Story by Sam Long | Assistant Editor
Photo courtesy of Variety.com
Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak’s latest project, Silk Sonic, released their debut album on Friday, Nov. 12 after months of anticipation.
Entitled “An Evening with Silk Sonic,” the album draws on early ‘60s and ‘70s R&B and enlists funk icon and Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins to help bring the retro charm to their nod to the group’s earliest influences.
Collins opens the album by saying, “Fellas, I hope you got something in your cup,” introducing the album as if hosting a new episode of a revitalized episode of the ‘70s music-dance television show, “Soul Train.”
The intro alone lays the foundation for the album, inviting listeners into Silk Sonic’s own universe and opening with their debut single “Leave the Door Open” that reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Drawing on the prestigiousness of early Motown artists, every bass line, outfit and choreographed dance move are perfectly and meticulously executed.
The album undoubtedly communicates the high-quality performance skill that Mars has carried from his previous albums and translated it well into the music. The songs begin to play, and listeners can perfectly envision the group strutting through perfectly choreographed moves with the sensual style and swagger of ‘70s R&B legends.
While Mars has been slowly transitioning to the retro funk and R&B sound over the past couple of albums, his debut with Silk Sonic has achieved a retro sound that encapsulates the tunes of 70s disco, funk and R&B.
The album is a time capsule of musical variety and was a thrill to listen to.
Singles such as “Skate to Me” are straight out of the ‘70s roller rink nights. This song will make listeners want to grab a date and skate all night long to throwback beats like this one (or like me, learn how to skate again without wiping out).
The groove continues with “Fly as Me,” which is a cacophony of Wah pedals, delicious brass accompaniment and funky basslines. Paak and Mars transport listeners with their harmonies that are reminiscent of Earth Wind and Fire’s 1975 hit, “Shining Star.”
Unfortunately, with the old school sound came with it the same troubling subject matter of that time period. In their track “Smokin’ Out the Window,” the Paak and Mars lament about their designated lady friends and how much money these women are costing them. Mars enters the second verse by saying, “This bitch got me paying her rent, paying for trips / Diamonds on her neck, diamonds on her wrist.”
The tired narrative of this time period is evident with their influences, but the degradation of women that was prevalent in the music of the ‘70s is an aspect of the album that Silk Sonic certainly should have left in the past.
The next track “Put on a Smile” is a slap in the face to the lady friends aforementioned, as the group sings about how they can’t bear to be separated from their lovers, let alone put on a front and “put on a smile” while they are gone.
“Without you, I’ve been goin’ crazy
Tryna put on a smile (Put on a smile)
Tryna fight these tears from cryin’
But Lord knows I’m dyin’, dyin’
When the only thing worth smilin’ for
Baby girl, the only thing worth smilin’ for was
You, you, you”
The group’s choice to and in the same album talk about how much they miss their lady companions gives off the toxic boyfriend, “I hate you-I love you” vibe. These men are fine as wine, but don’t be fooled by all the bells and whistles. One moment they miss you, the other they’re upset about how much money you obviously made them spend.
The characters these men have created will, in the same breath, flash their genuine Rolex watches and brag about all the money and women they’ve acquired and then in the next will talk about how costly these women are.
Come on, she’s probably not holding you hostage for the finery you’ve treated her to.
At only nine songs long, the album is shorter than most. While the quality of the music doesn’t fail either of these artists, both are capable of more depth than the lyric content allows. This album certainly holds a lot of bells and whistles, with Paak and Mars’ era-appropriate dress, “feel-good” grooves and enough nostalgia to leave listeners reeling for weeks.
There’s no doubt that this album is an incredible tribute to Paak and Mars’ influences, such as Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown and others. While it is a great imitation album, but certainly there is more to come out of this group than just an imitation.
As Mars previously mentioned with Rolling Stone, this album was intended to “make women feel good and make people dance, and that’s it.”
While this album certainly achieved their goal, it left much to be desired. After so much anticipation with this album release, it’s final presentation to the world was both incredible and incredibly underwhelming.
So, while Silk Sonic is “leaving the door open,” the bad taste the lyric content left in my mouth is making me want to close it. Can they knock next time?