Silk Sonic’s debut, a tough listen front to back

Michael LaRocca, Staff Writer

Bruno Mars has not released an album since 2016’s ’24K Magic.’ Photo by Brothers Le via Flickr

Ladies and gentlemen, I will say this as respectfully as I can. If you are here looking for the album of the year, keep looking.

Eight months and seven days after the release of their hit single “Leave the Door Open,” R&B stars Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak graced the world with their highly anticipated debut album as a duo titled “An Evening With Silk Sonic” on Nov. 12.

The music world waited patiently for new music from both artists. Mars’ most recent album “24K Magic” is nearing its fifth birthday after it was released in November 2016, and Paak has not released anything since his last album “Ventura” came out in April 2019. With that much time passed, expectations were high for their collaboration.

Personally, I cannot say for sure whether the album met those expectations.

That does not mean I did not enjoy the album. Mars and Paak’s ability to harness the sound of 1970s soul led to them creating the most sonically unique album of 2021. However, during my first listen, I was met with a collection of songs that came across as an absolute enigma.

After hearing the album’s three singles, “Leave the Door Open,” “Skate” and “Smokin Out The Window,” I was expecting the whole thing to sound just like them. These three are the quintessential Silk Sonic experience. They all use Paak and Mars to their fullest potential, exude the upbeat nature of soul and are laser-focused on the album’s theme of the trials and tribulations that come with searching for love in the modern age.

While each moment of the tracklist is great, my instincts are begging me to ignore the buzz of this LP being labeled album of the year months before it was even released.

Instead of the whole project sounding as good as its singles, the other songs felt extremely different on the first and subsequent listens. Songs like “After Last Night” and “Blast Off” left me with sonic and tonal whiplash when they succeeded “Fly As Me” and “Skate,” respectively. When an extremely slow and somber song comes on immediately after one that is very happy and upbeat, it can only leave the listener confused and rushing to adjust their headspace.

Anderson .Paak first worked with Bruno Mars during the studio sessions for his 2019 album ‘Ventura.’ Photo by Merlijn Hoek via Flickr (Merlijn Hoek)

The mad scramble the listener needs to catch up to the mood of each track is only exacerbated by the whole project’s length. As an avid fan of short albums, this one missed the mark when it came to song amount. While I was not expecting an album as beefy as “Donda,” the 31-minute runtime with only eight full-length songs feels way too short for the type of impact that Paak and Mars wanted the album to have. One or two more songs would have helped the LP hit that sweet spot that it desperately needed and deserved.

The album’s main bright spot comes from its sixth track, “Put On A Smile.” The song itself is as close to perfect as you’ll get from this album. Mars’ vocals on the chorus bring listeners back to his peak days as a performer, and Paak’s tone of voice during his verses perfectly fit the somber mood the song is going for. This track is definitely the magnum opus the album needed if it wanted to have a chance at being unquestionably great.

After hours of tearing my mind apart attempting to form a concrete opinion for myself about this album, I finally found one. Each and every song on this LP is excellent, but it just is not a great album. “An Evening With Silk Sonic” is a collection of songs that you can add to your playlist and find enjoyment out of, but should rarely be listened to front to back.

I came into this album wanting it to be far and away the best album released in a year full of classics, but I just cannot call it that.

Paak and Mars’ debut piece lives and dies by its modern fusion of funk and soul. With its tracks being great on their own, their placements next to each other only seem to accentuate their flaws instead of adding depth to their positives. The fact that there were only eight full-length songs as well left them with very little room for error. It is difficult to say how I will feel about this album in a month or even a week, but for now, this is where my opinion stands. Go listen to “Life of The Party” by Kanye West and André 3000 first.