Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak as Silk Sonic: the first Soul/R&B “band” to top the Hot 100 in almost 30 years!

(April 12, 2021).  It’s official.  Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” is the new No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 (dated April 17).

It displaces Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” and is the fifth new No. 1 single in as many weeks.  Interestingly, “Door” debuted at No. 2 four weeks ago and had to wait while four other songs (one each by Drake, Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Nas X) took turns at No. 1 before finally getting its crown with the latest chart.

Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak as Silk Sonic

But more importantly, the Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak super duo, which brands itself as an R&B band, is the first such act to top the Hot 100 in almost 30 years!

Silk Sonic’s video for their No. 1 hit, “Leave The Door Open.”

Before we get into the history, it’s worth pointing out that bands of any kind – that is, groups consisting of two or more members who actually play instruments – are few and far between these days, especially when it comes to those fortunate enough to top the Hot 100, Billboard’s marquee singles chart.

But when it comes to those that play soul/R&B music, the last time such a band topped the Hot 100 before Silk Sonic this week was when Prince & the New Power Generation reached No. 1 in November 1991 with their hit “Cream.”

That’s 29 years and five months since the last soul/R&B band topped the all-genre Hot 100. 

There are a couple of asterisks here.

First, Silk Sonic is actually a duo comprised of individual solo stars – both of whom are credited parenthetically and whose individual chart histories are also padded this week (“Door” is Mars’ eighth No. 1 single, while .Paak earns his first). It’s not clear yet whether they’ll be a long-time or regularly performing collective.

They do have an album coming out this year and they’ve been endorsed by someone who knows a thing or two about real bands, the legendary Bootsy Collins (who reportedly coined the name Silk Sonic).  But it remains to be seen whether this is a band we’ll be hearing from for any length of time beyond this year.

Prince & the New Power Generation

Secondly, Prince’s one-time backing band New Power generation was just that…a backing band.  His purple majesty had a few of those over his hit-making career, including The Revolution, with whom he scored two No. 1 singles in 1984 and ‘86 (“Let’s Go Crazy” and “Kiss,” respectively).  The Revolution-era smash “When Doves Cry” was billed as a solo Prince single and thus doesn’t qualify. 

So if you exclude one-time ensembles and backing bands, then the last time a true R&B band topped the Hot 100 was in early 1991 when the trio of Surface hit the top with “The First Time.”

Of course, many R&B vocal groups have topped the chart since then – acts like Boyz II Men, TLC, SWV, Divine, Silk, BLACKstreet, Next, and more.  But none of those acts played instruments and therefore don’t qualify as “bands” for this article’s premise.

On the contrary, since 1991, many bands who play music in other genres have topped the charts, but even they have been fewer in recent years.  

Before Silk Sonic, the last band of any genre to top the Hot 100 was Maroon 5, who led the list in November 2018 with “Girls Like You” (featuring Cardi B).  Before that, you’d have to go back to August of 2014 when the one-hit-wonders Magic! topped the chart with “Rude.”

Only three other No. 1 songs by bands topped the chart in the 2010s, and two of those were again by Maroon 5 (“One More Night” in 2012, and “Moves Like Jagger” in 2011).  The other one was in by the now-defunct indie pop band fun., who topped the list with “We Are Young“ in 2012.

Maroon 5 has had four No. 1 songs, more than any other band in the past 30 years.

See the below table and a (reverse chronological) recap of the No. 1 songs by bands dating back to 1990 – a list so short it wasn’t hard to compile (averaging fewer than one per year).  R&B bands listed in bold.

No. 1 SongBandYear
1.“Leave the Door Open”Silk Sonic2021
2.“Girls Like You”Maroon 52018
3.“Rude”Magic!2014
4.“One More Night”Maroon 52012
5.“We Are Young”fun.2012
6.“Moves Like Jagger”Maroon 52011
7.“Viva La Vida”Coldplay 2008
8.“Hey There Delilah”Plain White T’s2007
9.“Makes Me Wonder”Maroon 52007
10.“How You Remind Me”Nickelback2002
11.“Butterfly”Crazy Town2001
12.“With Arms Wide Open”Creed2000
13.“Bent”Matchbox 202000
14.“Everything You Want”Vertical Horizon 2000
15.“Maria Maria”Santana2000
16.“Amazed”Lonestar 2000
17.“I Knew I Loved You”Savage Garden2000
18.“Smooth”Santana1999
19.“One Week”Barenaked Ladies1998
20.“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”Aerosmith 1998
21.“Truly Madly Deeply”Savage Garden1998
22“MmmBop”Hanson1997
23.“Can’t Help Falling In Love”UB401993
24.“How Do You Talk to an Angel”The Heights1992
25.“To Be With You”Mr. Big1992
26.“Cream”Prince & the New Power Generation 1991
27.“Unbelievable”EMF1991
28.“More Than Words”Extreme1991
29.“Joyride”Roxette1991
30.“I’ve Been Thinking About You”Londonbeat 1991
31.“The First Time”Surface1991
Research by DJRob based on Billboard’s weekly Hot 100 charts from January 1990 – April 2021

Congrats to Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak) on their first and hopefully not last No. 1 single!

DJRob

DJRob is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.

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7 Replies to “Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak as Silk Sonic: the first Soul/R&B “band” to top the Hot 100 in almost 30 years!”

  1. Bands are rare these days…that’s why I love listening to live bands play in restaurants and clubs, The last band that was on the R&B charts was probably Mint Condition. The fact that AP and Bruno came together as a band and got a #1 hit is a sign that there is a whole demographic out there that still loves real instrumentalists.

    1. Good question, and yes, Tony Toni Toné went to No. 1 with “Whatever You Want” – but on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. This article was about the more mainstream Hot 100 chart, which is considered an all-genre list and the one generally regarded as Billboard’s marquee singles chart.

        1. No problem…your observation was a good one. Even when you consider the R&B chart, the occurrences of bands hitting No. 1 are rare in the past 30 years. Tony! Toni! Toné! had five in their career dating back to “Little Walter” in 1988, which is more than probably any other band in the past 40 years. The Gap Band has had four or five, with the first being in 1981.

  2. Could this signal a rebirth of classic R&B and soul? What is unique about Black music culture, is that we continue to reinvent or morph into something new with each generation. Consider blues and jazz with its many variations. Hip hop rap music has definitely transitioned. I am reminded of how 90s groups such as A Tribe Called Quest sampled many R&B artists and sounds. I feel as though Bruno and Paak are onto something much needed – a revival. More to come? I’ll be watching and listening. “Imma leave the door open”

    1. You may have hit the nail on the head. But, I feel that this is more a result of their names than any signaling of a rebirth. Few others could’ve put out a song like this – as good as it may have been – and achieved what these two extremely popular, Grammy-winning artists have.

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