45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
What to Expect from a Great Artist,
This review is from: Strange Clouds (Audio CD)
B.O.B. seems to have a fan base that over the years have split into two categories of appreciation. There are those who had known of B.O.B. from classic mixtapes like B.O.B. VS. Bobby Ray or Who the F**** is B.O.B, who appreciated the different style that the Atlanta MC had created to differentiate himself from a plethora of new generation MCs (Charles Hamilton, Drake, Asher Roth, J. Cole). And then there are those who had discovered B.O.B. after his massive hits, like "Airplanes" or "Nothing On You" from his official debut album The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Those who had discovered him after his debut album appreciated his catchy melodies and choruses that were radio friendly. The mixtape lovers criticized those same songs for "selling out" or crossing over form the mixtape arena to the spotlight of a new generation of MTV viewers. Either way, he is an artists who deserves respect for being a hip-hop artist that is so involved in his music creatively. He not only uses his voice, raps, but he plays instruments too.
Whether or not B.O.B. likes it or not, there is a lot of pressure with this sophomore album to satisfy both the mixtape fans and his newly acquired radio fans...
Track by Track
1.) "Bombs Away" - 3/5. This is a good intro song accompanied by the celebrated American actor Morgan Freeman's (Shawshank Redemption, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves) distinctive voice that builds up the anticipation for the album that follows. The actual song though, seems just over average. B.O.B. does possess energy, but for having an actor like Freeman "featured" I was expecting something with more impact.
2.) "Ray Bands" - 3.5/5 - I sure hope he was rewarded by the brand for creating a song that proclaims Raybans as much as it does. Obviously, it has a double meaning being that B.O.B.'s name is Bobby Ray. It's a flirty song about getting a woman. The aspect that really stuck out to me was the beat. It's a feel good beat that reminds me of the cartoony image that B.O.B. sometimes gives off. It's a great track, even if the hook gets repetitive.
3.) "So Hard to Breathe" - 4.5/5 - This is the B.O.B. that I enjoy the most. Introspective and personal. This song seems to hint at the pressures that have come from his success. He has a knack to create music that gives off emotion both with its music and his lyrics and delivery. His early mixtapes are dominated by such songs. His energy fluctuates to accentuate the flow of the song.
4.) "Both of Us" f/Taylor Swift - 4/5 - This is a track that terrified me when I first discovered the tracklist prior to its release. Having an artist such as Taylor Swift drips with desperation for a radio hit. B.O.B. claims that he reached out to Taylor, but I feel that maybe he had pressure from the label to include an artist with as much pop appeal as Taylor possesses. However, it is a great song no matter who is featured. Any female singer could have been featured and it would have been just as good, so I guess in B.O.B's thinking, he might as well get an artist with fans that he might not get into him otherwise.
5.) "Strange Clouds" f/Lil' Wayne - 5/5 - This is a hip-hop song in its purest form. Bravado lyrics, witty lines and a pounding beat to back it up. I'm not a fan of Lil' Wayne myself, and don't understand why some believe he is one of the greatest MCs; his lyrics I felt were amateurish. However, he does add to the song by his own style, which is different to say the least. B.O.B. handles the bulk of the track. He had fun making this one.
6.) "So Good" f/Ryan Tedder - 4/5 - This is another track that has mass radio appeal. But it's not overdone. B.O.B.'s mixture with the alternative rock has always been well done and this is no different. It's very pop polished, but it's a feel good track, which is a major aspect of B.O.B.'s artistry.
7.) "Play for Keeps" - 3/5 - Lyrically, this one does excel. But the song's entire package just doesn't seem like it should have been a song on an official album. It sounds like a track that might have been included in his last mixtape (Epic: Every Play Is Crucial). Out any song that doesn't have a feature, he might have been able to make it better by adding other MCs to contribute. It just doesn't seem to go well with the flow of the entire album. It's not a bad song by any means, just not one that should have been included.
