Silk Sonic are smooth but sterile, finding Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak precisely mimic their influences for an irresistible experience that yearns for more.
The most unexpected collaborations can end up making the most sense. February’s announcement of Silk Sonic resulted in collective gasps then ahh’s; a short-lived surprise that was swiftly replaced by sudden realisation. Perhaps it was the different leagues the two operated in; Bruno Mars, a formidable pop giant of the last decade, and Anderson .Paak, an underrated talent who quietly built up critical acclaim with every release. Lead single “Leave the Door Open” showed just how fitting the pairing is—and for a standalone single it can work. But with a full-length album in play, Silk Sonic must avoid becoming a prisoner of the moment.
Guided by precise performances and instrumentation, An Evening with Silk Sonic is a rehash that could never have failed, even if it is lint-rolled to the max.
For 31 minutes, Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars hop in a time machine and go back to the 70s. The choice in style is thus unmistakable; a churned serving of soul, funk and R&B precisely put together. Lead single “Leave the Door Open” set the precedent early doors, a luscious, tender track that brings back creative innuendos to R&B. As the first offering to the album, what it instantly achieved was proving how well .Paak and Mars can work together. The chemistry is undeniable, a musical matrimony that lays room for both to shine as a pair and individually.
Further singles stayed true to the vision. The mildly underrated “Skate” targets a niche of roller rink anthems, made up of starry-eyed strings and a signature hook by Bruno Mars. “Smokin Out the Window” bagged the hattrick, following closely in suit of “Leave the Door Open” musically but donning a strong tone of resentment. Here, the duo’s personality radiates thanks to their humorous writing, daring to impress beyond just the rich instrumentation.
Such is also the case for “Fly as Me”, a funky cut that may not be enough to be granted single status but stands out for its cocky swagger. For such a short record, these personable moments humanise Mars and .Paak beyond mere caricatures of their influences.
Vocally, the capabilities of Bruno Mars are on full show. But so are Anderson .Paak’s, who’s unique voice is necessary to the album’s standouts. “Put on a Smile” challenges “Leave the Door Open” for the album’s best track, a dignified cut that builds up and reaches impeccable heights during its hook. The natural talent in display is not to be dismissed, and may just bring competent vocals back in fashion.
Though as a full experience, An Evening with Silk Sonic is too on the nose. As strange as it may sound to put into words, Silk Sonic deliver an album that is excessively polished. It thrives off the throwback era the music industry is currently in, focused on recreating vintage material rather than taking mere elements for something new.
Arguably, Mars and .Paak are in no need to experiment for their collaboration. And technically, they do nothing outright wrong on the album and its songs. But An Evening with Silk Sonic is obsessed with nailing the era it takes from. It is a bit too ironed, a bit too obvious; to the point where it will only blow you away if you are fourteen years old with no history of hearing the albums and artists An Evening with Silk Sonic is based on. Besides their voices, there is little unique touch.
An Evening with Silk Sonic does not benefit from its brevity either. Only eight songs make up the tracklist, barring the unnecessary intro, three of which were released throughout the year (the strange rollout must be mentioned, which seemed filled with uncertainty from the duo around calculating its drop). It is more of an EP than an album, leaving the listener with a big bone but little to chew on.
Yet with no disasters in sight, the safe approach manages to work. Deeper cuts like “After Last Night”, “777” and “Blast Off” are a tier short of what the singles offer, but have the pleasant instrumentation and performances to warrant no skips (thank goodness, considering the length).
Did Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak bring out the absolute best in each other? It’s hard to say they did. What it provides is an undeniably pleasant listen, choosing an EP’s worth of material to leave no room for error. It leaves you with enough to enjoy, but also a thought of “Is that it?”. It most definitely is just an evening with Silk Sonic, but at least it’s one to remember.
7.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Leave the Door Open”, “Put on a Smile”, “Smokin Out the Window”, “Skate”