Five Burning Questions: Silk Sonic’s ‘Leave the Door Open’ Hits No. 1 on the Hot 100

2021-04-14T09:12:00+00:00April 14th, 2021|News|

In March, it looked like Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak might’ve missed their best shot at a No. 1 for the lead single from their joint Silk Sonic project, when “Leave the Door Open” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, below the three tracks from Drake’s Scary Hours 2 song pack.

But a month later, the song has proven it didn’t waste its only chance in that debut week. After climbing to No. 2 a few weeks ago, the song finally jumps to No. 1 in its fifth week on its listing — helped by top-five performance in all three component metrics of radio, sales, and streams, and given an extra boost by a pair of CD single versions of the track that shipped to consumers during the prior chart week.

What does the song’s performance mean for the upcoming An Evening With Silk Sonic full-length project? And who is the No. 1 more meaningful for, Mars or .Paak? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Four weeks ago in this column, we debated whether or not Silk Sonic had made a bad move by releasing “Leave the Door Open” the same week as Drake’s Scary Hours 2 three-pack, which occupied all the top three spots on the Hot 100 that week and left Silk Sonic to debut at No. 4. On a scale of 1-10, how surprised are you that it’s turned out to be a mostly moot point, as “Door” has climbed to No. 1 in its fifth week?

Rania Aniftos: Around a 3. Despite Drake’s chart takeover last month, Bruno and Anderson have been steadily continuing to promote “Leave the Door Open” in creative, funny ways – whether it be a Fortnite dance, a live version of the song or sassy social media posts. They’ve kept “Leave the Door Open” fun, relevant and in our heads, and I’m not too surprised that as a result, the song naturally climbed up the Hot 100.

Katie Atkinson: 1. Surprisingly for a modern artist who now has eight Hot 100 chart-toppers, Bruno Mars has never once debuted at No. 1. So while I expect him to find his way to the top, I don’t expect him to start there. (Until he eventually does debut at No. 1… and that probably won’t really surprise me either.)

Carl Lamarre: Five. I’m more surprised that Drizzy’s Hot 100 trifecta deflated so quickly versus Silk’s ascension to the summit. Those buttery vocals on “Leave The Door Open” were too irresistible to pass up. Their climb was inevitable. The Silk Gang nimbly threaded a polished ’70s soundscape from top to bottom and, because of that, are more than deserving of this feat.

Joe Lynch: Ah yes, I remember that column as if it were 28 days ago. My surprise registers at a 2.5 here – in my blurb from that column, I predicted an eventual No. 1 for Silk Sonic, and here we are. I’m not patting myself on the back, though: A kid in a red-orange puffer vest time travelled to give me a heads up on this one.

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll say 7. I just didn’t think “Leave the Door Open” was commercial enough for 2021 to have the juice to keep growing after the first couple weeks. But continuing to doubt Bruno Mars on the charts is only slightly less stupid than continuing to doubt Drake, so I really have no one but myself to blame for still being surprised at this point.

2. Obviously an early ’70s soul throwback isn’t the most traditional of hits for 2021 — especially one that’s proven successful on streaming, in sales and on the radio. Is it mostly just a matter of the combined star power (and track record) of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, or is there something more about the song itself that’s allowed it to become such a hit?

Rania Aniftos: The song admittedly wasn’t my favorite when it first came out, but I’ve warmed up to it recently – partially because I adore the combo of two famously cool guys like Bruno and Anderson, who have channeled their humor and retro sense of style into a new music venture. Their personalities are infectious, which makes a throwback song like “Leave the Door Open” more digestible for a younger, modern audience. I’m sensing that many others had the same experience I had, and now the song’s a bonafide hit.

Katie Atkinson: A little bit of both. Even though it’s not a dance-floor filler like “Uptown Funk!” or “24K Magic,” “Leave the Door Open” has a lot of the same charm, from its tongue-in-cheek lyrics to its comfortably familiar musical influences. And while .Paak has been around for years and has four Grammys under his belt, he’s now riding Mars’ universally appealing coattails to the mainstream recognition he finally deserves thanks to this quirky side project.

Carl Lamarre: I think the pairing of Bruno and Anderson helped catapult them to the promised land. We know Bruno is a perennial contender on the Hot 100 every time he drops, but forging this musical bond with Anderson is the proverbial cherry on top. It’s a shame that we still peg Andy as an underrated act despite the Grammy wins and his musical prowess. When you bring those kinds of forces together, magic ensues, and ultimately, you “leave the open door” for endless possibilities.

Joe Lynch: Hard to discount the star power, of course, but if Bruno Mars has taught us anything over the last decade, it’s that his Unorthodox Jukebox approach to hitmaking can and does perform against the grain: The vast majority of his radio hits have tapped throwback sounds not currently in vogue. It’s a formula that he’s been able to replicate for himself, but almost no one else has been able to repeat.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s mostly the star power, but yeah, Bruno does have an uncanny ability to nail the retro trends that aren’t necessarily in vogue at the moment, but which folks still have an appetite for. He’s nailed it before with the funk-wave hybrid ’80s sound of “Locked Out of Heaven” and the pure new jack swing of the “Finesse” remix, and now he’s got it with the lush Philly soul of “Leave the Door Open.”

3. The No. 1 is Bruno Mars’ eighth overall since his 2010 debut — tied for most of any artist in that timespan — but it’s Anderson .Paak’s first, and indeed, just his second Hot 100 hit total (after a brief cameo at No. 89 as a guest of Eminem’s on “Lock It Up” in early 2020). Which of the two artists does this No. 1 mean more for, in your opinion?

