Silk Sonic
An Evening with Silk Sonic


4.5
superb

Review

by Sowing STAFF
November 15th, 2021 | 417 replies


Release Date: 11/12/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If bein' fine was a crime...

It’s been a strange phenomenon to witness Bruno Mars’ ascension from the guy who wrote very basic, catchy tunes like ‘The Lazy Song’ and ‘Grenade’ (from 2010’s pop-reggae afterthought Doo-Wops & Hooligans) to where we are now. There’s a number of things that happened along the way obviously; for one, he got better. 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox saw him take a step in the right direction – including perhaps his best non-charter in ‘Moonshine’ – but the album as a whole was still an uneven and single-reliant experience with the added misfortune of possessing some of the worst pop lyrics of all time (who could forget ‘Gorilla’? ugh). For half a decade, it felt like Mars’ output simply didn’t match his vocal skills…but then, 2016’s 24K Magic happened – an album that changed many people’s outlook on Bruno Mars. The 80s-inspired, retro gleam proved to be an ideal fit and there was far less filler present; a fact aided by the record’s lean nine songs. The album ended up boasting major hits in ‘24K Magic’, ‘That’s What I Like’, ‘Chunky’, and ‘Versace On The Floor’ alongside some lesser-known but equally brilliant gems like the surprisingly poignant ‘Too Good To Say Goodbye’. It was the album that convinced some critics that Mars, despite some previous inconsistencies, had the potential to pen a modern day classic. Now he’s joined forces with fellow R&B/soul artist Anderson .Paak to do exactly that. An Evening With Silk Sonic marks the duo’s debut as a funk supergroup, and it could be the best thing that either artist has ever done.

Like so many of 2021’s best records, this one formed during Covid quarantine (although the roots of this project date back to 2017). It was a tragedy turned luxury-of-time that afforded Mars and Anderson every minute they’d need to get even the finest details exactly right. The pair did extensive research to ensure they were using the same drums as prominent musicians from the post-What’s Going On 70s soul movement, they trekked to Memphis’ Royal Studios to record in the same the location as many of Al Green’s classics, brought in Larry Gold (Philly’s famed MFSB) to conduct and arrange strings, and nabbed funk icon Bootsy Collins (who coined the project’s Silk Sonic name) to serve as a guiding hand in the studio and “host” the record. All of this work paid off in spades, as An Evening With Silk Sonic’s atmosphere is rich and authentic, existing at the irresistible intersection between 70s funk nostalgia and the luxuries of a modern day studio. As a result, An Evening With Silk Sonic lives up to its billing as a true experience: it’s sexy, ever-so-smooth, and radiates confidence and charisma. So dim the lights, pour a glass of champagne, and put this thing on the needle – because An Evening With Silk Sonic is an unforgettably good one.

After Bootsy Collins gives the band a proper introduction, we gently parachute into the mellifluous grooves of ‘Leave The Door Open’, which sees Mars and .Paak at their silkiest and most glistening. Their luscious vocal harmonies are accompanied by an earthy splattering of retro-sounding drums and spacious, almost celestial-reaching, strings. It’s like coming home to the soft glow of flickering candles, with rose petals sprinkled in an imprecise pattern leading to the bedroom as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ serenades in the background. It’s an irrefutably romantic song, and although wielding a pen has never turned Bruno Mars into Shakespeare, his earnest delivery of simple gestures like “I ain't playin' no games, every word that I say is coming straight from the heart” sounds sincere enough to sweep you off your feet. ‘After Last Night’ is that song’s spiritual successor, taking us to a conversation between two lovers where Mars is so taken by the night’s passions that he sings “If I still had my phone, I'd call every girl I know and tell them goodbye”, concluding at various points – atop what is arguably the duo’s most engrossing melodic hook – “You changed the game” and “I think I'm in love with you.” With tasteful features from both Thundercat and Bootsy, it’s an amazingly well-constructed and immaculately produced slice of neo-soul that feels like it simply wouldn’t have been possible without the willing collaboration of talents in the room, along with a shared chemistry that becomes resoundingly apparent by the jazzy, seam-bursting tension of the song’s satisfying conclusion.

