When I reviewed Kanye West’s “Donda,” I said to myself that it was most likely the album of the year and that nothing could dethrone it from that title. Silk Sonic entered the chat.
I can not believe I disrespected Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak’s duo, Silk Sonic, like this. I don’t know how I could have underestimated their abilities, and I can’t fathom why I expected anything other than excellence. While it doesn’t quite dethrone “Donda,” it is an extremely close second.
Silk Sonic is composed of music powerhouse Bruno Mars, and the ethereally smooth Anderson Paak, whose charismatic crooning landed him a spot on the 2016 XXL Magazine’s Freshman Class. Silk Sonic is a pairing that seems impossibly random but, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. Bruno’s glitzy, crowd-pleasing pop and Anderson’s bombastic, vibe-weaving R&B were almost destined to meet. On their debut album, “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” their styles blend seamlessly to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
“Silk Sonic Intro” reveals the host of this event, 70’s funk legend Bootsy Collins, who served as a direct influence for this album, without a doubt. The intro is exciting on its own, and sets the stage nicely for the first real song, the lead single “Leave the Door Open.” It is a powerful, intoxicating R&B cut, with an instrumental that feels orchestral in scope. Bruno and Anderson do everything they can to lure us into this world, and they’re successful, as they lead us into “Fly As Me.”
The duo tap into a lot of genres here, rap being one of them, as Anderson delivers some boastful lines with a venomous rhythm against the backdrop of a deliciously overpowering beat. The lack of Bruno on this track is annoying, continuing the baffling trend of collaboration albums featuring songs that only one of the artists appears on. Whatever ill will this fosters is immediately dashed by the next song, “After Last Night.”
Now, I kid you not, before this album was released I was desperately hoping for Thundercat to appear and my wish had come true. The legendary bassist adds so much texture to the track, which seems to be the theme here, as the lyrics evoke a specific sort of texture with some pleasant imagery.
None of these compare to the centerpiece “Smokin Out The Window,” which is the best lyrical effort of the album. See, up until this point, everything’s been fairly basic in this department but on this track, they show off something I didn’t expect: their sense of humor. This track is wall-to-wall punchlines, with Bruno’s verse detailing some delightful scenarios like, “Must’ve spent 35, 45 thousand up in Tiffany’s, got her bad-ass kids running around my whole crib like it’s Chuck-E-Cheese.” It’s pretty fun, but the highlight is the chorus, which I laughed profusely at and want to scream every time I hear it; “This bitch got me paying her rent, paying for trips, diamonds on her neck, diamonds on her wrist, and here I am all alone.”
I think my favorite moment on the whole album though is a line in Anderson’s verse: “Not to be dramatic, but I wanna die.” The last stand-out track, “777,” is an energetic ode to gambling, which gave a much-needed kick in the pants to a back half that, admittedly, kind of drags on.
As far as the music itself, there are no real missteps here. The frequent interjections by Bootsy Collins feel a bit superfluous, but they’re entertaining nonetheless and give the album even more pedigree than it already had.
As great as all of these songs are, what holds this whole project back for me is actually what makes it work: the length. The album is nine songs, totaling up to about thirty minutes. There’s no extra fat here, everything is grand, but precise and intentional.
This is clearly intended to be a short and sweet experience and that experience is well crafted but I can’t help but feel disappointed. I don’t think anyone was expecting this epic, highly conceptual magnum opus or anything but there should be more here.
This might just be me, though. I like having something to chew on, something to think about, making whatever I’m listening to worth coming back.
My own snobbery aside, this album is excellent. I’ve officially run out of creative ways to say that and, let’s be real, nobody’s skipping this one anyway.
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