Arts and Entertainment

Silk Sonic Bring Funk Back In Fashion

A review of the “Silk Sonic” debut, which lives up to its name by sounding silky smooth.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Nelli Rojas-Cessa

The hype surrounding “An Evening with Silk Sonic” has been raging for a while. The album was announced in February of this year, with the lead single “Leave the Door Open” being introduced in early March. “Leave” was performed live at the Grammy Awards to widespread critical acclaim, jumpstarting the album’s mainstream buzz. Follow-up singles “Skate” and “Smokin Out the Window” channeled more peppy and light tones, ultimately building up to the album’s release. With the duo’s album now out, it’s easy to see that the project was well worth the wait.

“An Evening” blends elements from R&B, funk, pop, and soul into a series of groovy and infectious tracks. Singles “Leave the Door Open” and “Smokin’ Out the Window” are vibrant, sensual songs with resonant percussion, velvety rich string sections and explicit, yet suave lyricism. The brass, synths, and seductive backing vocals in “After Last Night” (featuring Bootsy Collins and Thundercat) and “Put On A Smile” complement the lilting highs in Mars’s singing and the alluring harmonies they create when paired with Anderson Paak’s vocals. Each track oozes passion and nostalgia for the soul of the ‘70s, with their guitar tones and instrumental palettes updating the retro warmth from Rick James and Marvin Gaye Motown classics into smooth, edgeless pop-funk defined by vocal chemistry.

The cohesion felt in “An Evening with Silk Sonic” is even more surprising given that the initial contrast between the two artists behind the album could not be more staggering. Mars has been a major industry player for at least a decade, consistently topping the charts with retro hits. .Paak, on the other hand, is decidedly underground and has only been on the come-up since 2011, gaining traction after signing to Dr. Dre’s record label in 2016. Although the convergence of these two artists might not seem like the best duo genre-wise, the different perspectives from pop-R&B and hip-hop-funk end up meshing perfectly. Tracks like “Fly as Me” and “After Last Night” show the elegance in which the gap can be bridged between genres, culminating in energetic and complementary performances from both .Paak and Mars.

One facet of this album that is perhaps even more interesting than the music itself is the album’s thematic origins. Mars and .Paak initially met during Mars’s 24K Magic tour in 2017, instantly hitting it off. This meeting incited the idea for what would become Silk Sonic. The chemistry between the two is evident through their back-and-forth vocal interplay and effortless harmonization. The light and partially comedic tone reflect the positive vibes that the respective performers had in the studio and compliments the breezy subject matter. “An Evening” strays away from heavy topics like COVID-19 and police brutality that .Paak covered in 2020 and opts to play into Mars’s feel-good, anthemic positivity. In an R&BNow interview, Mars stated that “a good song can bring people together... [which] was our mindset with the whole album.” This sentiment is clear throughout Silk Sonic’s performance, with nearly every track being either a jumpy hit or an emotional ballad.

Another major highlight of the album was the host himself––Bootsy Collins. Collins’s inclusion is one of the aspects that define the project, both musically and culturally. Bootsy is among the most prominent bassists in R&B history, influencing artists from James Brown to Snoop Dogg. His undeniable funk and sonic grace are the cherries on top of “An Evening,” elegantly opening and closing the beginning and ending tracks with flair.

“An Evening with Silk Sonic” is a successful meeting of two minds who, despite their contrasting musical styles, created a cohesive, endearing piece of art. The seamless fusion of various genres, the airtight composition of each track, and the fun, synergistic vocal performances of both Mars and .Paak combines in a project that is equal parts smooth, funky, and sexy. The raw talent and charisma of the duo carry “An Evening with Silk Sonic” to its place as one of the best projects of the year.