song album that will certainly be in contention for Album of the Year come the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony. 

“An Evening With Silk Sonic” is the perfect blend between Paak’s groovy, rap-infused swagger and Mars’ smooth crooning. “Silk Sonic Intro,” released as a promotional single, sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album. It introduces listeners to host Bootsy Collins and the consistent, old-school sound that’s now characteristic of Silk Sonic, who remain remarkably cohesive throughout the project. 

Early album standout, “Fly As Me,” is reminiscent of Paak’s 2018 “Oxnard.” Here, Mars’ larger audience gets introduced to Paak’s rapping, a facet appreciated and adored by his fanbase, but not highlighted on any of the singles. “Fly As Me” immediately inhabits an infectious groove and never strays away. Mars is mostly absent, participating in just the choruses, but it’s hardly noticeable. Paak holds his own and their seamless performance is given plenty of time to shine through the remaining tracks. 

“After Last Night” brings back the narration of Bootsy Collins which punctuates this smooth, slow, sexy jam. However, its biggest pitfall is uplifting but incredibly corny lyrics. “That gushy gushy good girl,” and “Sweet, sticky, thick and pretty,” are only partly masked by Silk Sonic’s vocal performance and D’Mile’s production. Nonetheless, it’s ethereal and certainly an album highlight.

The third and final single from the album, “Smokin Out The Window,” picks the album’s tempo back up. It recently went viral on TikTok just mere days after its release with the help of Mars’ iconic “this bitch got me payin’ her rent, payin’ for trips” line. Its success organically built hype for the album, further highlighting TikTok’s ability to catapult songs into the mainstream. “Smokin Out The Window’s” lyrical content changes tack from the rest of the album. While Mars and Paak confront a cheating love interest, the new relationship bliss of the first four tracks disappears as they frustratedly reflect, “Oh, I thought that girl belonged to only me / But I was wrong (I was wrong) / ‘Cause she belong to everybody.” 

Silk Sonic never misses a chance to flex their wealth either. It’s never more apparent than on “777,” their foray into Las Vegas as a rebound from the devastation brought on the cheater. “And slide to the dealership in the mornin’ / Papa need a brand new foreign,” Paak delivers in staccato fashion, never interrupting the standout track’s relentless flow. 

Sadly, album closer “Blast Off” is one of the weakest tracks, though the bar was set very high. Paak is entirely absent and this, coupled with the slower, psychedelic sound, lacks the energy of both the up and downtempo songs found earlier in the tracklist. Regardless, “An Evening With Silk Sonic” is a must listen, though you’ll have to wrestle your friends for aux over “Red (Taylor’s Version).”