Rania Aniftos: I’m going to say Anderson .Paak because it’s about time he gets the chart recognition he deserves (albeit in a joint alias). He’s been releasing such incredible music since 2012 and Malibu is one of my favorite albums of all time. While his albums have made appearances on the Billboard 200, the artistry of songs like “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” hasn’t shone through on the Hot 100 and I’m happy that the combined starpower with Bruno helped propel that a bit. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this, so maybe I’m the one that the No. 1 means the most to.

Katie Atkinson: Absolutely Anderson. Hip-hop fans likely saw his name for the first time when he was featured on six tracks of Dr. Dre’s surprise 2015 album Compton, but he’s never had a mainstream look like this before. This will be the song that makes my mom learn his name.

Carl Lamarre: Going back to my answer for No. 2, this does more for Anderson. You read down his stat line, and you’ll understand why he’s a true gem in music: Four gold trophies from the Grammys, a true opus in 2016’s Malibu, and a fistful of collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and Andre 3000, but yet he’s still lacked a pure chart win on the Hot 100. This accolade gets the monkey off his back, and serves as a good building block for him as he continues to position himself as a musical great.

Joe Lynch: Paak. He’s enjoyed critical praise and rabid response to his live crowds for years now, but Hot 100 success has evaded him. It’s gotta be validating to breeze past that No. 89 peak and sit comfortably atop the throne with a song that’s firing on all cylinders (streaming, radio, sales).

Andrew Unterberger: Gonna deviate from my colleagues here and say this actually means more for Bruno. Yes, it’s more of a chart first for Anderson — but still, few will think of this as an Anderson .Paak song, so much as a Bruno song with Anderson along for the ride. And while Bruno Mars has been close to automatic on the Hot 100 for over a decade now, you never know what it means for an artist’s relevance when they get to that second decade, and we hadn’t really heard much from Bruno in a few years before this. Don’t underestimate the importance of him re-establishing his star power being as bright and high in the sky as it’s ever been.

4. Do you think that the success of “Leave the Door Open” leaves, well, the door open for the upcoming An Evening With Silk Sonic album to be one of the year’s biggest? Or will the early excitement for “Door” largely dry up by the time of the album’s eventual release?

Rania Aniftos: Yup, it will keep the door wide open. I’m thinking that “Leave the Door Open” is just the tip of the iceberg of what they’ve been up to, and the singles, music videos and antics are only going to get better from here. Hopefully, they’ll be able to launch a sold-out tour as a duo too.

Katie Atkinson: Looking at how massive Bruno’s last album (2016’s 24K Magic) was and knowing that it was similarly referential to bygone musical eras, I think the album will be huge. Mars seems to have cracked the code of appealing to an older crowd that misses “real music” while not coming off as (too) cheesy to younger fans. He makes unapologetically fun wedding music.

Carl Lamarre: No lie, if “Leave the Door Open” serves as a precursor into what Silk Sonic can provide late in crunch time, then I think An Evening With Silk Sonic has the makings of a classic. Bruno and Andy dished out a masterclass on ’70s soul with their first single. Can you imagine what they can do on 10-12 tracks together? Two precocious and prolific star musicians in one booth can only mean one thing: championship ring vibes.

Joe Lynch: This will be one of the year’s biggest for sure. Had “Leave the Door Open” debuted at No. 1 then dropped off a cliff, I think we could entertain arguments that it was fueled by buzz and curiosity; but the fact that it stuck around in the Hot 100’s top 5 for a month, gained steam at radio and finally went No. 1 makes its success all the sweeter. It indicates that Silk Sonic isn’t coasting by on mere early excitement, but is connecting with listeners.

Andrew Unterberger: Yep — in the words of Michael Jordan, the ceiling is the roof for An Evening With Silk Sonic at this point. The duo still hasn’t announced a sure-to-be-much-anticipated tour behind the project, or even released an upbeat summer- (or wedding-)ready single from it yet. Big numbers are incoming, for sure.

5. It’s been speculated that “Leave the Door Open” is at least in part playing off the title and chorus to Teddy Pendergrass’ 1978 hit “Close the Door.” What’s another soul classic who you’d enjoy seeing Silk Sonic respond to or update with one of their follow-up singles?

Rania Aniftos: The Temptations’ “My Girl.” They’ll find a way to make it fun, sultry and swoon-worthy.

Katie Atkinson: The first thing that popped into my head was the Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets,” maybe because of their recent Verzuz battle. It just fits the whole lovermen vibe Silk Sonic is going for to a T. Of course, Biggie already borrowed that beat for “Big Poppa,” so maybe they could do another play on the title and not just a straight cover to create a whole new bedroom banger. “On Top of the Sheets”? Or “Under the Sheets”? I’ll let them decide their personal preferences.

Carl Lamarre: I would double dare Bruno and Andy to remake Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit “What’s Going On.” With the current climate of police brutality in chaos, if Bruno and Andy can put aside the bedroom banter to speak on the senseless killings of Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and more, that would be such a powerful message. Last year, we saw Andy ring the alarm with his evocative single “Lockdown,” but with Bruno in-tow and his commercial viability, this remake could remind folks of the importance of protecting Black people in America.

Joe Lynch: I would love Silk Sonic to release a rebuttal song to Ritt Momney’s viral cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s contemporary soul classic “Put Your Records On.” Entitled “Take Those Records Off, Ritt,” this buttery response song would take aim at TikTok trends, reminding listeners that inclusion in a TimeLife informercial is the only true measurement of a song’s lasting impact.

Andrew Unterberger: Let’s keep it in Philadelphia to take an O’Jays classic to that next level: “Love Plane.”

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