The Soundscape Of Silk Sonic, The Duo Of Bruno Mars And Anderson .paak

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have teamed up to form R&B's hottest new duo and we are here for it!
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak
Image Source: NPR

The Soundscape of Silk Sonic

Silk Sonic, is the year's hottest group, which consists of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, has easily been one of the musical highlights of 2021. In March, they released their debut single, "Leave The Door Open" to critical and commercial success.

On November 12, 2021, Silk Sonic, the R&B super-duo consisting of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak released their full length debut album An Evening With Silk Sonic. The album features a wide array of nostalgic 1960s and 1970s sounds with catchy 2000s-era lyrics and amazing vocal duets.

The soundscape of Silk Sonic has its roots in Funk and Soul music. It also utilizes the tried and true bubblegum pop of Bruno Mars, while combining itself with Anderson .Paak's heavy hip-hop vibes for maximum effect.

Join us as we take a look at the story of Silk Sonic and how they got to be the musical juggernaut they are today. It happened fast, and there is nothing but continued success in their future. 

Silk Sonic Album Cover
Image Source: The Zone

How it Started

In their own separate careers, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak were already among the most successful musical artists of our modern time. Together, as the group Silk Sonic, they are truly a force to be reckoned with. 

Back in 2017, .Paak opened for Bruno Mars on his tour. The two hit it off, both holding an affinity for using live instruments in their music. Bruno was obviously an extremely accomplished and polished singer, a man who had already vaulted past the stratosphere of popular music long before he met .Paak. 

For his own part, .Paak is a respected rapper, singer, drummer, and producer. They began spending time together on the tour and eventually started making music of their own. Looking to push his own career to that next step, .Paak started spending much more time with Mars.

“And there’s a cheat code, you know what I’m saying?" said .Paak. Seeing the success other artists had after linking up with Mars, such as Cardi B, .Paak was eager to see what their shared potential might produce. "Everybody told me the cheat code is linking up with this dude. Get Bruno on your side, and yeah, it’s dope.”

After hitting it off, the two began recording their own songs together, and from 2017 to 2021, they polished their sound while bouncing ideas off of one another. Bruno's excellent singing and swagger paired wonderfully with .Paak's raspy voice and funk-influenced musical acumen. On March 5, 2021, the duo, now known as Silk Sonic, released their first single, "Leave the Door Open" to universal critical acclaim.

Artwork for Silk Sonic's first single
Image Source: The Ledge

How It's Going

Silk Sonic dropped their debut album, An Evening With Silk Sonic, on November 12, 2021. The album immediately performed well on the charts and soon secured the new group four Grammy nominations for the 2022 ceremony. 

With that success in mind as a goal, they released their next single, "Smokin Out The Window". The song is a funky R&B track with hilarious quotable and a story about heartbreak. 

This particular bop made it to number one on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, and Silk Sonic performed it at the 2021 American Music Awards to adoring fans. They took home the Favorite R&B Song award that night for their previous single, "Leave the Door Open."

After releasing their album, the group received rave reviews. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 104,000 album-equivalent units in the first week alone. Seven of the project's nine tracks are still sitting snuggly on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak
Image Source: Pitchfork

The Sound

So what does Silk Sonic sound like? Well, they are an R&B act by function, but they also embody the Soul/Neo-Soul genre quite well. They both wear their Funk influences on their sleeves. They use lush live instrumentation, together with refined vocal harmonies and pop-influenced lyrics to amazing effect.

On "Leave The Door Open", they give us a sexy love song that is equal parts sweet and sensual. Bruno takes the lead, hitting those high notes in the chorus and the bridge. He then hands it off to Anderson, who uses his raspy voice and attitude to add meaningful contrast to the track. 

Piano leads us through the open door, while Mars and .Paak take turns with their voluptuary verses. It is one of those songs that you literally cannot help but sing along to. 

Even though Bruno Mars is the bigger star, Anderson .Paak brings his respect to the rap game. A Grammy-nominated artist in his own right, and a prolific drummer, .Paak brings quotable bars to every song on the album. This meshes well with Mars' McCartney-like ear for captivating pop music.

