Photo Credit: Harper Smith
After Silk Sonic (the super-duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) released their debut album earlier this month, a Tweet went viral saying “Marvin Gaye’s family [are] listening to this silk sonic album looking for just one chord [to sue the duo for] ”. The tweet spoke, yes, to the infamous behavior of the Gaye estate in making dubious claims of plagiarism, but also to one undeniable fact about An Evening With Silk Sonic; the unapologetic embrace of its influences. Countless popular artists have embraced the sounds of old over the last year – notably, Dua Lipa with Future Nostalgia and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye with After Hours. Most, however, have at least made some passing attempt to update the sounds of old for the modern-day. Not Silk Sonic, however, who have devoted themselves to fully recreating the sounds of the ’70s; with An Evening with Silk Sonic sounding less like a new album in 2021, but more like a lost classic rediscovered decades after its creation.
Ironically, it’s the lead single – and the album’s only number 1 hit – that offers the least effective showcase of the duo’s magic. “Leave The Door Open” takes itself too seriously and gets too bogged down in the pursuit of perfection. Technically, it’s faultless, yet it lacks the spark required to make it pop like the best soul of the ’70s.
Instead, the album comes into its own when its two members loosen up. “Smokin’ Out The Window” is genuinely funny (in a good way!) and may be the most fun song either has ever recorded. The comically dramatic emphasis on “this b*tch” in the pre-chorus became an instant meme upon release. When .Paak sings “I hope you find whatever it is that you need // But I also hope that your triflin’ *ss is walking round barefoot in these streets”, heartbreak has never sounded so funny.
There aren’t any other overtly comical songs like this, but there are plenty that bounces with this same sense of lightness. From the line on “After Last Night” that says “See, normally, I don’t stutter, but you d-d-d-d-d-d-do it to me” to the declaration on “Fly As Me” that “I deserve to be // with someone as fly as me,” most of these songs are sung with a knowing wink to the audience. Another highlight is “Skate”, which arguably boasts the album’s biggest earworm chorus. So is “777”; which captures the dangerous ecstasy and misplaced self-confidence of gambling with surgical precision. “I’m ‘bout to buy Las Vegas after this roll // Come on 7-7-7” declares .Paak before hollering, “Let’s Go!”
An Evening With Silk Sonic ultimately is the farthest thing possible from innovation, but .Paak and Mars bask in the knowledge that not everything needs to be. After a year where it was impossible for artists to collaborate in person, to get their bands together and, to perform live, An Evening With Silk Sonic, stands as an ode to the sheer joy of making music.