Pillbox

A morning, an afternoon, and 'An Evening With Silk Sonic'

I knew Bruno Mars. I knew Anderson .Paak. I was watching the Grammys last year and, all of a sudden, I was looking at both of them. I thought, “I’ve never seen something so right.” Peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, caramel and apples could not compare to the absolute beauty of these men together, dressed in perfectly tailored orange suits, their unique styles melding together with a flawless 70s aesthetic to form a wonderfully satisfying and equally unexpected creative team.

Bruno Mars is a household name. His music came at the perfect time for his unique funny, funky, and catering-to-the-people style, with his peak happening in the early 2010s. Though it’s taken him a while to grow into it, Bruno Mars has always had a smooth-guy persona, something that has broken through in his most recent and most successful music. In fact, Silk Sonic’s lyricism matches up so closely with his work on “24K Magic” that it almost seems like an extension of it.

Conversely, Anderson .Paak’s prior work was more fluid, and at times, much more serious, with pieces like “Lockdown” covering the reckoning of the Black Lives Matter movement in the midst of a global pandemic. .Paak’s music is all vibes — it’s heavy on beats and light on the soul. In terms of quantity, .Paak has one on Mars, with five studio albums to Mars’ three. However, like his music, .Paak’s breakthrough into common consciousness has been far more recent, maybe even beginning with Silk Sonic for some. Here continues my peanut butter and jelly metaphor: .Paak and Mars are the perfect combo not because they are the same, but because they complement each other so well. Mars is seasoned while .Paak is fresh, Mars is stylistically consistent while .Paak is artistically flexible. Most importantly, they both fit into Silk Sonic’s intense 70s visuals like they’ve stepped right out of a time machine.

Rumor has it the pairing was born of a joke between the two and blossomed into a quarantine project. Regardless of the origin, there’s an intense kind of dedication to the concept that shines through all of the music released and all of the performances. Though they had released a few singles — most notably “Leave the Door Open” — in the past months, Silk Sonic has been gearing up for a big album release: “An Evening with Silk Sonic,” a wonderfully suggestive and imagery-laden title. I had the distinct pleasure of being awake at midnight when the album was released on Nov. 12 last week (incredibly bold of them to release on the same night as Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)”), so please enjoy what is perhaps the freshest review you will ever read, written about 10 minutes after the album hit the stands.

Conceptually, the album is exactly what it should be. It’s smooth, velvety, and even greasy. Opening with an introduction by “special guest host” Bootsy Collins — a wonderful nod to the record’s musical origins — a listener is invited into a nightclub from the past, records spinning, lights down low, champagne being poured into strangely angular crystal glasses. The influence of both .Paak and Mars can be heard clearly all over the record. From the far end of the bass-funky Anderson .Paak spectrum — “777” and “Fly As Me” — to “Leave the Door Open,” a catchy radio hit that could only have been written by Bruno Mars, this album pulls from their unique skill sets in all the right places. There are also some new sounds, with a plunky guitar on “Fly as Me” and “Blast Off” that serves as a brief reprieve from the silky synths that drown the rest of the tracks.
The sounds of “An Evening with Silk Sonic” might as well be sights for all their strength and cohesion. “777” literally takes off in a jet plane, while “Blast Off” winds down the night with an outro that sends you straight to the heavens. The lyricism on pieces like “Smokin Out the Window” and “After Last Night” is a testament to the lightness of the album as well as the emotional ideology behind the album’s essential aesthetics. We’re hearing about confident, smooth men who work hard, play hard, and feel every inch of it. Women on this album are goddesses and trophies and devils all in one — it’s raw and a little bit fiery.

Collaborations like this one come so infrequently; it’s so wonderful to see work that is so clearly born out of pure creative inspiration. We were promised “A Night With Silk Sonic” and it was delivered. .Paak and Mars offer themselves as pure entertainers and they get the job done. It’s stylistically consistent, aesthetically engaging, and lyrically whimsical. Tracks like “Smokin Out The Window” and “After Last Night” pull the audience into a brand new old world created and lived in so comfortably by Silk Sonic. In their own words, “Silk Sonic/this the big one/you gotta trust your gut/can you feel it?”