Themes of romance continue on ‘Skate’, a song that is honestly as adorable as it is entertaining. The roller-disco jam glides along a slippery synth line, featuring humorous quips like “If bein' fine was a crime / Girl, they'd lock your lil' fine ass up in a tower” while comparing the emotional space between the narrator and his partner to skaters drifting apart: “I'm reachin' out in hopes that you reach for me too / Oh, skate to me, baby.” It’s a track that feels like it would have been a chart-topper had it been released at summer’s onset, but it’s so infectious that it will probably get there anyway. ‘Put on a Smile’ is a bittersweet breakup ballad about trying to overcome life after losing someone you’re still deeply in love with: “Try to be the life of the party / All night, buying shots for everybody / But it's all just an act…Baby girl, the only thing worth smilin' for was you.” It’s one of the few songs here with a downturned tempo, but Mars/.Paak never lose our undivided attention – especially when Bruno lays it all on the line around the 3:28 mark with an elongated, powerfully delivered “Lord knows I'm dyin” that feels like the emotional zenith of this entire thing. If nothing else, it proves that ‘Too Good To Say Goodbye’ was no fluke, and that writing bona fide classic breakup tunes is now a regular part of Mars’ wheelhouse.

Pervading vibes of sensuality and longing notwithstanding, it’s important to note that An Evening With Silk Sonic isn’t just a series of date-night slow jams. Anderson .Paak injects the experience with an element of grit and tenacity that is normally absent from a typical Bruno Mars outing, especially on the haughty rap verses that fit ‘Fly As Me’s lyrics like a glove and the rollicking funk beat that provides a vivacious dancefloor upon which ‘777’s playful horns can mingle with .Paak’s layered, ridiculously fun chants of let’s goooo. The two musicians complement each other perfectly, with Bruno Mars’ more structured verse-chorus-verse method reigning .Paak in to keep the experience sleek and streamlined, while .Paak prevents things from becoming too conventional by pushing forward with more of a raw, freestyling approach. The result is a batch of songs that sound incredibly tight, but are also carefree and loose. It’s obviously got nothing on some of the more experimental soul/funk albums of our time, like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah for example, but when you’re talking about mainstream pop albums geared towards casual consumption, radio airplay, and party soundtracking, Silk Sonic is essentially the holy grail.

Silk Sonic arguably save their best song for last with ‘Blast Off’, a towering curtain-call that has all the mystique and allure of gliding through the Milky Way, including some high-as-space imagery brought to you by totally-not-drugs-wink™: “We're levitatin' up in this room, all these colors just like rainbows in summer…I took a little somethin' to get here, yeah / I got a little more if you're ready.” There’s a surprising sense of groundedness despite the song’s untethered, floating aura – mainly thanks to suddenly lucid verses like the sneaky-relevant “We'll watch the world go crazy from outer space." Velvet-lathered vocal harmonies score the journey until a blazing electric guitar riff cuts through the song like a rocket through space, searing the sky and leaving a trail of twinkling electric pianos in its wake. “All the way from the stratosphere, sendin' love from up above…Happy trails, baba” they sing, as if sending a postcard from some enlightened state of mind that can only come from being as rich, sexy, and high as they are. It’s an intoxicating atmosphere – one that will make you want to lie beneath the stars on a clear night and simply take it all in.