8.) "Arena" f/Chris Brown and T.I. - 5/5 - This is a stadium hit. It seems made to be performed rather than listened to, but it's excellent in its delivery and beat. B.O.B. spits venom throughout, showing off a flow that he's not well known for. T.I. contributed a quick 16 or so bars, which is always good to hear. Chris Brown sounds great on the chorus, even though I'm not a fan of is or feel any desire to support him.
9.) "Out of My Mind" f/Nicki Minaj - 2.5/5 - This a track that yields to Nicki's style and not B.O.B.'s as much. The beat is eccentric to go along with the overused eccentricities that Nicki always seems to deliver. It feels more like a Nicki Minaj song than it is B.O.B. and it's a shame because Nicki out performs B.O.B. simply because it's natural for the listener to associate the beat and Nicki Minaj and not B.O.B. The last verse from him shows her who the MC is though as he raps with such quickness one would think Twista was going to follow. It is my least favorite song on the album.
10.) "Never Let You Go" f/Ryan Tedder - 4.5/5 - Another introspective track that I've grown to appreciate more from B.O.B. This one adds the pop appeal thanks to Tedder's voice and the whistles that accompany it. It's just a great song. Excellent lyrics and melodies that together create a song that would have been a hit 20 years ago, ten years ago or today.
11.) "Chandeliers" f/Lauriana Mae - 4.5/5 - This one reminds me of a Lupe Fiasco track from Lasers. Now, Lasers might be another story for another discussion, but this one works. It shows B.O.B. again getting lyrical while encouraging the listeners. Great track.
12.) "Circles" - 3/5 - I don't like labeling songs that might not be as great as others as "fillers," but this one might be just that. It seems like it didn't take much effort in creating. The generic melodies and choruses seems fitted for another mixtape song. It's about the obsession or crush of a woman and borrows from many classic songs that past generations would recognize.
13.) "Just a Sign" f/Playboy Tre - 5/5 - My favorite song on the album, hands down. B.O.B. displays not only lyric gems, but he uses his voice in a range of delivery from signing to rapping. It works to perfection with this song. It's a very mood heavy song that's beat is another of my favorites of the album. This is who B.O.B. is. This is his natural state. It's a song that I would use to introduce him to friends who might not know who is other than his radio hits. At nearly 6 minutes, it's long but one never notices due to its impact. Playboy Tre even contributes a great verse that doesn't seem like it was only added, but by both of them coming together. One of my favorite B.O.B.'s songs he's ever created.
14.) "Castles" f/Trey Songz - 3.5/5 - This is a catchy song, I'll give it that. B.O.B.'s delivery is with energy that one doesn't find on the radio consistently. However, the chorus just sounds generic. Trey Songz is a great R&B artist, but there just isn't enough there for him to excel.
15.) "Where Are You (B.O.B. VS. Bobby Ray)" - 5/5 - This is a letter that is essentially written to his fans (and family and friends).
He tells the story of changing from his roots to his stardom. He criticizes himself and calls out many complaints that fans have had since he debuted his first official album. Each verse gets more aggressive and the song is an elevator of energy that once again works great. Another one of my favorite songs on the album. Musically, it's a gem as well.
I feel as if Strange Clouds is more of a continuation of The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Musically, lyrically, he didn't change much from the first album. The first album to me is hailed a classic due to it's melodies and structure. Strange Clouds doesn't quiet get there. He needed to come harder I think with his creativity and should have relied less on features. It's a very solid album with a couple of mishaps. It doesn't feel as tightly constructed as his debut, but will satisfy his fans while maybe giving his critics more things to complain about...like Taylor Swift.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 2, 2012 7:13:37 PM PDT
Yang Yang Li says:
I disagree with most of your breakdown of songs but in the end, it's down to personal preference. I found Playing For Keeps to be the one that stood out for me. In it, B.O.B does a great job of ballin' hard which was impressive.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 2:49:18 AM PDT
I'm a fan from the mix tapes to the albums and I thought your review hit it spot on. Maybe not a 5 for Strange Clouds -4.5.
Excellent write up.
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