In my opinion, An Evening with Silk Sonic is without question the most surprising album of the year, in the sense that we are talking about a collaboration as irrational as fantastic that gave birth to an unlikely alche-my. On the one hand there is Bruno Mars, a recognized super pop star, sing-er/songwriter/musician/producer and more, who needs no introduction. In 2010, the artist, sailing mainly on retro hits crushes the competition and settles among the pillars of pop icons for over a decade now. Conversely, you'll find Anderson Paak, drummer/vocalist/songwriter, only a year younger who hasn't had the same trajectory, much more creative, less bling, the Oxnard native gained recognition thanks to Dr.Dre's Compton album in 2015. Since then Paak has covered us with great projects, although his success is not comparable with Bruno Mars. Aside from their shared taste in R&B/Soul/Funk music, there was a world of difference between them for me. Bruno Mars is a mainstream artist, used to radio playlists, while Paak is a very talented artist who has slowly made a place for himself among the best artists in his category. Howev-er, although they met for real during the 2017 tour, where Paak was the opening act for Bruno Mars, the two artists had never officially collaborated together in a common musical project, or even a song. In my opinion the duo they now form, Silk Sonic, is probably one of the most win-win moves in recent years. The reason is quite simple. Bruno Mars will finally get a decent project in his discography, because it must be said that despite his qualities, he is not at all an artist whose content I appreciate. In his case, Anderson Paak will be able to gain even more popular and commercial exposure on him, which he absolutely deserves. And finally, the respective listeners of each artist will be able to enjoy themselves without risk. A real winning combo. It is also important to understand that this genius idea is not only a calculated mathematical equation, it works mainly because the chemistry is more than compatible so each element has its importance.
An Evening With Silk Sonic is built as a clever, very efficient, ultra concise project with 8 songs (+ a short introduction) that barely exceeds 30 minutes. It blooms on the common love of the 2 artists for retro songs, we find Smooth Soul, Philly Soul, Funk, Contemporary R&B, to summarize nothing very surprising for the latter. There is no secret, there is just a lot of experience and talent to succeed in creating a powerful tribute to the music of the 60s and 70s (The Delfonics, The Miracles, The Dramatics etc..). You will understand that there is nothing revolutionary, Silk Sonic voluntarily commits itself in a comfort zone which conciliates both the purists and the general public. One finds there a collection of warm, very sensual, romantic songs, articulated on a jovial state of mind, often funny and by a very abundant production/instrumentalization. A handful of ingredients that will simply bring you pleasure. To succeed, the two artists have surrounded themselves with several talented musicians and producers in a configuration faithful to the Motown Sound school. That's why it is also necessary to underline the work of the collaborators, who manage to put in excellent dispositions the main duo. To top it all off, Silk Sonic is accompanied by R&B/Funk legend Bootsy Collins, member of Funkadelic and Parliement, no less.
In short, all the lights are green for the duo and it's hard to really find very negative things to say about An Evening with Silk Sonic. The introduction wanders into the stereotype in a very theatrical way with an open-ing worthy of a show. There is an escalation of power punctuated by a psychedelic approach. It is a simple epic presentation, where we find Bootsy Collins as a kind of presenter of the event, asking nicely the public to be ready. Then follows the famous Leave The Door Open, the famous ballad that announced us at the beginning of the year this collaboration. We find all the ingredients that form this delicious alchemy, so much so that I had never heard Bruno Mars so percussive, absolutely metamorphosed who is guided by a quietly formidable Anderson Paak. Fly As Me transports us directly to the era of Chic and Sugarhill, when funk drifted gently into Hip Hop. Led by an Anderson Paak in form, Fly As Me also shows that unreleased songs can compete with singles. We then find Bootsy Collins and Thundercat on the tender and groovy After Last Night, a ballad that raises the temperature. Personally it is one of the favorite song of the album, by pure subjectivity, I am transported by this kind of pastry. There is also the essence of the West Coast on the instrumentation, it reminded me a lot of Snoop Dogg or Kendrick's To Pimp A Butterfly in this way of incorporating this funk heritage in a more contemporary Californian landscape.
On a more humorous tone, Smokin Out The Window shows a confident duo, wildly loyal to their influences, launching into an infectious ballad. It's also noticeable on this kind of song that the details of the instrumentalization and the effect of the melodies are the major elements of success. I don't know if it's fantastic or depressing to see Bruno Mars able to perform such a song on Put On A Smile. The much more contemporary approach, which generally resembles what Mars can offer as a solo artist without losing his retro reference, supports what we already knew but (almost) never saw, which is a Bruno Mars with talent. Hopefully this project will sound like an electroshock for him in the future. As for Paak's performance on percussion, what a delight. 777 may be one of the least successful songs on the album, but not only does it support my previous argument about Bruno Mars, but it also provides the variety needed to ensure a clean slate. Very similar to Fly As Me, 777 sails on a crosserver worthy of the late 70's/early 80's with a punchy formula short enough to not overdo it. Saturday night fever hits the thrilling disco ballad of Skate, a boiling hot and catchy recital that easily conquers the listener. With this kind of song, the band couldn't really go wrong, especially when you know that disco is a pop trend of the moment. Finally, An Evening with Silk Sonic concludes with the delicious and mellow Blast Off, a song that resembles what Paak usually offers, very hypnotic and melodic that comes to lull you, counting in addition to a touch of rock very well done. Logically one of the favorite songs here.
Although the overall result is positive, it is important that I expose the limitations that explain my rating. I want to be clear that this is my opinion based on my experience. First of all, even if it is effective, I was never really surprised when listening to this record and it's a pity because an album according to me must at least offer an added value whatever its form. Frankly, I love Anderson Paak for example, but for all that he is not as brilliant as on Malibu or Ventura (except on Blast Off), it is as if his talent was paradoxically a little limited by the proposed formula. There are some things missing that would make the result go from very good to wonderful. Honestly I understand that listeners are conquered by what the duo offers, but I'm not afraid to say that Silk Sonic is slightly overrated in my opinion. In fact I find it odd that this project or the singles from this project are rated higher than the ones that influenced it, we should rather highlight the fabulous bands/artists of the time that built the foundations and offered absolutely brilliant works. Obviously we feel a difference of production in spite of the voluntary retro effect, due to a more modern production, but there is not so much difference than that compared to what a good record of this type of the years 60/70 can offer. So yes the album has no fault, the atmosphere of this one will fill a difficult day or on the contrary make it even more joyful. But well, let's say that I say all that because I am fussy, it does not take away the fact that An Evening with Silk Sonic is a great album. Congratulations to both of them and to their collaborators.
|2||Leave The Door Open / 90|
|3||Fly As Me / 70|
|4||After Last Night / 80|
|5||Smokin Out The Window / 80|
|6||Put On A Smile / 80|
|7||777 / 70|
|8||Skate / 70|
|9||Blast Off / 90|