It’s been a while since our last installment of Gentlemanly Jams, and we’re excited about this newest one. Over the past few months, we’ve become fans of Silk Sonic, a bit of a supergroup comprised of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak.
Silk Sonic Background
As many of you are probably aware, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak are both solo artists with successful careers on their own – this is particularly true for Bruno Mars, who’s garnered 11 Grammy Awards, four Guiness World Records, and earned over $604 million from concerts alone. Anderson .Paak came into the limelight in the mid 2010’s, although in a more underground way – recording and self-distributing his initial work to great fanfare and eventually becoming intertwined with Dr. Dre.
The two met while .Paak was opening for Mars on tour. The idea for Silk Sonic was born during jam sessions they had together, and when the pandemic hit, they decided to make a go of it. We’re very glad they did.
The Silk Sonic Sound
It’s not news that musical artists – or any artists, for that matter – draw influences from their forebears. Silk Sonic takes it one step further – they’re nearly indistinguishable from their influences. Drawing on classic soul, R&B, funk, and hip-hop, An Evening With Silk Sonic, released in 2021, could have easily been released in 1974.
Love, sex, money, and heartbreak are all on the table from a lyrical standpoint. There’s nothing new there, to be sure. Musically, you might mistake them for a mix between Sly & The Family Stone, Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson, and even Parliament. Bootsy Collins’ presence on the album certainly pushes it in that direction. If Soul Train were still a thing, they’d be on it.
The music itself is some of the best the genre has to offer. Chock full of groove, rich, complex harmonies, and virtuosic performances, the album doesn’t really have a skippable song. “Leave The Door Open,” the first single released from the album, is a classic slow jam the builds to a powerful ending. “Fly As Me” is a straight funk tune, filled to the brim with swagger and syncopation. “Skate” has lots of disco influence (particularly in its use of a string section), and “Smokin’ Out The Window” is a layered R&B/funk song with some of the strongest male vocal performances of this century – literally.
Where Silk Sonic perhaps succeeds the most is in getting dangerously close to cheesy lyrics or schmaltzy, dated arrangements. The imagery that “Leave The Door Open” conjures when Anderson .Paak sings I’m sipping wine (sip sip) / In a robe (drip drip) seems tongue-in-cheek, almost as if he’s sharing a joke with the listener. Disco beats and strings are dangerous territory to explore, but Silk Sonic utilizes these tools in a way that tips its hat to the era, drawing from its best while ignoring its worst.
The Silk Sonic Look
At first look, you might wonder, “Are these guys serious?” The way .Paak and Mars dress in the videos for “Smokin’ Out The Window” (pictured here) and “Fly As Me” (similar idea, different color scheme) isn’t just reminiscent of the 1970’s, it is the 1970’s. Brown velvet tuxes with massive peak lapels? Snug shirts unbuttoned to halfway down the torso? Cigarettes? In .Paak’s case, those sunglasses? How do they manage to make this look good?
First and foremost, this is costume. To appreciate this stuff, you have to view it through that lens.
Second, the colors work extraordinarily well on them. Messrs. Mars and .Paak are brown-skinned men – in fact, their complexions are very close in color to each other. Dressing warm, Earth-toned complexions with warm Earth tones (in warm lighting, no less) flatters their skin tones in a way that a regular tuxedo wouldn’t. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t look good in a standard black or midnight blue tux, but brown is very sympathetic to them both. The zero-contrast nature of their outfits allows their low-to-medium contrast visages to shine.
Third, the clothing fits extremely well. Given the exacting nature of the fit and the impossible-to-find-off-the-rack details on their outfits, we’re convinced these garments are custom made. Everyone looks better in custom clothing.
Last but not least, these guys are good-looking, and they know it. This confidence is intangible, but is a crucial part of image projection. Remember, the ABC’s of image are appearance, behavior, and communication. When your clothing flatters you as well as Silk Sonic’s does (that is, when you appear your best), it elevates your confidence, resulting in behavior that elicits positive responses from those around you.
If there were ever an argument in favor of custom clothing, that’s it.