Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak's Chemistry Is Airtight on 'An Evening with Silk Sonic'
Published Nov 15, 2021It started off as an inside joke. But even though Silk Sonic's cheeky lyrics and comedic delivery play like an SNL sketch, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak don't mess around on An Evening with Silk Sonic. For those who have yet to return to in-person concerts, An Evening provides a formidable alternative: it's big, it's immersive, and, thanks to solid musicianship and impeccable cohesion, it evokes the feeling of a live set.
As solo performers, Mars and .Paak are both spunky and inherently commanding in their own right. But, refreshingly, when the two combine forces, they sharpen each other rather than overshadow, volleying vocals and quips with Olympian precision. Whatever camaraderie and mutual respect lives in their professional relationship underscores every song on the album — their chemistry is so airtight, it suggests the two once shared a womb.
Not one second on the album goes to waste. It's an efficient half-hour endeavour where every song, (save for the rousing intro), sounds like the grand finale of an epic live show. .Paak floats on "Fly As Me," delivering breakneck rhymes that drip with show-stopping charisma. Mars polishes his charm and sings from his gut on the seductive "After Last Night." "Smokin Out the Window," the inside joke that birthed this whole affair, showcases the pair's precise comedic timing and pulls laughs from the pit of the belly. And, as if the album didn't already have enough vigour, the pair knock their performance straight into the stratosphere with cosmic closer "Blast Off." "Skate," the album's summer single, is as weak as this project gets — its flaw is being a merely "good" song among great ones.
On production, Brooklyn phenom D'Mile joins Mars at the helm to create a warm, decadent bed of music dressed in '60s and '70s funk and soul. They shine in this capacity — where the lyrics on the album provide tongue-in-cheek comic relief, the production is where Silk Sonic establish themselves as a duo meant to be taken very seriously. The music spares no luxury; D'Mile spoils us with rich instrumentation throughout. Lavish cellos, twinkling vibraphones, spicy trumpets and spirited tambourines provide a feast for the ears; a welcome respite from the lethargic feel of computer-generated soundalikes. Every element — from the type of guitar picks the band used, to the legendary Bootsy Collins playing the role of master of ceremonies, to the vintage skins on .Paak's drums — is the result of excruciating attention to detail. An Evening cuts no corners in creating an authentic, retro sound.
But although it captures the feeling of a bygone era with such accuracy, An Evening with Silk Sonic still feels current and avoids sounding parodic. .Paak and Mars each contribute their own modern take on the music rather than trying to mimic greats of the past. They're expert method actors who provide less of an album and more of an experience. (Aftermath/Atlantic)