Silk Sonic: more than retro nostalgia

With Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, Silk Sonic brings a new perspective on soul music, fused with pop, R&B, funk, and even a hint of disco. 

Composed of Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, the American duo made its debut with the single Leave the Door Open, released March 2021. With strong resemblances to R&B music, with a modern twist and musical elements coming from soul music, Leave the Door Open quickly escalated to the Billboard charts, getting to number one in the US. Later, at the 2022 Grammy ceremonies, the single won in four different categories, including Song of the Year. 

After the massive success of their first single, the duo released Skate, their most disco-inspired single so far. With funk and early 1970s disco music characteristics, Skate peaked at number 4 on the Hot R&B Billboard charts in the US, followed by their third single Smokin Out the Window, the musical profile of the duo was clear: a throwback to the 70s. 

Before Silk Sonic, both Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak explored the possibilities of funk and R&B on their own. 

Bruno Mars: from Pop to Funk

Bruno Mars started his career with Motown records with a rather unsuccessful contract- before signing with Atlantic. Still, it wasn’t until he collaborated with B.o.B on Nothing on you and with Travie McCoy on Billionaire, that the Haitian singer gained recognition. By 2010, Mars released his debut EP It’s better if you don’t understand, and eventually released his first album Doo-Woops and Hooligans. The album stood as a classic 2010 pop album (for example songs like Just the way you are or Count on me). Later, with the release of Locked Out of heaven and the album Unorthodox Jukebox in 2012, Mars’ musical interest began to turn to funk music. By 24K Magic, this tendency was even clearer. With strong influences on funk and disco music, songs like That’s What I Like show very strong roots in R&B and soul; the album was proof of the varied compositional style that Bruno Mars was acquiring. 

Anderson Paak: Contemporary R&B and Hip Hop

Brandon Anderson Paak made his debut as ‘Anderson Paak’ with the album Venice in 2014, a work that explores a variety of genres from Hip Hop to R&B to pop. With the subsequent release of Malibu in 2016 and Ventura in 2019, Paak’s interest in the fusion of genres became the identity of his music: both albums feature clear funk and soul with the modern twist of Hip Hop (in a similar style as that of LoFi music), contemporary R&B, and Soul. Songs like Put me thru or Celebrate (from Malibu) better display the composer’s interest in the genre, while songs like Twilight (Venice) are a very original fusion of all the styles. 

Silk Sonic: a collaboration that needed to happen 

As separate musicians, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak showed their interest in a new take on retro sounds, fusing Soul, Hip Hop, R&B, and Pop in their albums. After revisiting their careers, it doesn't come as a surprise that the duo could successfully bring back the genres, with the modern and original twist that makes it engaging for a contemporary audience. Silk Sonic is a great band, with a new sound and that bit of retro nostalgia that many groups have attempted to achieve. The overall aesthetic of the group adds to the intention of giving those retro vibes: from the colours they choose for the album cover to the fonts displaying the track titles on Youtube. Also, the cover for Love's Train strongly resembles Soul Train, a 1970s North American TV programme that featured new releases on Funk and Soul, imitating a dance club. 

Songs like Skate and Fly as Me, from An Evening with Silk Sonic seem to anticipate a promising future for that 70s sound, and while it reminds us of artists like James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Bill Withers, it keeps their own identity and originality. 

Header Image Credit: "Silk Sonic" by Various (cropped and combined together by Shoot for the Stars) is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Candelaria Gómez

Candelaria Gómez Contributor

Hey! I'm a violinist and music student based in Argentina. I love art in all its expressions -and I love to write about it.
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