As referenced before, Mars' influence on the writing and production has propelled .Paak's name into the minds of music fans everywhere, giving him a level of exposure he has never had before. 

Still, Bruno's influence on the writing of hooks for Silk Sonic's music has been a major part of their success. "He’s thinking about every aspect of the song, the math of it all. It’s deeper than just talking slick, or good drums, or anything like that — it’s ‘What are we talking about, what are we trying to say, what does this look like, and how are we gonna kill ’em on the hook?’ ” said .Paak.

As a result, every song on the album sounds like a hit. And they perform as such. On "After Last Night", a sexy track that utilizes the funkadelic bass of Thundercat alongside the legendary Bootsy Collins, Silk Sonic gives us an old-school slow jam that you can't help but dance to even when you're alone.

Interestingly enough, it was Bootsy Collins who gave the group their name. And it makes sense, it is just smooth music. It seems simple, but the sound is actually very glamorous and highly polished. The level of collaboration here is highly productive, but also unique.

Although collaborating is common in music, it doesn't always yield great results. For Mars and .Paak, being Silk Sonic is like finding their musical soulmate. These two guys were meant to make music together and they sound like it. Mars brings out the singing confidence in .Paak that allows him to be Mars' perfect vocal foil and compliment on each track.

An award for Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak
Image Source: Just Jared

In discussing the sound, The Ringer said "though styled as the 1960s to '70s retro endeavor, Silk Sonic isn't a work of nostalgia but rather a fusion: funk, rap, and R&B as they've sounded in heavy rotation as recently as the 2000s."

As such, Silk Sonic brings us that retro 1960s to 1970s vibe, while also utilizing the ideas and technology of our own time to give it that extra sheen. Let us not forget Mars is an accomplished producer in his own right, having been a member of highly successful production groups The Smeezingtons and Shampoo Press & Curl. 

Those years of experience in radio-friendly pop music lend their unforgettably melodious selves to this album in a big way. The live instruments on this record give the whole thing an exciting concert night-out type feel, while the beautiful vocal harmonies and string instruments paint a vivid sonic landscape.

The band also worked heavily with Brooklyn native D'Mile on this record. The producer is perhaps best known for his work on H.E.R.'s "Fight For You" from the Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack. Ty Dolla $ign has spoken fondly of D'Mile in the past, calling him "literally the best producer [he has] ever worked with." D'Mile provides background vocals on this album, as well as playing the guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion, and even an organ. 

Babyface himself provides background vocals as well and lends songwriting help on "Put on a Smile". This track features an intro containing dark and rainy sound effects that give a big dose of reality to Anderson .Paak's teary-eyed lyrics. .Paak also provides timely drum transitions which amp up the chorus for Mars to just knock out of the park.

Ultimately, the collaborative artists on this album add an extra layer of hearty glaze to the audible landscape of An Evening With Silk Sonic. As always, however, the main vibe being put on display here is one between Mars and .Paak. The album is a tight nine songs, so it can be reasonably assumed that there is more in the vault, maybe even a deluxe version somewhere down the line before we get their second album. 

Bruno and Anderson playing together
Image Source: The Rap-Up

The Verdict

All in all, the success Silk Sonic has seen this year is totally understandable. Even had the album been subpar, it still would have performed well due to the stature of the solo artists who joined together to make it. On each's respective brand power alone, they would have done fine.

However, the album did deliver. The short length kept it so that every song sounded like a hit. Bruno came and did his thing with the singing. Anderson brought bars and his own raspy vocals to help this new sound coalesce into something that is actually greater than the sum of its parts.

They utilized an old-school vibe while painting us vivid sonic landscapes with their live instrumentation and funky guest features. The songwriting was absolutely top shelf, as it always seems to be with Bruno Mars. 

Now, as 2021 closes out, they are a Grammy-nominated group and considered heavy favorites for the Record of the Year award. The future is unsure, but one thing is for certain: Silk Sonic is here to stay.

Joseph Poulos is a freelance writer from Michigan.

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