Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak: Grammy’s Open the Door for a Live Performance!

The single's cover
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The single. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Review by Dr. Richard M. Cooper

Grammy Award winning artists, Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak have duetted and just released an R&B single, “Leave the Door Open” which brings forth deeper reminiscence of the pre-Covid sweet soulful ballads of a more blissful and mask-free era. And quite frankly, their timing could not have been better. Their first song was recently launched on various musical and video platforms as part of a soon to be released CD project named, “An Evening with Silk Sonic” partially titled and narrated by funk legend Bootsy Collins. 

What felt like years of an imaginary collaboration between the pair, and even as industry insiders had no real knowledge of the genesis of the ever-emerging CD, the single dropped last Friday.  Based on massive social media listeners’ responses on various platforms such as Apple Music, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok , and YouTube with over 18 million views alone, this song fills the void with what fans all have been waiting for from Mars and Paak during these dark Covid-times.

 The well-produced initial video reveals a slow-moving lens on an old school in-studio reel to reel player, and then crisp audio snare lead-in percussions, tasteful guitar licks, smooth key board touches and the repetitive mood-altering silky lyrics, “Say Baby, Say Baby, Say Baby.” The words,” Say Baby” are hushed-chanted and one instantly knows that a romantic grove is forthcoming. R&B oldheads like myself, are adroitly whisked back into that 70’s and 80’s genre of this “cuddle music” defined by slow drag, bop-esque movements and a slightly off tempo cha-cha on the dance floor. I’ll let Chi-town, the dirty South, and the West Coast, which apparently birthed Paak’s childhood and musical sensibilities, define their own slow dance melodic dance moves. But being Philly-centric myself, this jawn is a groove that “Quiet Storm Lovers” will quickly co-sign with much respect, enhanced by their own slightly offkey singing in their partners’ ears as they perform a slow wine dance to this song.  

And for those who are already familiar with Anderson Paak’s rapping lyrical sensibilities, he aptly handles the lead in lyrical line openers, “What you doing? Where you at? You got plans? Don’t say that?” In a cadence that feels as smooth as the early vocals of New Edition’s Ralph Tresvant. But hearing Paak drop the lead-in lyrics makes it beyond retro, but simply reborn and cool. One quickly gleans that amount of work that Mars and Paak have put into this emerging project.

Listeners and viewers should make sure that they don’t miss the early syncopated movements of the band in the video that we are accustomed to with Mars’ performances but, also pays homage to sixties’ and seventies’ Black group, background and even lead singer dance aesthetics.  It is clearly part of an ascribed “cool” and timed movement vibes associated with Black culture from stepping, to gospel performances, marching bands and of course secular musical performances of eras gone by. R&B musical performance like in Hip Hop performances have the omnipresence of Black aesthetics, and no matter the race of the performer, it simply is an expected cultural sensibility.  As always, the nostalgia factor in the video is only enhanced by the selection of wardrobe, attire and the subliminal introduction of Mars’ new clothing line with Lacoste expressed via his marketing alter ego, the “Ricky Regal” collection. Those of us who actually had reached puberty in the seventies and eighties are very clear about chic jogging sets, silky pjs, velour brimmed hats and of course shades worn during the funk era including coiffed afros.

Mars used his “24 Karat Magic” to recently gain access to the upcoming Grammy Awards show this weekend. By Tweeting a note that opened with, “If you can see it in your heart to let two out of work musicians perform at your show, we would really appreciate it. We just released a song and we could really use the promotion right now.” The tweet stated that they would take any Covid tests and all necessary precautions. While some critics mistakenly labeled it as “begging his way” into to the big event. In fact, it turned out to be an affable and alluring marketing tactic to grab the attention of the Grammy executives in the same manner that Mars skillfully uses lyrics and impassioned emotions to capture the attention of millions of adoring fans worldwide.

 At 35, Mars is a seasoned veteran of the music industry. As of this writing, Mars and Paak have pulled off a worldwide Twitter campaign endorsed by fans. And a recent Tweet from the Recording Academy Grammy’s reply to them, "We have been trying to call you all week. Have you changed your numbers? We would love for #silksonic to make their TV debut at the #GRAMMYs. Are you free this Sunday night? Follow back and we will DM for details."

This is indeed a very happy ending for Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak and fans worldwide as we all tune into the Grammys on Sunday for the debut of “Leave the Door Open.” It is nice to have a happy ending these days.

Dr. Richard M. Cooper is the Co-Coordinator of African American Studies & on the Social Work Faculty of Widener University. He writes, teaches and lectures on matters of culture, race and life. 

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