Quick Take: What makes Silk Sonic’s “Leave the door open” so nostalgic?

by Ryan Hardison, Senior Staff Writer

What happens when you combine two of the best R&B singers, live performers, and soulful beings that music has ever seen? Let’s dive in. 

Begun during the downtime of a 2017 tour, cultivated through sporadic jam sessions, and officially conceived during the creative gray period of COVID-19, the two-man supergroup of Silk Sonic emerged. 

Now, who’s at the helm of 2021’s most surprising musical endeavor? 

First, there’s iconic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bruno Mars – a man whose artistic career is at the perfect convergence of consistent radio play, pop culture exposure and elite showmanship. His last venture “24K Magic” was an album decked out in new jack swing, glossy funk, and glistening pop ballads that earned him the Grammys’ Album of the Year prize in 2018. After over a decade of chart-topping success as one of the most significant artists of the millennium, he’s approaching all-time great status.

Directly beside him is the always smiling, forever fly Anderson .Paak, who’s crafted an easily detectable style of playing as one of the last surviving relics of soul’s old guard. Frequently accompanied by the funky Free Nationals, The Oxnard-bred vocalist, rapper, drummer with the best teeth in the game has dropped four tantalizing studio albums under this moniker. Each release has been a visionary effort inspired by the spirit of coastal California and made unique by his virtuoso as an artist who can croon angelic harmonies and spit with the bite of a ‘90s west coast emcee. Though he’s already achieved massive popularity, with this collaboration, .Paak will certainly achieve global superstardom.

One week after the shock announcement of their group’s existence, Mars and .Paak sat down with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, and the duo laid out their goal to craft a lively “setlist of doom” for their upcoming album “An Evening with Silk Sonic.” In true Parliament fashion, they’ve described their guarded final product as an “intergalactic force of funk.”

On the day of their first public interview, Silk Sonic dropped a pair of tunes to appease excited listeners for the time being. Beginning with their project’s lead single “Leave the Door Open,” the group debuted with an instant classic that’s glazed in enough fire to set the ocean ablaze. .Paak kicked a couple of charming verses and Mars’ chorus emerged as a show-stopping display of confidence and sex appeal. Everything about this track is beautiful, grand, and dare I say heavenly. 

In spite of the song’s many attractive aspects, the best news that came from “Leave the Door Open” is the fact it showcases Silk Sonic’s potential to release something even greater. Fans should expect the tape’s upcoming singles and deeper album cuts to ascend to a level of velvety beauty currently beyond comprehension. 

Accompanying “Leave the Door Open” was the album’s slick opener “Silk Sonic Intro.” Featuring spoken-word from the great Bootsy Collins, who’s set to host the album’s proceedings, Collins gives himself a suave self-introduction and announces his worldly presence as “blaster of the universe, Bootzilla himself.” Besides playing the role of MC on their project, Collins gifted the group their Silk Sonic title after they’d tested a slew of possible names like The Conquistadors, Atlantic Stars, and Robocop Funk.

Even two weeks after their arrival, the pure insanity of this collaboration cannot be understated. This team-up is something of “Watch The Throne”-level proportions and merges two talented artists at the forefront of their progressive R&B niche. As a versatile duo, Silk Sonic simultaneously has the far-reaching grasp of an enormous open-air venue combined with the affectionate intimacy of an NPR Tiny Desk concert.

Mars and .Paak are a true match made in the stars, yet nobody could’ve ever pieced it together beforehand. Together, Silk Sonic stands not only as a re-invention of their greatest inspirations but a meticulous homage to a past era of diverse musical excellence.

Tying into all vintage senses of the time period they’re attempting to recreate, the duo has gone all-in with their ‘70s superstar personas. This includes a fake Twitter beef where they briefly broke up and chose to reunite right before their Grammys performance. Further, their alluring music video for “Leave The Door Open” transports listeners to an aesthetically satisfying recording booth adorned with rugs and riches akin to the style of Crystal Sound and Electric Lady Studios, homes to a revolving cauldron of artists from Stevie Wonder to Ja Rule. 

With their upcoming project, there is a massive nostalgia factor that’s been resurrected from decades of notable Black musicians extending from Little Richard to Prince.

Everything we’ve seen from Silk Sonic so far seems to include amassing all the defining qualities of legendary funk performers and soul superstars. With the magical touch of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the eroticism of the Ohio Players, and the sweet-talking devotion of Earth, Wind and Fire, Silk Sonic deserves to be played on a vinyl stand next to a brown, leather couch in a conversation pit.

As a concept, Silk Sonic is far from the only soul revival act that’s stayed true to the classics. Artists like Leon Bridges and Alabama Shakes have incorporated the rich feeling of the genre into their respective music with contemporary acoustics. However, Silk Sonic’s creation exists on a greater mainstream level than any other previous soul comeback. It serves as a throwback to the sentimental music age of “Cadillac Records” and men who lay their jackets over puddles so their old lady can walk across. Songs with luscious, cocaine-infused melodies belt out by casanovas so charming they’ll serenade your girl standing in the crowd. 

The goal of Silk Sonic isn’t to make an album that’s talked about for a week, two weeks tops, and then forgotten about forever *emphatically gestures to that flavorless Quavo/Travis Scott collaboration album that we all silently agreed to forget.* Instead, they’ve set their sights on creating a cultural milestone that’s remembered every time one of their tunes is uttered, just like the works of their heroes. 

Until the album inevitably drops, they’re looking to just ride out and drop a few gems along the way, though they’re still keeping most of their plans under wraps. Whatever they end up revealing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the rest of the tracks continue to give Collins and other trailblazers their flowers.  

Silk Sonic is destined to be an A-list partnership for the ages and every last detail about “An Evening with Silk Sonic” has an album of the year frontrunner penned all over it. So throw on your silk Lacoste shirts, Elton John sunglasses, tropical print shorts, and get ready to groove.

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