The recent Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak collaboration is incredible, to say the least. The superduo, named Silk Sonic, recently released an album named “An Evening with Silk Sonic,” which derives a lot of inspiration from 70s funk and soul. The name of the superduo was given to them by Bootsy Collins, bassist for Parliament and Funkadelic, which is an apt description of the combo.
Overall, the album is absolutely amazing. It starts with an intro song (named “Silk Sonic Intro”), which introduces the narrator, Bootsy Collins, and establishes the tone and mood for the rest of the album. With the big brass sound, groovy drums that make you want to dance, and a funky bassline, the combination of all these voices and textures firmly places the listener in the romanticized version of the 70s that Mars and .Paak created. Collins’ voice is a perfect choice for this, for both his connection to the genre of music they are making, as well as the silky, pleasant inflection.
Next is the hit single “Leave The Door Open,” which most don’t necessarily need an introduction to. The most interesting part of this song is the chord structure that was used throughout the song. In the first verse, the song is in a weird key, which gives the song quite an interesting vibe. But when the pre-chorus hits, the song jumps right into a new key, without any turnaround to transition smoothly into it. This produces quite an interesting effect, with Bruno’s entrance receiving more power due to the abrupt key change. Going into the chorus, it smoothly transitions back into the original key. This song utilizes that same pattern multiple times, and it never gets old. Towards the end of the song, the duo uses a creative bridge transition to change the key up a half step, which, along with Mars’ powerful vocals, produces a large but easily unnoticed shift in energy.
“Fly As Me,” is the third song in the album, and it is quite cheeky. .Paak is the one leading the song for the most part, and the borderline narcissistic lyrics are an element of comedy that is present throughout much of the album. “I deserve to be with somebody as fly as me/you deserve to be seen with somebody as fly as me.” The instrumental aspect of the song is incredible, reminiscent of the likes of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield. The groove is established immediately, with the bassline and drums laying the beat down. The real meat and potatoes lies in the brass throughout the song, which really punctuates the parts that they do come in.
The fourth song, “After Last Night,” is an incredible song. It takes more of a laid back beat than the previous three songs, with the voice of Bootsy Collins sprinkled tastefully throughout the song, and the smooth, mood-setting bass guitar by Thundercat, an American bass guitarist. The vibe just comes together really well, with a combination of a very uncommon chord progression and instrumentation. The harmonies between Mars and .Paak throughout the song are the main ear candy throughout the song. As with most of the songs throughout the album, brass is used here and there throughout the song.
Next is the first heartbreak song of the album, called “Smokin Out The Window.” This whole song has a sort of tongue-in-cheek quality. While .Paak and Mars are singing about their heartbreak, they are also singing about how the girl “belongs to the city,” which is similar to the popular phrase, “she is for the streets.” This is meant to be a parody of the mildly misogynistic lyrics and attitudes of some artists of the 70s. Musically, this song is as smooth as expected. Once again, the bass and drums lead the beat, but in this song there is the addition of guitar and piano in the background, driving the chord progression forward. Once the chorus hits, some high synth strings hit and really pull the different textures together. Overall, this song is tied together nicely.
If that seemed like a heartbreak song, this song is a true breakup song. “Put On A Smile,” is definitely the true ballad of the album. Starting out with an intro by Bootsy Collins and a strings fill, the song establishes the mood immediately with sounds of rain in the background. The main sounds used to drive the song are the piano and the strings. Harmonically, the pre chorus and chorus are incredible at conveying the intended feeling. The verses have a pretty standard minor chord progression, but it changes during the pre chorus. The song is in C# minor, and the pre chorus functions to transition from C# minor to the relative major, E major.
This is done brilliantly, with a very common classical chord progression. In this case it is used to change keys. Mars employs some extensions over the original chord progression, which helps to build a lot of tension. When that last chord of the pre chorus is played, it builds an amazing amount of tension that makes it feel like a fog clears when the first chord finally hits in the chorus. Even the use of the shift from minor to major has a functional effect with the lyrics. Mars is singing about putting on a smile, or masking his sadness, which is exhibited when the song shifts to major.
The seventh song in the album, “777,” is in sharp contrast to “Put On A Smile.” It is all about parties and gambling. The song is incredibly energetic, with the drum beat truly driving the song. It is the perfect amount of funk without being confusing to the audience. The syncopation throughout the song is electrifying. The distorted guitar is the driving voice in the chorus of instruments, as it is also the introduction. There are a lot of small bits of ear candy throughout the song, like a couple guitar fills and the use of a vibraslap whenever the chorus comes in. This song is reminiscent of James Brown, and Mars has stated he was a big influence on his music. This is very clear in this song, with the screams in the background.
Overall, this album was a refreshing fusion of Bruno and Anderson’s previous work, as well as the outside influences that motivated the theme of the album. The nostalgic arrangements proved incredibly satisfying, and many are excited for the next project from the superduo.