On Sunday, April 3rd, the 64th Grammy Awards will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. After shifting both its early 2022 dates and traditional L.A. location due to COVID-19, this year’s Sin City ceremony has been dealt some particularly opulent cards—and no one is better suited to win this hand than Silk Sonic.
The retro-soul project led by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak is up for four Grammys for its first-ever single, “Leave The Door Open“, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song. The Recording Academy on Wednesday announced that the group will also open Sunday’s awards ceremony on CBS with a live performance.
On paper, it reads like an auspicious debut for a new band on the music industry’s biggest night. In reality, Silk Sonic has already been thriving since before last year’s Grammy Awards—and appears poised to carry that hot streak through 2022 and into Grammy season 2023.
Last year, riding the nascent buzz behind “Leave The Door Open”, Mars and .Paak used their endearingly confrontational rapport to generate a viral Twitter campaign—#LetSilkSonicThrive—aimed at getting the new group added to the 2021 Grammy performer roster. And thrive, they did: Within days, the band had been added to the lineup. On March 14th, Silk Sonic delivered its first-ever live performance of its first-ever song… at the Grammys.
After squeezing every drop of juice out of “Leave The Door Open” for nearly five months, the duo returned in July with “Skate”, followed by “Smokin’ Out The Window” in early November. With each single, Silk Sonic dove deeper into the album’s theme: the “Setlist of Doom,” a recorded realization of an immaculately constructed live show from an alternate past powered by Mars and .Paak’s studio one-upmanship and guided by the cool hand of the “blaster of the Universe, Bootzilla himself,” Bootsy Collins. As they went, Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, and company kept busy on the promotional circuit, logging characteristically luxurious performances at showcases like the iHeartRadio Music Awards, the AMAs, and, of course, the Soul Train Awards.
The new group’s debut LP, An Evening With Silk Sonic, finally arrived on November 12th, 2021—just six days before the Recording Academy announced the 2022 Grammy nominees. As the LP continued to generate buzz, Silk Sonic collected four big nominations for 2022 on the merits of a single song. An Evening With Silk Sonic arrived just after the year’s awards eligibility window had closed, pushing consideration for the album and its other singles to next year and all but assuring a third straight Grammy appearance for Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak in 2023.
Just as the baked-in staying power of this Bruno/Andy side project was becoming apparent, the group confirmed its first public live concerts: a decadent, months-long residency on the Las Vegas Strip billed with tone-perfect bravado as “the sexiest party of the year.”
While the Silk Sonic Las Vegas residency has now been going for more than a month, the band’s strict “no phones” policy has largely kept the details of the stage show under wraps. Other than a few assorted snaps of the stage—picture the Soul Train set if the show was rebooted in 2022—the mysteries of the real-life Evening with Silk Sonic have remained just that. Instead, Mars and .Paak’s social media feeds have been filled with photos of the long list of stars who have traveled to Las Vegas to find out.
Every angle of this residency has screamed “can’t-miss event,” from the project’s inherently lavish mystique to lyrics name-checking Las Vegas debauchery to the fact that Bruno and Anderson—two headliners in their own right—surely have their own solo projects and tours burning holes in their silk pockets while they cosplay as ’70s soul brothers in a theater with their buddies for a few months.
The intrigue got to me eventually. Earlier this month, a group of friends and I shelled out big bucks for tickets and descended upon Las Vegas in velvet threads and gold chains to bear witness to an evening with Silk Sonic.
With phones locked away in Yondr pouches (“we took your phones away, we took your phones away,” the band crooned through mocking grins) and any memories admittedly clouded by the trappings of a night out in Vegas, the big takeaways came in broad strokes rather than detailed notes:
- The sprawling stage—adorned with lights, projections, period-stylized video feeds, and well-timed pyrotechnics—was the perfect backdrop for the Silk Sonic aesthetic.
- Upbeat hits like “Fly As Me” and “777” hit harder than ever in the live setting, while forlorn ballads like “Smokin Out The Window”, “Put On A Smile”, and “Blast Off” soared to new emotional heights with added interludes and breakdowns not heard on the album.
- Bruno played drums on .Paak’s “Come Down”, and that was rad. Anderson followed that by handling drums on Bruno’s “Runaway Baby”, and that was also rad.
- In addition to holding it down while the frontmen did their frontmen thing, the rest of the band’s members provided plenty of their own highlights—from an Outkast-laced, call-and-response trumpet session with Maurice “Mobetta” Brown to a stunning Willy Wonka “Pure Imagination” guitar interlude by Mateo Asato and beyond.
- Anderson .Paak (a.k.a Pee Wee, apparently) really committed hard to that wig.
- Bruno Mars is the most complete performer since Prince.
- Both men are are both world-class instrumentalists, singers, dancers, and entertainers—and showed off their ample abilities at each—but their glib banter, outrageous showmanship, and magnetic humor still managed to steal the show.
All the while, the proceedings seemed to come across with a faint, dream-like glimmer. Maybe it was all the Silk Sonic-branded SelvaRey rum drinks. Or maybe, it was the glow of knowing that An Evening with Silk Sonic was just a moment, a band and set perfectly suited to an outlandish Las Vegas residency, a show that wouldn’t hit quite the same way in any other form or location.
The residency has now been playing at the 5,200-capacity Dolby Live since late February and will continue through May. An April hiatus is due to begin this weekend—just in time for Mars, .Paak, and company to welcome the rest of the music industry to their adopted home and show the Grammys how Silk Sonic does Vegas.
I hope Bruno and Anderson take this show on the road. I’ll be there if it happens, but I’ll understand if it doesn’t. Like the sorts of flickering, far-off moments that inspired its charm, Silk Sonic feels like it was made to fade, to shine bright for an instant and smolder forever as a cherished memory while life goes on.
Think back to the album’s concept: the Setlist of Doom, an idealized distillation of an ideal live show. With the LP, they laid that foundation. With the residency, they brought the dream to life. They might pop back in from time to time at award shows and other lavish affairs to remind us, but they’ll do so knowing their mission has already been achieved, strutting in slow motion away from the blast they detonated over the past year.
All evenings are impermanent. Parties weren’t meant to last. Thankfully, the way the cards have been dealt, our collective evening with Silk Sonic is shaping up to be a long one.
Bring on the Grammys. I’m ’bouta buy Las Vegas after this roll…
[UPDATED 4/3/22]: Epilogue: After opening the festivities with the explosive “777” we had been waiting for, Silk Sonic made good on the big expectations of the 2022 Grammy Awards with four wins on four nominations including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance.
As .Paak said during the Record of the Year acceptance, “We are really trying our hardest to remain humble at this point, okay? But in the industry, we call that a clean sweep.”
Silk Sonic Accepts Grammy Award For Record Of The Year (“Leave The Door Open”)