The Vinyl Word On... An Evening with Silk Sonic
At a time where many musical artists live off nostalgia, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak took on the daunting task of reviving funk and soul, and making it mainstream again. In their previous work, Mars and .Paak had not been immune to nostalgic musical influence, but this project, which released in November, offered an chance for the artists to challenge themselves, recreating the sound of the smooth, well-produced soul and R&B that would call back to the talented Motown performers of the 70s and 80s.
An Evening with Silk Sonic offers exactly what you’d expect from modern Motown, as the relatively short 31-minute album masters the modernising of classic soul and funk. The music videos that have accompanied the album's singles can give listeners an indication of the tone Silk Sonic are aiming for, with a colourful stage, bright lights, and well-practiced choreography, throwing back to the flashy productions of Motown's prime.
Sonically, all eight songs and the intro fully commit to the album’s mission of classic authenticity, either with their top-notch production or sleek, insular soundscape. Smooth diminished chords and moody key changes saturate each track, reminding listeners of the quality of 70s music and of the newness that Silk Sonic embodies. The inclusion of funk legend Bootsy Collins in the production only adds to the nostalgic authenticity of the album, as his influence runs through many of the album’s basslines, giving songs such as ‘777’ and ‘Fly As Me’ an at once classic and fresh feel.
The album truly comes into its own during its middle trio – ‘After Last Night’, ‘Smokin Out the Window’ and ‘Put on a Smile’. The high-quality production evident throughout the album reaches its peak here, with skilful percussion, soothing harmonies and some of Mars’ and .Paak’s best ever vocal work, resulting in some of the best music 2021 has produced. The lyrics throughout are consistently charming and often knowingly self-aware, which adds some light-heartedness and allows both singers to tip their hats to their musical forefathers.
The R&B album plays to the strength of both musicians. Mars is known to be a rigorous and precise musician, and in this collaboration, his high standards serve both the homage to a time when production was glossy, and the playful yet serious final result. For .Paak, whose previous work frequently saw R&B influence, the album is a chance to be playful, with lyrics that don’t carry the usual weight of his music but are sure to spice up parties and get people moving. It is made clear to any listeners that Mars and .Paak enjoy working together and exemplifying sheer talent.
Despite it’s relatively short 31-minute runtime, An Evening With Silk Sonic is rich in substance, and the younger audience that Mars and Paak have attracted from trending on TikTok will join their many older fans in appreciation of the nostalgic melodies. Amidst the winter blues, the new musical talent of Silk Sonic brings some welcome soulful warmth.