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What Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic Can Teach Us

Silk Sonic, the R&B/soul duo composed of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, has been hugely successful since the March 2021 release of their first single, “Leave the Door Open,” and has since gone on to win 19 awards, including four Grammys. Their debut album, An Evening with Silk Sonic, released on Nov. 12, 2021, is eligible for Grammy consideration for the 2023 Grammy Awards Ceremony. 

Despite their previous popularity among Recording Academy voters, the duo recently announced that they will be withdrawing from Grammy consideration in a statement from Bruno Mars which reads, “We truly put our all on this record, but Silk Sonic would like to gracefully, humbly and most importantly, sexually, bow out of submitting our album this year. We hope we can celebrate with everyone on a great year of music and partake in the party. Thank you for letting Silk Sonic thrive.” Mars continues to say that he and .Paak would be, “…crazy to ask for anything more,” after winning in all four categories “Leave the Door Open” was nominated in and getting the opportunity to perform at the Ceremony twice.

In a world of award show clean sweeps, Silk Sonic’s withdrawal from the Grammy Awards begs the question of whether or not awards are still defining the success of artists in the eyes of the public. With little reason given in their statement, it is difficult to understand exactly why they chose to withdraw, and perhaps leaving it up to interpretation was their intention. 

If we take their statement at face value, their reasoning is simple: they simply couldn’t ask for more from the Recording Academy. This would come as a surprise from Bruno Mars, who has received 30 nominations and 15 wins since 2011’s “Just The Way You Are.” Surely his 11 wins prior to Silk Sonic were more than enough. Although their statement gives this reason, it seems their decision was made on the basis of something far deeper than already having won enough Grammys. 

This leaves a couple of possibilities. Considering how loved Mars is by the Recording Academy, it is possible that he felt his success overshadowed that of newer or less popular artists, as he tends to dominate all of the categories he’s nominated in. It often feels as though awards shows have become increasingly like popularity contests, to the point where for mainstream artists, Grammy awards, which used to be viewed as a mark of success, feel tired and meaningless. 

Beyond how Grammy awards have greatly lost their meaning and value, perhaps Silk Sonic’s bowing out was a testament against the commercialization of music. It is common that following a Grammy win, artists are expected to take advantage of this and profit in some way, whether it be a world tour, remixes, merchandise drops, or a new album. Riding the wave of success is, unfortunately, the only way many artists can thrive in the industry, and the result is an attempt at a recreation of a successful moment. In recent years, some of the biggest pop stars in the world, like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, have released multiple albums in less than 12 months. One can’t say for sure whether this is a result of commercial pressure or creative influx, but it is a noticeable trend and in many cases, the music itself becomes noticeably lower in quality. Following trends and making music in the hopes of a viral moment has its ramifications, the main one being the alarming rate at which the music ages. Bruno Mars, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be affected by this phenomenon. After his latest solo album, 24K Magic, won seven Grammys, Mars did not release another full-length album for almost six years. Mars is a prime example of an artist who excels in his ability to take his time with music, and although not everyone in the music industry has this luxury, it evidently results in music that has longevity and receives generally high reactions, not just from the general public, but from other musicians as well as highly-regarded critics. Adele, who has worked with Mars before, is another example of this. The beloved vocal powerhouse is known for titling her albums after the age she was when she wrote them, which gives us a helpful timeline of how long she takes to create music. The longest span for Adele between the albums 25 and 30 was five years (versus the typical two year album turnaround for mainstream artists), and she is also a Recording Academy favorite, bragging 15 wins across three albums submitted for consideration. 

Bruno Mars has never shied away from oddity or risk-taking in his career, and his choices as an artist continue to bring him great success. While we may never know the true reason why he and .Paak chose to not submit An Evening with Silk Sonic for Grammy consideration, if we look at their statement beyond face value, their decision has the potential to make a major impact on the music industry as we see it today. Regardless of their reasons, humility is a practice to be learned from, and their rejection of what society deems to be success shows the duo’s dedication to music as a form of art as opposed to a money grab, a vie for attention, or a need for validation. Music should be celebrated through enjoyment and inspiration rather than awards show popularity contests, and perhaps Mars and .Paak are making the first step towards devaluing awards in an increasingly materialistic world. 

An Evening with Silk Sonic is available for streaming

Apple Music

Spotify

Savannah is a sophomore A&E major at Pace from Savannah, GA. She is a singer-songwriter, guitar and piano player, and aspiring music producer. Her favorite artists include Fiona Apple, Father John Misty, Florence + the Machine, Sufjan Stevens, Elliott Smith, Phoebe Bridgers, The Strokes, PJ Harvey, and Fleet Foxes.