An Evening With Silk Sonic marks the pinnacle of Bruno Mars’ and Anderson .Paak’s respective musical careers, and it seems that they couldn’t have found better partners to climax with. This album wouldn’t have been possible without either party, and although the record possesses some inherent weaknesses that might cast some doubt on its status as a true classic (there could have been a lot more experimentation, Bootsy Collins contributes little beyond spoken narration), it’s still the essence of a perfect mainstream funk/soul/R&B disc, giving us nothing but this duo’s best for nine straight tracks. It’s straightforward fun, and both of these frontmen display a heightened level of class/showmanship that simply doesn’t come along all that frequently. It’s amazing to see how far these musicians have come since their respective beginnings, and the sort of milestones they prove attainable when they challenge each other. Through rigorous dedication to authenticity, some God-given talent, and a few style points, An Evening With Silk Sonic is looking more and more like an album worthy of the rich ancestry from which this whole project drew inspiration. Maybe Motown isn’t dead after all.



s
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user ratings (264)
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Nic Renshaw CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Give ‘em the ol’ razzle dazzle...

ghostalgeist (4)
Smooth like a newborn....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
November 15th 2021


39682 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This thing is so smooth.

Digging: Converge - Bloodmoon: I

StickFeit
November 15th 2021


1944 Comments


Tight album is tight, almost missed it tho.

rc239
November 15th 2021


333 Comments


wayyy outside the realm of what i'm normally into but i love this record lol

rabidfish
November 15th 2021


7035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

soul is a genre that just has a lot of energy and proves to be timeless.

the production is amazing. Bruno and Paak really have something special between the 2.

Digging: Dorothy Ashby - Soft Winds

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
November 15th 2021


6574 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Doo-wops and Hulligans

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
November 15th 2021


2741 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I’ve lost track of my 5s this year and I need to stop

Digging: Silent Planet - Iridescent

ArsMoriendi
November 15th 2021


35596 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

So many 5s for the most unchallenging soul album of all time



I'll still prob bump this to a 3 once the hype dies down tho

Digging: Brian Eno - Another Green World

Drifter
November 15th 2021


18305 Comments


if people love it then people love it

Ryus
November 15th 2021


26398 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"fly as me" is rly bad

Digging: Rx Papi and Gud - Foreign Exchange

botb
November 15th 2021


14905 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Anderson paak kills the drums on this record

normaloctagon
November 15th 2021


6974 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"I'll still prob bump this to a 3 once the hype dies down tho"



same man. the extra .5 is on principle





"fly as me" is rly bad [2]



Anderson paak kills the drums on this record [2]

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2021


42873 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"fly as me" is rly bad [3]

album as a whole taps into softfuccboi as a genre q well, but going all in on that track is rly not a good look

the same might be said for that summary on the frontpage with no context but further research is needed for that one

Digging: Lali Puna - Scary World Theory

Shattered_Future
November 15th 2021


1588 Comments


Smooth as a velvet painting, does literally nothing new or innovative or pushes the boundaries at all, and doesn't fucking need to.
You can hear the amount of money that got thrown at this record, and for maybe the first time in modern pop history it was worth it.

WatchItExplode
November 15th 2021


9389 Comments


Smoking out the window here is my favorite because it feels like a genuine song filtered through their chosen aesthetic instead of merely a novelty

rabidfish
November 15th 2021


7035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

reproducing and updating old genres and sounds with this level of commitment can sometimes be read as regressive or even malignant. but when there's love for the original, its just as commendable as trying to cater to some diaper-baby idea of innovation. Music is timeless, if the genre still has something to give and as long as it's not just some surface-level banalization of some idealized "past", hell why tf not.

Last year's Jessie Ware made me realize that.

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
November 15th 2021


2741 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"So many 5s for the most unchallenging soul album of all time"

and I'll do it again Ars

normaloctagon
November 15th 2021


6974 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"and I'll do it again Ars"



pog

JefferyBigglestein2
November 15th 2021


463 Comments


should i listen to this or is this just going to be as surface level and basic as the first single

JefferyBigglestein2
November 15th 2021


463 Comments


i feel like bruno peaked with 24k magic and while hes got great vocals its just so 1 dimensional. half his content would fit the bill of "the most generic music in the world". especially some of his earlier shit. honestly his best song was the joint with gucci mane.

Uzumaki
November 15th 2021


3287 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It really depends if you enjoy soul/funk/R&B, Jeff.

Digging: Arm?s Length - Everything?s Nice



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